the original MMB Android AI Box was a USB dongle that you plug into the CarPlay USB port in your vehicle, and the AI Box replaced your CarPlay display with an Android Operating System. From here you could run any Android 7.0 supported app on the AI Box and it will function as normal on your CarPlay display. This was a great way to get apps like Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and many other apps and games onto your CarPlay display.
Other than its rather old Android OS version, the one feature that was lacking with the original AI Box was that it didn’t support CarPlay from the box itself. So you had to disconnect the AI Box if you wanted to return to wired CarPlay again. Their MMB Dongle Plus allowed wireless CarPlay, but it could only stream YouTube, mirror your iPhone or Android screen, and play media from a connected USB drive.
What The company has done with this new dongle, is to merge these two dongle functionalities together to offer you an Android OS, that’s also been upgraded to Android 9.0, and it now offers the ability to swap the dongle to wireless CarPlay mode and also allow your iPhone to communicate with your wired CarPlay system, wirelessly.
In the box you get the Android AI Box itself, all in its new blue-striped colour scheme. You also get a GPS module, antenna and fuse power cable should your car not come equipped with GPS to support the AI Box. There’s a bundled USB type-A to type-C braided cable to connect to your car’s CarPlay USB port, and if your CarPlay port uses USB-C you can choose to have a USB type-C to type-C cable shipped to you as well.
The AI Box itself has the exact same dimensions and connection ports. The colour is clearly different, and the status light on the top is also there too. Inside the AI Box has had some minor upgrades. The processor, GPU, RAM and ROM are all the same as the Android 7 box, so sadly there’s no additional performance improvements to expect here, other than what the new Android 9 software brings. There is a new 5GHz Wi-Fi module now inside this box, so with that you get increased bandwidth for wireless CarPlay and also to your smartphone connection when tethering your mobile data to the AI Box.
Personally, I think with the hardware pretty much untouched in this new version, we could have gotten the Android 9 upgrade on the existing Android 7 AI Box. But it would have come without the wireless CarPlay functionality. What its maker has done is merge their MMB Dongle Plus and Android AI Box together to offer a single product that covers both desires. The first is the ability to allow the ability to use your wired CarPlay, wirelessly. This works just as well as the MMB Dongle Plus. But now for the additional cost of this dongle you also have the ability to run Android 9.0 and all the apps and functionality it brings, such as watching any copyright-blocked apps on your CarPlay screen without going through Apple’s own restrictions. Split-screen app review, and the picture-in-picture mode is also quite handy also.
This new dongle retails for $278 directly and you can knock off $30 using our coupon code:[SAVE30] at checkout. The cost of this dongle is a lot higher than most other dongles, but you are getting a lot of extra functionality with that Android OS layer option. I would have liked to see a spec bump to help improve Android app performance, as I had a few occasions where apps would simply crash from doing too much at once.
Like the original AI Box, I still think having the option to move the floating onscreen controls to a fixed area to the side or bottom of the screen would greatly improve the useability of using Android on the CarPlay display. Because between using different apps, they can so easily get in the way and you can sometimes miss hit these controls when trying to select something else nearby.
I would have liked to see native wireless Android Auto support. You can install Android Auto on the Android OS side of the platform, but alongside the floating controls, it can be cumbersome and confusing to work around it and it’s not as good as a native solution.
I would also like to see the GPS dongle somehow integrated into the AI Box and not require the use of installing the kit and playing with your fuse box to get GPS into the AI Box. Not all vehicles need to use this GPS kit, but it is a technical hurdle that will confuse many and limit anyone wanting to use any navigation apps on the Android side of the AI Box. Using mobile data to locate you isn’t a great experience to fallback on.
Just like the other AI Box though, and also the MMB Dongle Plus, switching between CarPlay and Android OS requires a reboot. I also don’t expect being able to switch between CarPlay and Android OS will ever become a seamless or fast experience. They are two different worlds that will always likely require a reboot each time you want to access either platform.
You can have it auto boot into CarPlay with a setting turned on, so it can behave just like any wireless CarPlay dongle, and you also have the added luxury of running Android Apps as and when you need them with a simple, quick reboot. So if you are after the best of both worlds, then the MMB Android CarPlay AI Box might be something worth considering.