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Review - $500 Mazda Android Auto & Apple CarPlay Update On 2018 CX-5

We explain how the Mazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay update works for those who have models eligible for the update.

If you own a Mazda that was sold with the ability to later update to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, you likely already know it. If you have any questions about this, contact your Mazda dealer and have your vehicle identification number handy. They can tell you if the vehicle can be updated. In this short overview, we wiil explain how the update works, how much it costs, and how the system operates after the dealer-installed update.

Image of Android Auto in Mazda CX-5 by John GorehamMazda Android Auto Apple CarPlay Update - What Is It?
Certain Mazda vehicles sold around 2017 and 2018 were capable of later updating to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. They infotainment systems in these vehicles are able to be reprogramed or updated using a software or firmware change, and with some rewiring fo the USB ports, they can then be capable of supporting the popular phione integration programs now ubiquitous on almost all new cars (Other than Tesla pretty much).

Image of Mazda invoice for service work by John GorehamAndroid Auto Apple CarPlay - How Much Does It Cost?
The price to have a Mazda dealer perform the update is about $500. We paid $490.98 to 495 Mazda in Lowell, Mass. That does not include tax. Other dealers we phoned offered very similar prices.

Mazda Android Auto Apple CarPlay Update - Why Do Owners Have to Pay?
Mazda promoted the vehicles as being “Able to be updated later with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay." Mazda never said it would be a free or no-charge update. So many owners, myself included, were surprised to find out later how pricey it would be.

Image of Android Auto in Mazda CX-5 by John GorehamMazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update - How Does It Get Done?
If your vehicle qualifies, you simply drop off your vehicle and pick it up a few hours later. Mazda makes changes to the software and also installs a USB port that can communicate with the phone. As opposed to just being a power port.

Mazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update - What Is The Result?
We test vehicles here at Torque News in case this is your first visit. We test Mazdas regularly, and we don’t pretend to be neutral on the brand. We love Mazdas and we love almost everything about them - except the infotainment systems.

After the update, the Mazda you own will allow you to use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update, but it is wired. You must use your phone’s specific power cable to connect. Unlike many new vehicles, it does not work wirelessly.

After the update, plug in your phone to to the newly installed USB port with the symbol shown in the simple instructions provided by the dealer. You then turn on the vehicle. On your screen it will ask you to approve the use. You do so on your screen using touch or the rotary knob input. Then you say “yes” on your phone. That’s it. Now it works. We tested both an iPhone and also a Samsung Android phone. Both worked immediately, and both worked seamlessly.

Mazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update - What Is the Point of This?
If you are not familiar with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, try some Youtube videos to see why pretty much everyone loves it. It allows you to access the apps on your phone and seamlessly integrates them to your vehicle’s infotainment system. For example, you can use Google Maps and enjoy real-time traffic and see things like speed traps on your route ahead. You can also use Google’s or Apple’s voice-activated functions for calls and other features. It kicks the stuffing out of native infotainment features.

Mazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update - Is It Worth the Crazy Price?
Heck no, it’s not worth it! Who would be crazy enough to pay $500 for a simple update? Well, we did it because we wanted to prove it worked and because we missed the functionality we have in all our other vehicles. It’s easy to find better aftermarket head units for $500 that are far superior to anything Mazda has ever produced. However, they won’t integrate into your dash seamlessly, and you have to have them professionally installed or go it alone.

Mazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update - Our Opinion Of the Dealer
Our CX-5 resides in Metro Boston. We are blessed with two great dealerships, Liberty in Wakefield and 495 Mazda in Lowell. We opted for 495 Mazda for this work for reasons related to commuting. 495 offers loaner cars, and we have been very pleased with all of the work they have done for us in the past. This update went very smoothly. We were told the price upfront, the loaner was ready, and we had other work performed while the car was in for the work. We would rate the dealer 5/5 for service and our experience with Liberty when we purchased the vehicle was also 5/5. Poor BMW dealer service is a big part of why we switched from an X3 to the CX-5 in 2018.

Mazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update - Please Use a Dealer Service Special Coupon!
Most dealers offer occasional discounts on the work they perform. Up to 15% is not uncommon. Look for a dealership service coupon if you update.

Mazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update - Alternatives
Now this may seem like crazy talk, but used vehicles presently enjoy a crazy high valuation. One option, if you own an older Mazda that does not have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, is to visit your Mazda dealer and get a new one. Your trade will never have a higher value than today (unless another international calamity strikes). If you have a 30K or 60K service approaching, consider trading up before you have it performed. Mazda’s new models come with better infotainment systems, and they all include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Most are wireless (though not all). Your dealer can tell you.

Mazda Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Update - Our Take
We’re still a bit miffed that Mazda charges owners to update, given that Mazda and our dealer promoted this capability to us when we bought the vehicle. We think updating to older wired technology is also hard to swallow. However, for some, the benefits may outweigh the cost. For us, they do. We are happy we did it.

About this review: Mazda is extremely generous to the media with test vehicles, event sponsorship, and other support. However, in this case, we paid full price out of pocket for the update covered here today.

John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his eleven years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and TikTok @ToknCars, and view his credentials at Linkedin

Image of 2018 Mazda CX-5 Apple CarPlay by John Goreham