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Spotlight on: in-car wi-fi

  • Greater connectivity and efficiency on the move
  • Can keep children occupied on longer journeys
  • Connection at the mercy of car’s SIM signal

Just because something’s possible doesn’t mean it’s necessary.

A succinct phrase that easily fits into the 140-character space provided in a tweet. It’s undoubtedly a view some will take about a growing number of cars being fitted with wi-fi access.

Our opinion is that in-car wi-fi isn’t a case of technology gone mad, but a beneficial feature that will be commonplace across the industry in a few years’ time.

Little gives the game away that this Audi A6 Allroad is wi-fi-equipped

It should go without saying that use of a hand-held phone or tablet while driving remains illegal. Connecting the device to the in-car wi-fi doesn’t change this.

Where the system comes into its own is being able to download data much more quickly while you’re on the move, so that all your important emails and attachments have arrived before you get to your appointment.

Similarly, it allows you to send attachments with greater certainty they’ll arrive before you recommence your journey.

It’s not just company car drivers that will benefit though. Those fortunate enough to be chauffeured around can be constantly in communication with the outside world, providing the car’s connection’s reliable enough.

Ferrying kids around on long journeys also becomes less stressful. Few children go on trips these days without taking a multitude of electronic devices with them. Having online access keeps them occupied (read quieter) for longer.

Audi's 'MMI' connection interface is controlled by a rotary dial surrounded by buttons

We sampled one of the better current in-car wi-fi systems fitted to an Audi A6 Allroad, the dashboard display confirming whether the connection is linked to a 2G, 3G or even 4G signal depending on its location.

Accessing the wifi function within the Audi’s user interface was a simple enough procedure, although the security password was surprisingly long – you do only have to enter it the first time, of course.

Connection looks little different to any other form of wireless hook-up

Download speeds are entirely at the mercy of the strength and type of the mobile connection but the link between device and car remained strong and stable for the duration of the test. The added benefit is that battery consumption is reduced when a smartphone’s connected through wifi rather than a conventional signal.

As 4G signal is rolled out nationwide, the advantages of in-car wi-fi will become even more apparent and used, even if it is just to update a Twitter status.