Honda Freed + Gathers + Apple CarPlay

I recently bought a used 2019 Honda Freed (ホンダ フリード) Hybrid 4WD (GB8). I also have an iPhone. I was initially happy to find that my car’s stereo head unit made by Gathers (ギャザズ), Honda’s own car navigation brand, supports CarPlay.

After Googling a bit, though, I discovered that while the head unit does support CarPlay, if the Honda Freed model wasn’t equipped with an optional USB port, CarPlay doesn’t show up as a menu item. Only a wired CarPlay connection is possible with my particular Gathers model (VXM-197VFNi), so without the port, I needed to install a cable on the back of the head unit (which triggers the CarPlay option to show up on the screen). The USB cable direct from Honda is stupid expensive, but thankfully you can buy a generic version for under ¥1000.)

This meant opening up the dash panels to get to the back of the head unit to install the cable, and then routing the cable to an inconspicuous location so I can connect my iPhone to it. Many thanks to the video tutorials out there on how to remove the panels. I also highly recommend getting relatively cheap tools to remove the panels cleanly without damaging surfaces, as well as a magnet rod to catch screws as they’re removed with a driver (and to hold them when you’re screwing them back in). There’s nothing more primal rage inducing than dropping the final screw into the abyss of your car innards as you replace the panel, and needing to start all over to retrieve it.

From MkjpDVD

Since I was going through the trouble of removing panels, I decided to wait until I got my dash cam (ドライブレコーダー, “drive recorder”) and install both the USB cable and the cables to power the dash cam together. The dash cam installation was pretty straightforward so I won’t be covering that here, but the same tutorial creator for the above video has a similarly helpful how-to for removing the panels to access the car charger socket (video below).

From MkjpDVD


With the addition of a standard USB to Lightning cable (and a few more accessories — phone cradle, cable clips and magnets, extra car charger sockets), CarPlay now shows up on the head unit. One big advantage of CarPlay is that everything is in the language set on your iOS. (This Gathers model did not come with an English language setting.)

You can further create a wireless CarPlay connection to your Honda with a device like Ottocast. Once you connect the Ottocast to the USB cable, you won’t need to physically connect your iPhone each time you step into your car.


[Update 12/29/2023: After months of “random” connection issues, I noticed the iPhone didn’t connect when its battery was under ~80% charged. My hunch is that the wired connection is degraded when the phone is simultaneously being charged. My solution was to buy an Ottocast (wireless CarPlay adapter mentioned above) so charging + data transfer is no longer a thing. That seemed to fix the issue once and for all. 🤞]

I noticed that even with a wired connection to the head unit, CarPlay can be finicky, either because of iOS or this particular Gathers model. I finally have it working with no issues, but not without some trial and error. Some things that may improve your CarPlay ↔ Gathers connection:

  • Do not start navigation to a destination in Apple Maps on your iPhone. Enter the destination from the head unit’s CarPlay screen instead. I have a suspicion that this was the main reason my iPhone would frequently disconnect or CarPlay would just stop working on the head unit.
  • Turn off all third-party apps by going to Settings on your iPhone > General > CarPlay > Gathers > Customize (iOS 16). You can always add them later but it helps to start with a clean slate so you can isolate third-party app incompatibilities or bugs.
  • Turn off or disconnect the Bluetooth connection between your iPhone and the head unit. I’m not sure if this helped but the iPhone’s music is accessible through the wired CarPlay connection anyway so there’s really no need for an audio Bluetooth connection.