An overview of the next wave of smartphone interactivity
A circuitous path, involving England, New York, rural Michigan, Indiana, and lots of parts in between brought Matthew Freeman to Charlottesville, where he's been writing about mobile audio/video for Crutchfield off and on since early 2000. He fosters an eclectic taste in film, and is fond of a wide range of music. A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, he found his way to the University of Notre Dame, where, in an act of charity unsurpassed in the history of Western civilization, he was given a B.A. in English.
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If you’re like most people these days, you’ve made your smartphone your source for … well, pretty much everything. You store music on it, do things like get directions with it, and sometimes even make phone calls with it. So it’s only natural that you’d want to tap into it when you’re on the road.
With your phone connected and its MirrorLink friendly app launced, you’ll see its interface replicated on your receiver's screen. That’s your gateway to functions like your music, app-based GPS, and Bluetooth functionality.
It's easy for car electronics manufacturers to develop hardware and software that'll help their stereos connect to and control your iPhone® — there's only one platform they need to worry about. Working with Android™ and other systems presents a much greater challenge. With so many hardware and software platforms to contend with, it's been impossible to develop one simple solution for in-dash control.
To help solve this problem, nearly 100 electronics, phone, and vehicle manufacturers joined together to form the Car Connectivity Constortium. The goal: to create an industry-standardized system to provide in-car control over a wide range of smartphones using a wide range of stereo systems. The result: MirrorLink.
Your smartphone, your receiver, and MirrorLink — working in perfect three-part harmony
MirrorLink is designed to provide easy-to-use in-dash control over compatible smartphones. The system needs three elements to do its thing: a compatible in-dash receiver, a compatible smartphone, and an app that works with MirrorLink. The system works like this:
- Download the app (prices vary) to your compatible phone. Launching the app provides a simplified graphical interface that’s ideal for use in the car, because it's easy to see at a glance, and much easier to use.
- Connect your phone to the receiver. This can sometimes require a special cable or interface.
- Launch the app on your phone, and tap the MirrorLink icon in the receiver’s source menu. The optimized carmode menu will appear on your receiver’s screen.
And that’s it. You’re ready to rock. You’ll be able to use your in-dash receiver to access the music stored on your phone, engage select navigation apps, and more. You’ll also be able to use your receiver's hands-free calling, if it has Bluetooth® connectivity built in. MirrorLink even offers up the “menu,” “home,” and “back” buttons you’re used to using.
What about Apple devices?
Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch) do not work with MirrorLink. That's because most stereos already work with Apple devices via the USB cable. MirrorLink is designed to be the bridge for all of the OTHER smartphones – eventually.
So, will my phone and receiver work with MirrorLink?
The Car Connectivity Consortium is currently working with its members to certify phones and receivers for use with MirrorLink. While the MirrorLink system has been in use in certain factory stereos in Europe, the list of compatible U.S.-based receivers and smartphones keeps growing — you can search for MirrorLink compatible products on MirrorLink's website.