Car Advice

What is MirrorLink?

We’ve all heard about Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but MirrorLink also allows you to control your smartphone via your car’s infotainment screen. Indeed, it was the first in-car-phone-connectivity system.

IT IS ILLEGAL to hold and use your mobile phone while driving with heavy fines and loss of demerit points. For instance, in NSW P1 drivers will lose four demerit points if caught using their phone while driving, if you’re a Leaner Driver you’ll lose your licence on the spot and have it suspended for three months. Most other States and Territories have similar punishments. And that’s why car makers and third-party app makers have rushed to create software that allows your smartphone’s functionality to work through your car’s infotainment screen.

But why is it so dangerous to use your mobile phone while driving? Simple, when you’re looking away from the road you’re driving blind. Indeed, at 60km/h looking away from the road for two seconds, and this applies, of course, whether you’re looking at your phone or adjusting the climate control, or fiddling with an infotainment system, then you’ll have travelled 33 metres. Blind. At 100km/h the same time looking away from the road (two seconds) will see you travel 55 metres blind.

In the past we’ve explained what Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are, but now we’re looking at the father of in-car connectivity. MirrorLink.

What is MirrorLink?

This is the oft-forgotten-about smartphone interface, quickly overtaken by both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but MirrorLink was the first such system onto the market. It started out as a Nokia research project but quickly drew admirers with other tech brands adding their weight to research and development of a mobile phone and car interface.

The first working interface was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010 with the system called Terminal Mode. And the collaboration that led to the development of Terminal Mode led to the creation of the Car Connectivity Consortium (which includes all major car and phone makers) and the renaming of the interface to MirrorLink.

The idea with MirrorLink was to allow easy and “safe” access to navigation, music and phone apps while driving…the list of apps available via MirrorLink varies from country to country but the main ones like Facebook, Spotify and Stitcher are available. The experience isn’t quite as integrated feeling as either Apple or Android, although making and receiving calls is straightforward, because all the available apps are third-party apps, although some car makers also offer compatible apps. The aim with MirrorLink was to make it brand neutral with no single entity having control; unlike Apple and Android which are closed systems, MirrorLink is an open source product allowing third-party app makers to contribute.

Is MirrorLink available for all smartphones?

No. MirrorLink works on most Android phones as well as Nokia, HTC, Fujitsu, Huawei and others but it doesn’t work on iPhone.

What car brands offer MirrorLink?

Just about all of them although it varies from country to country. But, and here’s a rough list, MirrorLink is available in vehicles from Citroen, Peugeot, Honda, Suzuki, Volkswagen, Kia and Mercedes-Benz.

Can I retro-fit MirrorLink?

Yes. Early partners in the Car Connectivity Consortium, Alpine, Clarion and Pioneer offer MirrorLink enabled head units that can be built into older vehicles.

How does MirrorLink work?

It’s very simple. Once you’ve downloaded MirrorLink compatible apps, you simply connect your phone to the car via USB or Bluetooth and then look for the MirrorLink connection system via your car’s infotainment ‘connections’ system. Unlike Apple and Android, once you’ve enabled MirrorLink, although the apps will be playing via your phone, you won’t be able to use your phone while MirrorLink is enabled but voice control and touch will work via the steering wheel audio controls, or infotainment screen. And that makes it slightly safer than Apple or Android’s offerings as when those systems are connected the phone itself can still be used.

Below is a video from Sony showing how MirrorLink works:

Any problems?

Having owned an Apple iPhone since day dot, I’ve never actually used MirrorLink myself but I asked for feedback on PM’s Facebook page and the response was that MirrorLink requires your phone screen to stay ‘on’ or unlocked. This, according to the feedback we received, causes the phone battery to be drained at a greater rate than the car can replace the juice. It also causes the phone to heat up.

We’re not suggesting that will be everyone’s experience, so, if you used MirrorLink and had either a similar or different experience please leave a comment below.

What’s the next step for MirrorLink?

According to the Car Connectivity Consortium, the hope is that MirrorLink will develop into a data sharing system that could be used by insurance companies to determine vehicle usage and base insurance premiums around that (ah la a Black Box). It also hoping to develop the system to be used as a digital key and you can read the basic White Paper for that HERE.

Question: Have you ever used MirrorLink? What did you think? Have you moved beyond it to either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto?


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.