What Is MirrorLink? A Guide to the Car Smartphone Communication Standard

Nowadays, you can mirror your smartphone’s screen to almost any device—from your TV or laptop to your car’s infotainment screen. Now, if you want to mirror your smartphone to your car’s infotainment system, you must either have an Android Auto- or Apple CarPlay-compatible head unit.

However, you could also use MirrorLink to integrate your smartphone with your vehicle. But how does it work? Let’s find out!

MirrorLink is a smartphone-to-vehicle integration system that works similarly to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This means you can connect your smartphone to the vehicle’s infotainment display using MirrorLink. Once your smartphone is integrated into the infotainment system, you can interact with the apps using voice control, dashboard buttons, steering wheel buttons, or touchscreens.

However, MirrorLink is an open-source system that any car manufacturer or developer can customize—unlike Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. In fact, MirrorLink was the first smartphone-to-vehicle integration system, and it was initially developed and launched by Nokia—this was a few years before Android Auto and Apple CarPlay were released.

The MirrorLink policies are set up by Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC)—the organization that also owns the platform.

cars driving out of a phone effect

According to MirrorLink, some car manufacturers compatible with the platform include Citreon, General Motors, DS Automobiles, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Skoda Auto, Suzuki, and Volkswagen. On the other hand, MirrorLink works on HTC, Huawei, LG, Samsung, and Sony smartphones.

If your vehicle isn’t compatible with Mirrorlink, Android Auto, or Apple Carplay, and you want to connect a recent smartphone to your car, you need to install an aftermarket head unit with Android Auto or Apple Carplay compatibility.

If you want to use MirrorLink, you first need to install the app to your smartphone—but if your phone is not compatible, it won’t support it. Next, connect your smartphone to the infotainment system using a USB cable or Bluetooth.

Once your smartphone is integrated into the vehicle, you can access some of your apps on the infotainment display. If you don’t want to get distracted, you can control the apps using steering wheel controls or voice commands.

Furthermore, to prevent distracted driving, MirrorLink doesn’t allow you to browse the internet or stream videos—but you can still use the touchscreen and dashboard buttons.

In addition to that, MirrorLink only supports a few apps. The MirrorLink website only lists a handful of apps, with none of the most popular ones, like Spotify, supported natively. Nevertheless, they should be enough to make a call, listen to music, check weather forecasts, and navigate.

Android Automotive
Image Credit: Chevrolet

Even though MirrorLink was considered a game-changer when it first launched in 2010, its popularity was overshadowed by Google Assitant Driving Mode, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. It’s also limited to old smartphones released in 2016 and 2017.

Beyond that, most car manufacturers have moved on to designing infotainment systems with Android Automotive, a more advanced version of Android Auto that’s far more powerful than MirrorLink. It also doesn’t help that it has the least functionality when you compare MirrorLink, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.

From the look of things, the best days of MirrorLink are behind it—the app is no longer updated, and MirrorLink’s last press release was in 2017.

This system is usually found on older vehicles and older smartphones. If you’re rocking a newer phone and a newer ride, you probably won’t see this anymore. Besides, you’re better off upgrading your head unit to work with newer technologies if you want to integrate your car and smartphone.

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