Use your phone to control your car using MirrorLink


Your smartphone is probably smarter than your in-car system; you have a better choice of music, more up-to-date navigation and all the phone numbers you want to dial.

Connecting that to your car is pretty haphazard, though; it depends on what phone you have and what the car maker put in the infotainment system.

The Car Connectivity Consortium wants to change that uncertainty with MirrorLink.

It's an open standard for connecting your phone to your car, safely, that doesn't rely on proprietary in-car entertainment and information systems.

MirrorLink news

MirrorLink car units fit using standard connectors

Can't I already use my phone in any car?

Only for the basics. If there's Bluetooth in your car, you can pair your phone and make calls using the microphone and speakers in the car.

If there's a USB port in your car you can charge your phone and probably play MP3 files, if your phone is set to look like an external drive.

Some cars have specific iPhone integration for playing music.

But if you want to use or Spotify, or even a navigation application, you're using the car as a very expensive stand for your phone (except you've probably had to buy a cradle as well) and tapping on a screen that wasn't necessarily designed to be easy to use at 70mph, while ignoring all the controls and displays built into the car itself.

MirrorLink is safer and lets you use a bigger screen on the dashboard – and it still charges your phone.

If your car has a GPS and antenna, MirrorLink uses that instead of the GPS in your phone; the GPS signal from the car will be more accurate (especially as using your phone inside a metal box makes its GPS signal weaker).

And you don't have to plug a speaker cable into the headphone socket to get voice navigation from the car speakers; it all goes over the MirrorLink connection – and the music will mute or pause when there are directions to listen to.

MirrorLink news

The simplified Car Mode interface on a Symbian phone

When you connect a MirrorLink-enabled phone to a MirrorLink head unit, the phone switches to a simpler interface that's less likely to distract you and only lets you use a few applications; this is called 'Car Mode'.

On a Nokia handset, that gives you a dialling screen, music player and Nokia Drive with bigger, clearer buttons.

Or you can control the app on your phone from the touchscreen on the MirrorLink head unit on your dashboard and ignore the phone altogether.

You can set up a playlist or plan your route on your phone in advance, and then it's easy to select that once you're driving along, rather than having to remember to do it before you put your hands on the wheel.

MirrorLink news

The touchscreen MirrorLink interface

How about more apps?

Sure, as long as they're certified and comply with rules about not distracting the driver; Internet radio is an obvious idea and there's a software development kit for creating apps.

Version 2 of MirrorLink is under discussion and that will give apps more information from the car (version 1.1 will let you control apps with buttons on the steering wheel as well as the touchscreen).

We'd like an app that looked up prices, checked the traffic and worked out if driving for half an hour to get cheaper petrol would actually save you money.

MirrorLink news

Sony puts a more elegant interface on its MirrorLink unit

Supposing I'm parked or in the passenger seat; is my phone still locked down?

MirrorLink lets the car tell your phone how fast it's going or when the handbrake is on.

Pull over and Direct Access Mode lets you see your phone screen on the bigger MirrorLink screen so you can check your email or search online.

The Sony units have a Passenger App Control Mode that lets a passenger connect an iPhone or iPod touch and play videos or see apps on the touchscreen.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.