Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link Explained

Apple CarPlay

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link are three top systems offering seamless integration of your smartphone with your car’s infotainment system. Auto manufacturers either provide CarPlay – smartphone-infotainment integration solution from Apple – or Android Auto  – Google’s take on the integration -, and few come with Mirror Link – an open source integration solution. Only a few vehicles render all three or two of the three prevailing systems. Though Ford Sync has been around for a longer time than all three mentioned earlier, but it is limited to Ford vehicles, so we are leaving that out for this comparison.

All three integration platforms require you to connect your smartphone with car’s infotainment system via cable. Wireless connectivity is a future prospect for now. Upon connecting, car’s infotainment system will display and offer basic phone functionality and few approved apps by each of the systems. Let’s look a bit closely at each of them:

Apple CarPlay:

Starting with Apple CarPlay – first released in 2014, however, the stable release came along in 2017 -, it is now available on more than 200 models from various automakers. It is quickly gaining lead thanks to Apple’s authoritative powers in the smartphone arena. CarPlay is available for iPhone 5 onwards on selected models and infotainment systems. Larger iOS themed icons are displayed on Infotainment’s screen once connected, allowing users to access multiple apps, maps, music, telephony and messaging services without having to look at their phone’s small screens. Siri also comes to assistance on pressing voice command button on vehicle’s infotainment system.

Integration and functionality remain seamless, however, there are few glitches and hiccups while connecting. Moreover, apps don’t run fluidly at some instances.

Android Auto:

Released in 2015, the combined number of vehicles and infotainment systems from global automakers and electronic brands offering Android Auto stands at 377. It is supported by Android smartphones running Android 5.0 or later. Google Maps is the highlight of the system along with a wider array of communication apps, approved by Google.

Like Apple CarPlay, it offers similar connectivity and in dash display along with voice recognition and voice enabled controls for multiple apps. Users can choose to use Android Auto either from their phone or from icons displayed on infotainment system, including media controls on steering, if available.

Mirror Link:

First, working concepts were shown way back in IEEE CCNC 2009 on Nokia N810 and first integration with car’s infotainment was displayed at the Geneva Auto Show a year later using Nokia N97. Over the years the number of vehicles and infotainment systems supporting Mirror Link has increased to well over 200. Also, a wide array of smartphone manufacturers from around the globe have released phones supporting Mirror Link, so this integration option may appeal to a larger audience.

It offers the widest set of apps available on Google Play Store, as most of the supporting phones run the Android 5.0 or later. Interestingly, Mirror Link also supports Nokia Belle Symbian phones, since the research on infotainment connectivity started with the Finnish company.

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