What is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MirrorLink?

You may have been wondering what these mean, and how you can use them in your car...

Words by: First published: 14th April 2017
If you’ve been looking at buying a car in the past few years, it’s very likely you will have seen that the car features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or MirrorLink compatibility.

You may have also been wondering what these mean, and how you can use them.

While most people change their phones every couple of years, they are likely to hold on to a car for much longer. Cars also take much longer to develop than smartphones, so by the time a car comes out, the infotainment system could be outdated.

In-car technology is getting better all the time, but car manufacturers still can’t update their software as quickly as the likes of Apple or Google. So, if you want a familiar interface on your car’s infotainment screen, and your car has the compatibility, you may prefer to stick with what you know.

Some manufacturers offer Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or MirrorLink as standard, while others make it available as an optional extra. There are only a few manufacturers offering all three, while others are offering an either/or solution.
What is Apple CarPlay and how does it work?
If you have an iPhone 5 or later, and your car features Apple CarPlay, then you’re good to go. After plugging in your phone via the USB port (CarPlay may be available via Bluetooth or WiFi in the future), you’ll be able to access several functions through the familiar Apple interface on your car’s infotainment screen.

CarPlay gives access to Maps, phone functions, messages, and music, as well as other apps including Spotify, Podcasts, Audiobooks, and apps developed by car manufacturers.

It can be controlled via Siri (press and hold the voice control button on the steering wheel), via the touch-screen, or by using the various knobs, dials and buttons in the car.

Apple Maps can now show turn-by-turn navigation in a car’s instrument cluster, as well as suggesting landmarks on a route, predicted traffic, and suggesting a new route.
What is Android Auto and how does it work?
Broadly speaking, the basic features of Android Auto are similar to Apple CarPlay, but it’s Google’s solution to bring your smartphone features into your car.

To get started, you’ll need the Android Auto app, and then just plug your phone into your car’s USB.

Like CarPlay, Android Auto can also be controlled via the touch-screen, voice control, or car’s controls.

CarPlay supports the standard message system, whereas Android Auto can support several different ones, including WhatsApp, Skype, and Google Hangouts. Overall, there is access to more third party apps through Android Auto, with the most popular likely to be Google Maps.
What is MirrorLink and how does it work?
MirrorLink is the other option when it comes to smartphone compatibility with your car.

The Car Connectivity Consortium, made of various automotive and electronic manufacturers jointly developed MirrorLink.
MirrorLink works like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but is available on a range of smartphones, including Sony, HTC, Samsung and LG.

As well as being able to use many popular apps including Spotify, Twitter and Facebook via MirrorLink, as well as the usual maps and phone connectivity, drivers can use a MirrorLink-compatible app to monitor driving data, so you can have a back-seat driver with you at all times.
Related topics:
Car jargon explained