The new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phablet will have another cool feature coming with it: compatibility with the MirrorLink smartphone-to-car platform, the scrappy rival to Android Auto.
Like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, MirrorLink is a system for connecting your smartphone to your car, so you can use its features safely from the car’s center display. You get into the car, connect your phone, and the display should show an interface similar to your phone’s—but adjusted to minimize driver distraction.
Why this matters: Users just want their phones to work in their cars. MirrorLink, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay are all racing to deliver that seamless ease. MirrorLink’s edge is its open standard, giving automakers, app developers, and users more flexibility. Adding Samsung's phablet on top of the HTC One (M8), MirrorLink shows it’s making friends—good friends—in the massive Android market. MirrorLink also gives Android-centric companies like Samsung an alternative to the Google hegemony.
No one wants to be tied down
Unlike Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, MirrorLink is developed by the Car Connectivity Consortium, independent of a specific OS or company. This means less brand cachet, but also more freedom for the CCC’s partners. “There’s no business interest, there’s no secrecy,” said Alan Ewing, president and executive director of the CCC.
Ewing noted the risks of sticking with a single company’s solution. “If Apple or Google decides tomorrow, this is too hard, and they stop doing it,” warned Ewing, “then the car guys are left holding the bag. MirrorLink’s a standard; anyone can pick us up.”
A platform isn’t a platform without apps, though. The CCC is working hard on that as well: It announced seven MirrorLink-certified apps at the Paris Auto Show on Friday, including the popular Sygic for navigation and Parkopedia for finding parking spots.
“Our job is to get as many interesting apps out there as possible,” pledged Ewing. Ewing also contrasted Google's push for a consistent look and feel among Android Auto apps to MirrorLink’s efforts to help developers hew as closely as possible to their phone app’s design—while also adjusting for minimal distraction.
Samsung may just be hedging its bets, but for MirrorLink, every phone win helps it stand up to Android Auto, which is still in development but benefits from Google’s money and influence. No matter what happens, though, the smartphone-car marriage is benefiting from all this activity in a way that happened only spottily when it was just up to the automakers.