For a long time, smartphones and cars did not really want to come together. That’s what Apple Car-play, Google’s Android Auto and Mirrorlink want to change. The trio theoretically allows the use of apps on the large display in the car and should be particularly well suited for use in the vehicle thanks to specific surfaces and voice control. Thus, the user is not in danger of coming into conflict with law enforcement officers.
This concept seems to be well received by the clientele – and so more and more car manufacturers and providers of retrofit radios offer corresponding interfaces in their products. While many Volkswagen Group brands such as VW, Seat, and Skoda use all three solutions in their models, BMW currently relies exclusively on Apple Carplay.
From a complete use of the App can in practice, so much is already betrayed, there is no question – this is severely curtailed by the bank. The web-based voice controls from Apple and Google, which make the expensive solutions of many automakers look old, are convincing. Read how the trio did in detail.
Perfect Game Partner: Kenwood DMX7017DABS
The functionality of Android Auto and Apple Carplay we tested with the Kenwood DMX7017DABS for 499 euros. The 2-DIN model is a so-called Moniceiver and equipped with a 7-inch display, Bluetooth, a power of 4 x 50 watts and a receiver for FM and modern digital radio DAB +.
An extension cable for the rear USB port to connect a smartphone and a microphone for voice control are included. In the test, the Kenwood shone with trouble-free and fast operation and good sound.
Android Car In The Test: Unchallenged
With the free app display “Android Auto” Google offers its own solution for smartphone integration in the vehicle. And the theme goes a little differently than Apple Carplay and Mirrorlink. For example, Google does not use the icon look learned by the smartphone. Whether this is an advantage, we see in the field test.
Apps Step Into The Background
The smartphone is simply connected via USB with the Android-compatible car multimedia system and after a short initial configuration, it can then go on the test partner of Kenwood. The home screen receives one with a mountain landscape, which unfortunately cannot be adapted and at least on the tester looks a bit old-fashioned. Arranged thereupon are current entries in the form of large control surfaces through which one can scroll. Depending on the current usage, for example, the location-based weather, the current navigation instruction, the received message display or even the current music title appear on the display. If you tap an area, you get directly to the corresponding function.
In the lower part of the display, there are the five elements “Navigation”, “Telephony”, “Home screen”, “Music” and “Exit”. In the upper right area can be a microphone icon, the voice control manually starts, which offers full control of Android Auto. As with Carplay from Apple, the voice control of Android Auto but also verbally activate: Just say “Ok Google”, off you go. If the car also has its own voice control function, you can often use this button to start the voice service from Google or Apple, which increases the comfort in everyday life again.
Strong Voice Control On Board
Depending on the apps installed on the smartphone and the compatibility with Android Auto, there are some additional entries to be found under the entries for “Navigation” and “Music”. So you can then easily switch between music by Spotify, the web radio Tunein and audiobook Audible. In addition to the in-house navigation solution Maps, Android Auto also allows the app “Waze” as a route guide. But there are few reasons for their use because maps are in terms of routing and real-time congestion information for the best, what is currently on the market – and even free. Only with extensive offline maps as well as Apple maps do not come up, so the user must provide also abroad for a data connection.
In terms of news, Google is tracking the concept of “Listening and Dictating” so that messages are simply sent via voice control. This also works for Whatsapp texts. Users can also access web information at any time via the excellent voice control provided by Android Auto, thus ensuring a thoroughly successful performance in the practical test.
Android Auto Now Also Directly On The Smartphone
Recently, it is also possible to use Android Auto directly on the smartphone or tablet. For use in the car, the user then only needs a bracket and an optional power supply. So equipped, the successful car interface can be used by any Android user. The range of functions is almost identical to the solution for car systems with the Android Auto interface. Waze is currently not usable, as maps here in the full version performs its service and so on request, the navigation also offers a satellite view. The look has also been adjusted marginally. What remains are the outstanding ease of use and the very well-functioning voice control.
Apple CarPlay In The Test: Uncomplicated
If you have an iPhone, you’re lucky, because, with Carplay, you have an interface that is widely used by car manufacturers and aftermarket providers and already pre-installed on your smartphone. While the iPhone is usually connected to the multimedia system in the car via a USB cable, Carplay can even be used wirelessly in some BMW models. Of course, this significantly increases the comfort in everyday life – but the smartphone without cable also does not charge. But that can change with the upcoming launch of the iPhone 8 thanks to wireless charging. We will see.
Good Looks, But Few Apps
In the field test, an iPhone 5s with the latest iOS 10.3.3 was used. In this version, Carplay offers the largest range of functions and also the coupling with the Kenwood DMX7017DABS worked without any problems. The appearing after a few moments surface of Carplay is simple, but designed compliant, is very similar to the smartphone optics and can be so completely intuitive to use. Depending on the display size of the multimedia system in the car, eight or ten large icons are currently displayed per level.
In the settings of his iPhone, the user can specify under “General” and “CarPlay” the order of the apps displayed and also define which in the car should be displayed at all. The selection of additional apps is low and is primarily limited to audio apps. Alternatives for navigation or messages including WhatsApp locks Apple.
The sidebar on the edge of the screen is really handy. They’re not only the time, the data connection of the smartphone and the home button are displayed, but also the three last used apps via small icons. In everyday life, you can switch so quickly between the tools, without going through the home screen. The only drawback is the size of the side icons because depending on screen size and distance to the display you have to aim accurately while driving to hit it with your fingertip.
Carplay stops talking thanks to Siri
This is far from tragic since Apple is in terms of operation in Carplay in many respects listening and dictating. So you can control the majority of Apple’s own features such as telephony, news, and music through the language assistant Siri (see also page 44). This worked in the test, however, not always reliable, except for the “news” but you can also intervene manually everywhere, which works very comfortable thanks to the large operating icons.
Otherwise, Carplay offers rudimentary navigation with “maps”, but thanks to traffic jam information in real time but quite reliable navigation. Web playing while driving through Siri often left Carplay saying “I’m sorry, but I can not search the web while you’re in the car”.
Mirror Link In The Test: Immature
While the handling of Android Auto and Apple Carplay works according to the motto “Plug-and-play”, it becomes much more complicated at Mirrorlink, the third and at the same time oldest player in the league. Not only is the choice of compatible vehicle models and retrofit radios significantly lower, but above all the range of smartphones. The models from Apple are completely out of the available, and the range of Android smartphones is anything but intoxicating, as the view on the homepage of Mirrorlink shows. Whether the effort is worthwhile for the user is shown by the practical test.
Connection Problems And Hardly Any Apps
We tested Mirrorlink in a VW Polo equipped with the navigation system “Discover Media” and “Mirrorlink” and a Samsung Galaxy S8 as well as a slightly older HTC One M8s. Even with an LG G6 and a Samsung Galaxy S7, which should be understood by the list with Mirrorlink, we have tried our luck. Sad result: The LG was not at all, connect the Galaxy S7 only now and then. Fortunately, we have access to a large number of smartphones – that’s what the normal customer usually does differently.
The next disappointment follows on foot. Since the respective automaker defines which apps are allowed for use with Mirrorlink, many of them are being prevented from the start. So there are very few, mainly VW-specific apps to discover for the test combination. The additional Mirrorlink app “Rock Scout”, but at least streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer or Stitcher can be conveniently used in the car. Also in the navigation, it does not look very good, because except for the good, but also fee-based solution Sygic is so far nothing to see on the app horizon.
Only With Car Mode Of The Manufacturer Good
To make things even more complicated, Samsung and HTC also have optional surfaces for use in the car, which give them the opportunity to access other apps. Alright? So it is possible with the “car mode” from Samsung, for example, to bring messages via mirror link on the screen of the vehicle. Also, telephony functions and voice control are only available via this detour. If the whole thing runs once, leaves MirrorLink in conjunction with the car surfaces of HTC and Samsung a pretty decent impression, but the way was at least in our configuration more than rocky.
So in the end in direct comparison with Android Auto – and this must be drawn – the arguments for Mirrorlink. The few specific apps of the automaker weigh the problems of our view by far not on. Too bad, but the good thing is that very few car models rely solely on Mirrorlink.