BOSTON, Oct. 22, 2015 -- Before the releases of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Connected Car Consortium established a protocol dubbed 'MirrorLink' - one of the first major efforts to create a connectivity standard between smartphones and in-vehicle infotainment systems. After several years of effort however, MirrorLink has struggled to gain a foothold among OEMs and handset manufacturers alike. Capability is currently limited to certain Nokia and Android handsets, paired with certain MirrorLink-capable head units. Many OEMs including Toyota, Honda, and GM participate in this consortium, but the Volkswagen Group leads the market in integrated MirrorLink deployment.
A new expert evaluation from the In-vehicle UX (IVX) group at Strategy Analytics (www.strategyanalytics.com) has assessed the MirrorLink feature on board the 2015 Volkswagen Passat. While CarPlay offers a car-specific user experience defined and curated by Apple, and Google offers similar with Android Auto, MirrorLink offers a communications protocol for use regardless of mobile operating system. However, the theoretically simple idea of users downloading their manufacturer's version of DriveLink onto their phone, plugging it into their car via a USB cable and accessing a "Drive Mode" version of all of their mobile apps, has led to several critical problems in practice. Menus are inconsistently laid out; text is hard to read due to poor and inconsistent sizing and contrast; touch targets are often small or hidden; and a lack of spacing encourages accidental button presses. Most importantly however, the pairing process is rife with bugs.
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Derek Viita, Senior Analyst and report author commented, "Repeated efforts to connect the handset to the in-vehicle infotainment system yielded a variety of errors before connection was eventually established; a first-time user would not be as patient. Furthermore only a handful of Samsung, Sony, and Nokia smartphones are actually compatible with MirrorLink."
Continued Viita "Pairing the phone via USB to use mobile apps also degrades or eliminates the ability for consumers to properly interact with their infotainment system using the integrated HMI. Most crucially, voice recognition and "push-to-talk" steering wheel buttons are not functional with MirrorLink unless the phone is also paired via Bluetooth. Requiring users to perform this task twice (i.e. via USB and Bluetooth) is not best practice."
Chris Schreiner, Director, IVX added, "The mirrored mobile UI is often created by designers who are unfamiliar with the unique requirements of an in-car interface. Without increased focus on the curation of available apps and content and how that content is easily accessed using the vehicle's HMI, the MirrorLink model for smartphone integration is destined to fall behind other mirroring solutions which pay greater attention to the usability requirements of the car."
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About In-vehicle UX
The In-vehicle UX group forms part of the User Experience Innovation Practice (UXIP) at Strategy Analytics. Focusing on user behaviors, motivations and interests within in-vehicle, mobile device, connected home and media & services research areas, UXIP helps clients meet consumer needs, develop usable solutions and deliver compelling user experiences. Extensive expertise and highly experienced in large-scale survey work, in-depth interviews, focus groups and observational sessions, UXIP's research methodology allows strategic user-centric analysis on the potential for new technologies that would otherwise be unavailable. Providing actionable insight, go-to-market strategies and business recommendations, UXIP is a leading supplier of consumer knowledge to the technology industry. Click here for more information.