Nokia Car Mode, using MirrorLink

Nokia Car Mode, using MirrorLink

Last spring, we told you about Terminal Mode, a new protocol being pushed by GM, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, Volkswagen, and other automakers, as well as handset manufacturer Nokia. Terminal Mode (now known as MirrorLink) promises to make smartphone integration in cars much easier, and during this week's Frankfurt Auto Show, Nokia is showing the world how it works.

The vehicle (no pun intended) for this high-tech merging of cars and cell phones is a Nokia app called "Car Mode", which will be available for download in the fourth quarter of this year. If you have a Nokia handset that runs on Symbian Belle, you'll be able to use Car Mode.

The way it works is fairly simple: download the Car Mode app, crack it open, plug your phone into your car's infotainment system, and there, on the screen, you'll see a streamlined version of your smartphone display. No more looking down at your lap to slide through apps and music -- it's all right in front of you. 

The good and the bad

To minimize potential distractions, not all apps will work via Car Mode. Video streaming, for example, will almost certainly be cut off. But scrolling through music and accessing maps on a reasonably sized in-dash display instead of fumbling with a pocket-sized smartphone seems like a great step forward. Ray LaHood should be very excited.

On the downside, to make use of Car Mode, drivers will need an infotainment system that works with the MirrorLink protocol. At the moment, it appears that the Alpine ICS-X8 is one of the few that does -- which means some chunky aftermarket expenses for consumers until automakers' factory systems get with the plan. 

And then there's the question of Nokia's operating system. Will Car Mode continue to work when Nokia handsets switch to Windows? And, more importantly for North American consumers, who rely more heavily on Android and iOS: will Google and Apple get onboard with MirrorLink? Or will they push their own protocols? We really hope this doesn't turn into the 21st century's "VHS or Beta" war.

For a quick overview of the Car Mode app and how it functions in vehicles, check this short clip from Nokia.