Last weekend we were invited to participate in Mini's Mini Takes the States rally. We got a chance to test drive almost all of their models, including the Hardtop, Clubman and Countryman, but we were most interested in testing out Mini Connected, an iPhone + Mini integrated experience that lets you connect the car with all your favorite apps and more.
To get started, you need to first download the Mini Connected app. It's free and constantly updated, so that whatever new features the Mini team decides to add, your car can adapt to all the changes without a change of hardware because everything is connected through the app. Just like any mobile app, new features are integrated with each update. Once you've got the app, your iPhone just needs to be connected to the built-in USB port.
Here are all the different features we tested out using Mini Connected.
In my testing, I used the iPhone to stream web radio stations into the Mini. I had access to MOG, which is basically like Netflix but for music. The app also directly integrates with Pandora so you can use the Mini screen and joystick to navigate through your Pandora stations. The interface is clean and easy to navigate, and it sure beat pulling up my iPhone app to choose or skip songs. The most unusual music feature was Dynamic Music, where the music is determined by the way the vehicle is being driven. When I had a blinker on, the music would play quickly in time with the blinker. If I was driving quickly and then came to a stop, the music would be loud and roll from the back speakers to only the front speakers.
Another fun feature was the Minimalism Analyzer, a feature on the app that helps you drive more efficiently. The feature records your driving style, gathering data on your acceleration, braking, and gear changing habits. I like the animated Mini with a fishbowl on top. It turns driving efficiently into a game. If you knock the fish out of the bowl from driving roughly, you lose points. Each day you get a score, and you can compare your driving score with other Mini drivers.
Social Media Integration
Mini Connected lets you access your Twitter, Facebook or news RSS feeds on the screen. You can also send out preset tweets or posts, but this may only be useful for social media addicts who find the need to update constantly. The coolest thing about the social connectivity was the ability to watch Podcast videos on the Mini screen.
Google Search Integration
I loved how the Mini could connect with Google. I didn't need these functions while test-driving at the rally, but felt this could really come in handy on a daily basis. I'm always using Yelp and my navigation to get to places, and the Google Send-to-Car function allows you to sync the Mini screen up to Google maps, and even lets you send or receive driving directions from friends.
All Mini models were definitely fun to drive, and Mini Connected is a sweet feature that all the models can have if they are equipped with the screen. The joystick feature is similar to the BMW's iDrive system, but I found it more user-friendly. If you're interested in trying out Mini Connected, you can ask to test it out at any dealer.
(Images: Julienne Lin)