I’m currently at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona with Ford South Africa and saw the future – it looks amazing. The future being SYNC 3, the latest update to Ford’s infotainment system being rolled out in most of their vehicles. South Africa recently received SYNC 2, which is still being rolled out to all vehicles, so we will have to wait for the next-gen update, as we do with most technology.
For me, the biggest deal about SYNC 3 is that it works with Android Auto and CarPlay. This means that it’s compatible with Android and iPhone. I’ve read about CarPlay and Android Auto and finally got to see a real demo of it myself.
Firstly, SYNC 3 (8-inch screen) has a completely new look and feel, different to version 2. It’s sort of like how you’d expect a mobile device to be with a bunch of icons for quick access, and then menu buttons at the bottom.
SYNC 3 on its own pairs with any device via Bluetooth, so you can make calls, play music etc using voice commands. A new feature is that a whole bunch (like loads) of album artwork has been preloaded onto the system so when you’re playing music over Bluetooth, and your phone doesn’t have the artwork, it will appear on the SYNC system, without using additional data. Another improvement is the search functionality. This I can appreciate because I hate that most GPS systems have a specific format that you have to follow with road number, street name etc etc; the new system has a search engine like format where you type what you want. Building name, road name, building number etc OR just type “restaurants” and it picks up a bunch that is within the vicinity, which is then displayed by distance. Of course, you can search by voice. You can say commands like “find me the closest petrol station”, or “I need coffee”. Also the search menu looks much better now; self-explanatory and easy to figure out without a manual.
SYNC 3 lets you pair Android Lollipop 5.0 upwards and iPhone 5 and iOS 7.3 upwards (lightning cable connections). The interface just seamlessly adapts to whatever device you plug in, and the homescreen is tweaked accordingly. If you pair an Android, you will get to use Google Voice and other apps like Google Play Music, Maps and whatever else you are familiar with. If you pair an iPhone, you will see the CarPlay interface, which looks great; and the menu will appear onscreen. Both systems work with apps that are determined by Google and Apple (whichever 3rd party app they’ve partnered with, like TuneIn Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, etc). Also, your new incoming messages can be read out to you and you can reply via voice commands (Google Voice or Siri). If you need any updates to the software, it can be done over-the-air (OTA) via a WiFi connection, like when you are at home.
It’s all very exciting to see this next-level integration of smartphones and cars, and to be honest, I’m looking forward to testing SYNC 3 when it gets here, for a real-world situation of pairing both Android and iOS. SYNC 3 will roll out to Europe first, of course, on the Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy.
The Ford stand at MWC also had a VR Experience section with demos of Ford SYNC with App Link and an app that is coming in the future, with Ministry. It was a very cool demo of various scenarios and what to expect, but there wasn’t much else info available. More on that at a later stage.
The highlight of my morning? Bumping into Mark Fields, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company:
— Nafisa Akabor (@nafisa1) February 22, 2016