If you love your smartphone as much as we do, and if you drive a new Ford, we've got some very exciting news: Ford has said that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will both roll out to the SYNC 3 infotainment system this year, as will several other useful features.
Over the past year, Ford SYNC has undergone a fairly radical, much-needed transformation. Formerly packaged as MyFord Touch (and MyLincoln Touch), SYNC debuted during the 2007 model year and has grown in popularity. However, that popularity has been something of a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, SYNC generated additional revenue for Ford from shoppers who chose it as an add-on. On the other, SYNC has been plagued by a host of problems, from technical glitches to a steep learning curve, that have made quite a few owners angry -- angry enough to file lawsuits.
To its credit, Ford has devoted a lot of time and energy to improving SYNC, and in December of 2014, the company announced the biggest upgrade of all: it would not build its next-generation SYNC system on the Microsoft platform, but on Blackberry's QNX.
SYNC 3 (as it's now known) debuted on 2016 model-year vehicles. And soon, Ford owners with SYNC 3 will be able to enjoy quite a few more bells and whistles:
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay: These services allow iPhone and Android users to connect their smartphones to their vehicles and interact with them via a slimmed down interface on their dashboard's center screen. Both systems are long overdue, but given how central smartphones are to many of us these days, they're still likely to be very, very popular. (General Motors believes that CarPlay in particular has helped some of its dealers close sales.)
SYNC Connect: Using the 4G LTE network, this feature will give owners access to important data about their vehicles, right from their mobile phones. As with apps we've seen for electric cars, owners will be able to check their fuel levels, unlock doors, remote-start their vehicles, and locate their parked cars.
AAA/CAA: If you're a AAA member (or a CAA member in Canada), this app will help you find nearby gas stations and guide you to those with the least expensive fuel. It can also help plan your travel route, accommodating for traffic snarls.
Concur: Those who use their vehicles for business will find this app useful. When you start your Ford, Concur will ask if you'd like to log a business trip. Users can pull records of such trips for mileage reimbursement and tax purposes.
Eventseeker and Cityseeker: These two discovery apps help motorists find interesting events (Eventseeker) and good restaurants and other attractions (Cityseeker). The apps take into account data provided by users about their personal preferences, then calculate nearby offerings, based on a vehicle's location.
Ford says that these features will debut on 2017 model-year vehicles equipped with SYNC 3, starting with the Ford Escape. They'll roll out to 2016 vehicles with SYNC 3 later this year.