There may not have been a more despised automotive infotainment system in history than MyFord Touch (MFT).
Complex, slow and full of bugs, MFT suffered a flawed existence. Operating a vehicle’s controls through an Etch-a-Sketch may have been more user friendly.
Ford, well aware of these complaints, began work on a new system about three years ago and now, the culmination of the manufacturer’s work has to come to fruition in the form of a new infotainment system — SYNC 3.
SYNC 3 – It’s Not MyFordTouch 2.0
SYNC 3 is an entirely new, ground-up redesign that is, thankfully, not at all based on MyFord Touch. Both the hardware and the software are all new, utilizing the Blackberry-developed QNX platform that will soon take over a lot of vehicle infotainment systems.
As is the case with most new infotainment systems, Ford claims that SYNC3 will have instantaneous response from its new capacitive screen. A capacitive screen uses the mild electrical charge from your finger tips to navigate through menus. It’s the same technology used in most smartphones and, like smartphones, the screen on SYNC 3 allows users to pinch and zoom, pan the map, swipe and more.
And Now For Something Completely Different
As soon as SYNC 3 fires up, it’s obvious just how different the system is. Gone is the four-square setup that divided important information into quadrants on the screen. Now the menu screens consist of two rows of large icons surrounded by boxes that Ford calls tile screens. All menu screens follow this format for increased simplicity and usability.
All audio screens are made to look similar no matter what media is being played for familiarity and easier usability. Basically, everything is larger, clearer and simpler to see now. Some may call the design basic or dated looking, but it’s all about functionality and, more importantly, it actually works.
And For Added Ease of Use
Regardless of which function is currently being used, six simple icons remain on the bottom of the screen for quick access to key features. This is similar to the setup used in Chrysler’s Uconnect system – a favorite around the AutoGuide.com offices. On top, there is a status bar that lists items like time, outdoor temperature, climate settings, etc.
When in a menu tile screen that has multiple pages of icons, the next page of icons can be seen slightly to the right so the user knows to swipe over to the next page. And best of all, SYNC 3 comes with state retention, which means when the car is turned off, the audio channel, playlist, song, etc will resume where it left off.
Even if SYNC 3 is all new, where it is housed in various vehicles stays the same. The same hard buttons from the MyFordTouch days carry over and there are no plans to change theses buttons until the vehicle’s next refresh. It’s unfortunate, because despite the new system’s improved touchscreen operation, the hard button integration could be better.
Enhanced Voice Command
Ford is really pushing the enhanced voice recognition with SYNC 3 and it works well, but isn’t perfect. It still requires going through structured menus, like stating navigation or audio first before giving a command. It’s also possible to include these instructions all in one command though, like “navigation, find a pizza place” instead of saying “navigation” and then afterwards “find a pizza place.”
The biggest issue is that it’s still necessary to wait for system to finish talking before saying a command. It’s possible to push the talk button on the steering wheel and interrupt the system to say a command sooner, but this requires an extra step and that hesitation can be annoying.
The SYNC 3 navigation maps will look familiar to anyone who owns a current Ford. But the menu and address entry screens have been redesigned to reflect those of popular third-party GPS manufacturers like Garmin and Tom Tom, which makes sense, because these companies have perfected the interface.
In the address screen, an address, city and state can all be entered in one step. And as long as the address is within Canada or the United States, the user is no longer required to manually change between countries. Typing on the address screen is much faster now as well, with minimal delay between tapping a letter and having it appear on the address bar.
Apps and WiFi
Like virtually every modern infotainment system, SYNC 3 can have additional app support like Spotify and Glympse. As more apps become available for SYNC 3, they will be labelled as such in the App Store.
Like any piece of new technology, SYNC 3 will become stale and out of date in no time at all. To keep it relevant, Ford has equipped vehicles with SYNC 3 with WiFi. Although it doesn’t have the capability of turning the car into a WiFi hotspot, SYNC 3 is one of the first in-vehicle systems to allow over-the-air updates.
Initially, the 2016 Ford Escape and the Fiesta will be the first vehicles to get SYNC 3. Lincoln will receive a slightly different system in the MKC that should receive minimal changes, mostly in its color scheme.
The Verdict: Ford SYNC 3 Review
With MyFord Touch as a predecessor, any new system Ford would put on the market was most likely going to be better. With SYNC 3 though, the manufacturer has gone from making one of the worst vehicle infotainment systems to one of the best.
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