• Dec 27th 2010 at 8:57AM
  • 10
It's a good day for Ford Sync users. The Blue Oval has officially announced two big leaps forward for the company's infotainment system for smartphone users. For the first time, Apple users will find that their iPhone is now fully compatible with Sync. Previously, the system was only usable with devices that used RIM or Android operating systems. What's more, users can now control the applications on their smartphones using a hands-free, voice-operated system. So far, there are only a handful of apps that will gel with Sync voice activation, including Pandora internet radio, Stitcher news radio and OpenBeak (a Twitter client), though Ford says that there are more on the way.

The new and improved Sync will first show up in 14,000 Ford Fiesta models, though the free Sync application will eventually be equipped on every Sync-equipped Ford and Lincoln vehicle. Fiesta owners can get the ball rolling by logging into their Sync account online and pointing their browser toward the Update and Customize section of the site. Hit the jump for the full press release.

[Source: Ford]
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* SYNC® AppLink, the industry-first software application that gives SYNC users hands-free voice control of their smartphone apps, is now available as a free download for 2011 Ford Fiesta owners at www.syncmyride.com
* Ford announces that Apple iPhone will be compatible with AppLink, along with initially announced BlackBerry by RIM and Android-based smartphones
* Pandora internet radio, Stitcher news radio and OpenBeak are the first SYNC-enabled mobile apps, some of which can be downloaded today from Android Market and BlackBerry App World, and soon from Apple App Store
* SYNC AppLink comes first to 2011 Ford Fiesta owners, with more SYNC-equipped vehicles soon to follow

SYNC AppLink
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DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 22, 2010 – More than 14,000 owners of SYNC®-equipped Ford Fiesta vehicles can start celebrating the holidays now by treating themselves to the gift of AppLink, a free software program that gives SYNC users voice control of apps stored on their smartphone.

The industry-first capability puts Ford out front in the race to integrate smartphone apps into the car. The AppLink download for Fiesta owners went live today on the SYNC owner website, www.syncmyride.com.

"More and more drivers are using their devices and their apps while in the car," said Doug VanDagens, director of Ford Connected Services. "With AppLink, SYNC is a smarter solution for these drivers who choose to use these apps while driving – making it the only connectivity system available that can extend app functionality to the car using both voice and steering wheel controls."

Ford is also announcing a surprise new member to the AppLink family: the Apple iPhone. The popular smartphone makes for a powerful addition, and will be joining Android and BlackBerry smartphones as compatible devices with the software that allows apps to be controlled through the SYNC voice recognition system – a smarter alternative to manually controlling apps while driving.

Recent studies indicate 46 percent of adult smartphone users have apps on their phones and 36 percent of those admit to using those apps while commuting. Moreover, the 2010 study "Staying Connected on the Go: A Look at In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Systems" conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association reports that 55 percent of smartphone owners prefer voice commands as their user interface for in-car smartphone integration, making the business case for SYNC and AppLink even more compelling.

"SYNC and AppLink work hand-in-hand to answer consumer demand for safer, smarter control of smartphones while in the car," said VanDagens. "Ford has worked hard to be a step ahead or at least in step with the speed of the consumer electronics market, and to leverage the technologies, features and services we know our customers want to be connected to while driving."

Easy downloading
2011 SYNC-equipped Ford Fiesta owners need to log in to their account on www.syncmyride.com to access the free AppLink download in the Update & Customize section.

As with any typical download, the AppLink software can be stored on a USB memory stick, and then inserted and uploaded to the vehicle via the SYNC system's USB port. In-car installation takes less than 10 minutes.

The first SYNC-enabled apps to market are Pandora internet radio, Stitcher news radio and OpenBeak for listening to Twitter posts. Once the AppLink upload is complete, customers can then visit their phones' respective app store to download the latest SYNC-enabled Pandora, Stitcher or OpenBeak app to their smartphone as they would any other app.

Current availability of SYNC-enabled apps:
* Pandora
o Apple iPhone: Coming early 2011
o Android: Available now (V1.5.3 or higher)
o BlackBerry: Available now (Version 1.1.6 or higher)
* Stitcher
o Apple iPhone: Coming early 2011
o Android: Coming early 2011
o BlackBerry: Late availability
* OpenBeak
o BlackBerry: Available now from http://m.openbeak.com and soon in Blackberry App World (Version 1.4 or higher)

Seamless voice control
AppLink makes the connection between app and SYNC fairly seamless and simple, using Bluetooth streaming on paired Android and BlackBerry smartphones and the USB port for a connected Apple iPhone.

To access a mobile app with a SYNC-paired phone, the user simply has to press the VOICE button on the steering wheel and say the command, "Mobile applications," followed by the name of the app he or she would like to launch.

Once linked to Pandora, SYNC users can access their favorite personalized radio features, including creating and choosing stations, bookmarking songs for purchase, and giving songs a thumbs up/down all through voice. Command structure is intuitive and simple: "Play station classic rock radio," "Bookmark song," "Thumbs up" or "Thumbs down."

"Where before users would pick up their phone, taking their eyes off the road and hands off the steering wheel while driving to select a station and hit play, AppLink makes all of that functionality available through voice control, just like managing AM and FM radio or your MP3 player through SYNC," said Julius Marchwicki, SYNC product manager.

Similar voice command pathways and functionality exist for the Stitcher and OpenBeak apps. With Stitcher, for example, you can say the command, "Play station news" to listen to your favorite news radio or "Play station sports" to hear on-demand sports programming. Other popular Stitcher features such as skip station, thumbs up/down and "Add to favorites" are also available via voice.

Through the OpenBeak app, drivers can simply say the SYNC command, "Read timeline." In seconds, their feed is read aloud using the SYNC text-to-speech engine – a very similar experience to listening to talk radio.

Additional SYNC-enabled apps and smartphone integrations are coming soon, said Marchwicki. AppLink will also be introduced on other SYNC-equipped new model vehicles in 2011.

Ford will feature demos of AppLink at the Pepcom Digital Experience media event in Las Vegas on Jan. 5, 2011, and then at the 2011 International CES consumer technology trade show in Las Vegas between Jan. 6 and Jan. 9, 2011.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      'For the first time, Apple users will find that their iPhone is now fully compatible with Sync. Previously, the system was only usable with devices that used RIM or Android operating systems.'

      Working with 3 apps (months from now) is not "fully compatible with the iPhone". Most of your apps on the iPhone still cannot be controlled through Sync. And as to the 2nd sentence, Sync has been compatible with the iPhone for what, two years now? It can connect and play music and even select tracks.

      It's good that Ford offers these upgrades for free to existing customers, I'm very tired of the pay for software updates policy that other NAV systems (including the one in my year-old Cadillac) use.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Glad to see I'm not the only one who said "What?" after reading this the first time.
      • 4 Years Ago

      Here's the thing... Talking and driving, while it's "hands free" or not, is still a distraction. So is "pulling up whatever song I want to listen to in my library with just a voice command." I have a 2011 CL65 AMG that has voice activation, bluetooth, etc. I have not and will not pair any of my phones to it. If I want to talk on my telephone bad enough, I will do the responsible thing and pull off to the side of the road to make my telephone call.

      Also, one of the apps that is mentioned is a Twitter client... Yep, I can see all kinds of accidents over this! It's bad enough people already try to put on makeup, shave, comb their hair, etc. while driving. Then came cell phones and people getting into accidents by being distracted while talking and driving. Then text messaging became popular. With my car, being as new as it is, they have already figured out how to deactivate the DVD from playing while the vehicle is in motion. I say they should check this at startup and if it has been hacked, then the vehicle should refuse to start... People are impatient and reckless as it is, we don't need all of these distractions while driving! Plain and simple!
      • 4 Years Ago
      SYNC will not let you pair a phone if you are moving. You may be in D but once the car moves the lady comes on with a warning. Trust me I know, I work at a Ford dealer and I drive a 10 Fusion with SYNC. This is just an add-on to the original SYNC that enhances what apps on your phone can integrate with your smartphone. It has always worked with iPhones, I have SYNCed hundreds of them. It's the AppLink that is new and now includes iPhone integration.

      I do love SYNC. It's great being able to talk and still pay attention on the road. Never mind pulling up whatever song I want to listen to in my library with just a voice command.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Makes sense to release it on the Fiesta first. Average owner is younger so they are more likely to make use of the applications and give feedback to Ford on whats going right/wrong. Also a demographic that is more tech-savvy and accepting of tech glitches.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Great. Yet another thing for young (and even older) drivers to attract their attention to instead of the roads. I can hear it now (after the multiple car accident and the police are questioning the person responsible for the accident). "Officer, I was just trying Sync my Pandora accounts. There's this awesome song I was trying to listen to and I just couldn't find it. I didn't mean to hurt anyone. I'm really sorry. Honest."
        • 4 Years Ago
        Pairing/syncing will not work at speeds over 3 mph with the current Sync system, so I doubt they'll change that for the new version.

        Sad that the programmers have to program in common sense for us, probably a good thing that they do.
        • 4 Years Ago
        While I do not have any of these contrivances, I find it interesting that "responsible" companies are making them available while the feds and the states try to stop talking and driving and texting and driving.
        As to the comment, they won't work over three mph, that is just pure garbage as there will be, or are, methods to overcome any such restriction. This means that those jokers who insist on doing all that nonsense will win and we will be faced with cars that drive themselves.
        On the other hand that would be okay if it is restricted to the contrivance passengers, and not to those who want to drive and enjoy it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I was going to say, my Forte won't let you pair unless the car's in park =P
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