Hands on with Sync 3

Today I was formally introduced to Sync 3. This is Ford’s newest iteration of their hands-free, touch-screen info-tainment system. Ford brought out the engineer in charge of the design to walk us through what’s new and then let us loose on a fleet of Sync 3-equipped Ford Escapes to test it out for ourselves.

The latest version is all-new, and built to address the previous system’s user pain-points, like tiny buttons (makes you feel a bit like this) and page by page scrolling through hundreds of artists — you had better learn to love bands whose names start with “A” or “B” on the old system.

Ford revamped the system with all new graphics, bigger “buttons”, and quicker, more responsive hardware. The new system takes the best of the old, like the original Sync’s home screen layout and combines that with a bunch of new tricks like pinch to zoom in maps, more natural language recognition, and app integration for things like Spotify. User experience is definitely more enjoyable than with previous generations.

I should tell you that I’m already a big fan of Sync. I love it in my personal vehicles, and use it all the time to change radio stations, make calls, or play playlists without taking my hands off the wheel. The new system is a clear improvement, both aesthetically and functionally. (Which, actually sort of burns me.)
Looking at the new system highlights just how dated these systems look and feel as cars age. There’s no way to upgrade my not-so-old MyFordTouch (a.k.a. Sync 2) system to the new Sync 3. What’s more, getting into my Sync 1-equipped car feels like the modern equivalent of your car stereo having a tape deck. The graphics are seriously cheesy, and haven’t aged well. That said, Sync has become one of my favourite things about my Fords. Looks aside, the system works well, and makes other systems from the same era feel “quaint”.

When in non-Sync cars, I be like:

The new system still suffers from some of the same issues that affect all these in-car systems. When you tell it what you want in a way other than the way it wants to hear it, you will find yourself starting processes over from scratch. The new system, while faster than the old, still has some jittery animations and delayed load times. In a system that usually costs more than an iPhone, I expected it to be just as smooth.

I guess the real question is whether Sync 3 will make people buy a Ford car over a competitor’s. Probably not. But it won’t turn people away, either. I know people will love it over the years of owning their car, but I think Sync 3 will be more like finding 5 bucks in the back pocket of a pair of new pants — it really sweetens the deal after you’re already committed.

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