With Sync 3, Ford hopes to resolve the bugs and complaints that turned MyFord Touch from an industry-leading feature into a liability. Raj Nair, Ford’s product development chief and chief technical officer, said the company incorporated more survey data and feedback into Sync 3 than it has when rolling out any new vehicle.
Nair said Sync 3 -- so named because it’s the third generation of Sync, with the second being MyFord Touch -- is designed to be more intuitive and quicker than the current system, which Ford introduced in 2010 to make its vehicles stand out among technology-craving, smartphone-carrying consumers. He said it’s designed to be “device agnostic,” working with any type of smartphone, though it does include Siri Eyes Free capability for more seamless integration with Apple Inc.’s iPhones.
“We don’t want you making a purchase decision about a $30,000 automobile based on your $200 smartphone,” Nair told reporters at a demonstration this week.
The 8-inch screen is the same size as MyFord Touch, but text is larger, touch zones are larger and background colors are brighter. Voice controls respond to more conversational language and return simpler prompts if the system fails to understand what was said.
“Simplicity has value,” Parish Hanna, Ford’s global director of human machine interface, said in a statement. “Reducing the number of things on-screen also makes control easier, and is designed to limit the number of times a driver has to glance at the screen.”
The system can automatically update itself using an owner’s home wireless network, whereas Ford had to fix past glitches by mailing out upgraded software or asking customers to visit a dealership. Vehicles equipped with MyFord Touch will not be able to upgrade to Sync 3.
Ford said pricing for Sync 3, which will be standard on the Titanium trim level, will be comparable to that of MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch, which cost about $1,000 when elected as an option. Ford won’t have a distinct name for the Lincoln version of Sync 3, though the system will have a different visual theme when installed in Lincolns.
The base level of Sync without the touch screen will remain available and continue to use Microsoft’s operating system. As the new system is rolled out, Ford dealers will be selling all three generations of Sync simultaneously.
The move from MyFord Touch to Sync 3 -- and from Microsoft to Blackberry -- comes as Chrysler Group and other competitors offer touch-screen systems that have been more positively received. Ford already has brought back many of the buttons and knobs it had replaced with capacitive sliders and switches that drivers and reviewers said were more distracting and difficult to use while driving.
Consumer Reports was among the most outspoken critics of MyFord Touch, unleashing its harshest words in a 2012 blog post titled “Why the MyFord Touch control system stinks.” The piece concluded: “We wouldn’t recommend dealing with the frustrations of MyFord Touch on a daily basis even to an adversary.”
Whereas MyFord Touch divided audio, climate controls, navigation and phone connectivity into four quadrants on the screen, Sync 3 has a menu bar along the bottom of the screen with six options, adding “apps” and “settings” to the original four. In that way, it’s similar to Chrysler’s Uconnect system, which features seven large icons along the bottom of the screen so a user can easily switch from music to navigation or a phone call.