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Monday, July 17, 2017

8 Things You Should Know About Ford SYNC

With car owners wanting to stay connected even when on the road, carmakers have all scrambled to come up with suitable solutions that integrate many new functions like music streaming and in-car internet with more traditional entertainment options such as radio, USB, and Bluetooth. Additionally, the “infotainment” solution must be reliable and easy-to-use. This is how Ford SYNC came about. Though it’s been out for quite some time, it’s great to get familiar with one of the pioneers.

1. What is Ford SYNC?

Ford SYNC is Ford’s integrated in-vehicle communications and entertainment system (infotainment) that allows users to make hands-free phone calls, control music, and perform other functions using voice commands. The system consists of applications and user interfaces developed by Ford and other third-party developers.

2. How many versions of SYNC are there?

There are 3 versions.

SYNC was first announced as a partnership between Ford and Microsoft in 2007. And though the North American market has had experience with SYNC since 2007, it took a further 4 years before its precursor, Voice Control, made it to an ASEAN product: the Fiesta. A year later, in 2012, the ASEAN market saw SYNC for the first time in the Focus.

SYNC is different from Voice Control because it offers more command options including the ability to read text messages. “Samantha”, SYNC’s female voice also gained the ability to interpret one hundred shorthand messages such as LOL (Laugh Out Loud). And yes, it will even read swear words.

In 2012, Ford rolled out SYNC 2 which is infamous for its four-quadrant layout. Also known as MyFord Touch or MFT, Philippine consumers first experienced it with the Explorer in 2013. Considered difficult to use and buggy, Ford refined the system launching no less than 14 updates in the span of 5 years. In 2015, Ford finally released SYNC 2 on the Ford Everest and Ranger.

In the hopes of addressing many of SYNC 2’s criticisms, Ford shifted from long-time partner Microsoft to BlackBerry beginning in 2015. BlackBerry’s Unix-like OS, QNX, served as the foundation of the newest version of SYNC, SYNC 3. By the end of 2016, over half of North American Ford models have SYNC 3 with the rest of the world to follow. In the ASEAN region, SYNC 3 has been made available on the Ford Everest, Ranger, and now, the Explorer and Expedition. It will also role out on a vast majority of Philippine-spec Ford vehicles as well.

3. What is SYNC 3?

SYNC 3 is Ford’s newest generation infotainment system. It abandons SYNC 2’s four-quadrant home screen for a three-window design (Ford calls them “zones”). Tapping any of these zones brings it to a full screen mode which can be navigated out of either by using the Home button or by tapping any of the five large icons across the bottom part of the screen. The icons offer direct access to all of SYNC 3’s systems: Media, Climate, Phone, Apps, and Settings.

SYNC 3 still doesn’t have any physical controller, but the myriad of well-placed buttons just below the screen do offer tactile control to all the essential functions like volume and climate.

What SYNC 3 does have is a much-improved voice command system. Hitting the voice command button on the steering wheel brings up the familiar voice of Samantha. Commanding her to change the radio station, calling home, or bringing down the temperature is made easier thanks to simplified short phrase commands. She’s also more forgiving. For instance, setting the temperature can be done via: “Climate Set Temperature to Twenty Four Degrees” or “Set Temperature to Twenty Four Degrees.” She also seems to understand that “FM Tune to One O-Three Point Five” is the same as “FM Tune to One Hundred Three Point Five.”

4. What inputs does SYNC 3 support?

In the Ford Everest and Ranger, the first two vehicles to get SYNC 3, it gets the usual FM/AM/CD/MP3 system. It also gets Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free calling. Just in front of the shifter, there are also two USB ports to plug in a memory stick or any popular music vehicle such as an iPod. Though the USB port can read a memory stick reader with an attached SD card, the SD card slot found in SYNC 2 is now gone.

5. What’s the verdict on SYNC 3?

Simply put, SYNC 3 works beautifully. The graphics and layout don’t exactly stand out in terms of graphical style, but the improved capacitive screen and faster processor means no delay between input and response. Before, there’s always a maddening delay whenever the touchscreen is pressed. In SYNC 3, it’s near instantaneous. It also recognizes a lot of commonly used smartphone gestures like swiping make it much more intuitive to use.

6. Does it Support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

Yes and no. No automaker can afford to ignore Apple and Google at this point. Interestingly, only Apple CarPlay is readily accessible. Android Auto is ‘locked out’ until Google launches it officially in the Philippines.

That said, Ford is pushing for SmartDeviceLink, a universal standard that even Toyota has signed up for. This is different from CarPlay because it offers carmakers the chance to customize the user interface to make it fit closer with branding.

Through SmartDeviceLink (or AppLink if you prefer the Ford term), SYNC 3 is able to connect to compatible apps directly whenever a smartphone is plugged into the USB port. From there, it gives users the ability to control the apps directly through SYNC 3. Currently, there are 70 apps which are compatible with most of them music streaming apps or location sharing tools.

7. Does SYNC 3 have GPS Navigation?

Yes, finally. Ford Philippines has begun rolling out an integrated map for certain Ranger, Everest, Explorer, and Expedition models. The navigation system will roll out to other products in the near future. And before you ask, owners with SYNC 3 installed but without GPS navigation cannot have it retrofitted because of concerns to both software and hardware.

8. Can I update my older version of SYNC to SYNC 3?

Sadly, no. SYNC 3 uses its own unique set of hardware and software which doesn’t make it compatible with vehicles running on older versions of SYNC. Some Ford owners have done this, but it’s risky and costly. It retails swapping out the entire screen and the attached APIM or Accessory Protocol Interface Module.

Owners lucky enough to have SYNC 3 installed will be happy to know that updates can be performed OTA or Over The Air. Using a WiFi connection (either via a smartphone or any hotspot), an update can be done by simply checking for Updates in the Settings menu. Likewise, it can also be set to check for updates automatically just like a laptop or mobile phone.


  1. I saw some 3rd party accessory shop offer sync 3 head units outsourced from thailand

    1. Yup, I mentioned that. You can swap it, but it's going to be costly and risky (your warranty is void). But yes, it is possible. You'll lose access to things like the SD card though since SYNC 3 doesn't recognize that anymore.

    2. welp, I use bluetooth to stream my music in my car though. havent even touched the SD card/USB or audio jack. all I want to know is that when will they update it to support android auto, cause im not really an iphone guy.

  2. Dear Mr. Author,

    I hope your next article would be: "Things You Should Know About Ford After-sales Service"

    Thank you in advance.


    1. If they would give me a long-term test unit, I would be a willing guinea pig.

    2. Is Ford's after-sales service really that bad? I read about it a lot lately.

    3. ^Yes... from long queues for PMS... to untrained/unprofessional personnel... to lack of replacement parts... their country managers through the years never looked into this as they only care about the sales figures... if you really want to prove this go ahead and buy a brand new ford!

      I know some sales person monitors this site and will comment later on that they never experienced it to encourage more people to bite into their trap... well all i can say good luck then!

    4. "If they would give me a long-term test unit, I would be a willing guinea pig."

      This is wishful thinking!... but in case they do, they will surely treat you like a VIP hence you give bad PR afterwards!

    5. I see. This just further confirms the so many comments and forums I read discussing the after-sales service of Ford as one of the worst. I guess they really just care about their sales figures.

    6. Lol. say what you want with Ford. I reckoned you owned a T-badge-see what they do in T-Commonwealth branch.

      As for my Experience with Ford, so far so good. They did not used my car for Driving Lesson.. lol..

    7. ^ then lucky you. We are just talking about the GENERAL experience of Ford owners. No need to get butthurt.

    8. he is the ford salesman the guy above was talking about. no wonder he never encounter any service problems.

    9. All automotive brands have issues. What separates Ford Philippines from their competitors is their public transparency.

    10. ^ or your know, they really just suck at their sales services. People talk, so transparency per dealership is not an issue here.

    11. should be - "or you know"

  3. Is there any shop who knows how to unlock navigation in Sync 2?


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