Staying connected is a way of life now. Recent research from the
Consumer Electronics Association shows there are more than 200 million
mobile phones in the U.S. Ford
Motor Company research also indicates customers want to stay connected
to their digital media players: More than 70 percent of new car buyers
are looking for the ability to use digital media players in their new
Sync, developed in collaboration with Microsoft, is an easier and more affordable way to connect to digital media players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones. Available this very moment in the 2008 Ford Focus, but in a total of 12 vehicles from Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury by the end of this year, Sync will help accelerate this trend towards in-car connectivity. I've spent some time in the Sync Focus, and it was cool. It doesn't matter what device you bring into the car, the Sync system knows how to deal with it; you can wirelessly connect to your Bluetooth phone, or cable-connect your MP3 player. And then operate those devices completely with voice commands.
Convenient. Handily hands-free. Easy to use. It's a no-brainer. Sync, how do I love thee, let me count the ways:
- Sync brings in-car connectivity to the masses - Sync is making in-car connectivity more available and more affordable than ever before. Sync will be standard on Lincoln products and widely available on Ford and Mercury vehicles. Option price: $395. Sync will be available in 12 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products beginning this fall, and in nearly all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products within two years.
- Sync lets you keep on talking without interruption - Sync is designed for voice-activated, hands-free connectivity. There's no need to hang up in the middle of a cell phone call as you enter your vehicle. Simply start the vehicle and touch the Telephone Button on the steering wheel and Sync will instantly connect to a paired Bluetooth mobile phone.
- You talk, Sync listens and obeys - Sync allows you to talk to your Apple iPod, Microsoft Zune or other digital media players. Users are able to browse the music collection on a media player or USB drive by genre, album, artist and song title using simple voice commands, such as "Play Genre Rock," or "Play Track ." Sync also will support Bluetooth audio for streaming Internet radio stations from Web-connected smart phones and PDAs. In addition, it can access songs from PDAs and phones that are equipped to hold music.
- Sync has no monthly fees - Sync, as part of the vehicle purchase, has no monthly service charges or added fees for phone calls. Sync uses the devices a person already owns - media players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, for example - so there are no additional costs.
- Sync can help drivers manage text messages - When paired to a capable phone, Sync notifies the driver of incoming text messages and is able to read them aloud using text-to-speech capability. The system is even smart enough to translate such commonly used text-messaging expressions as "LOL" and "TTYL." Replies can be selected from a list of predefined responses. (or you could even combine this with jott voice recognition software to send brief replies)
- Sync is compatible with up to 12 unique phones - Once paired using a special, six-digit passkey or "PIN", Sync will remember a phone and can quickly connect. Up to 12 phones can be paired with a Sync-equipped vehicle (with one connected at any given time).
- Sync can be personalized, just like your mobile phone - When paired to a supported phone, Sync will play personal ring tones. If you've configured unique ring tones to identify specific callers, Sync will automatically play those, as well.
- Sync is multilingual - Sync speaks three languages - more than most of us. It's fluent in English, Canadian French, and North American Spanish.
- Sync is a factory-installed option - From the start, Sync has been developed as an integrated part of the vehicle design. In fact, the only thing a customer sees is a USB port and a "Sync Powered by Microsoft" badge.
- Sync is a software solution, not a hardware solution - Sync is an on-board computer, with 256 megabyte flash memory and a 400 Mhz microprocessor, loaded with software that seamlessly integrates the vehicle with today's popular portable electronic devices. Since it is a software-based system, it is updatable and should be able to support the devices and services of tomorrow. Unlike some systems, Sync won't become obsolete in a few years.
I recommend you stop by a Ford dealership for a demo. Trust me on this, the Sync system you are seeing on just a few cars right now is going to become as pervasive across vehicles as radios and CD players. Ford might have the exclusive deal with Microsoft for now, but at some point this technology will jump out to other makes as well, and soon you won't know how you lived without it.
By Brandy Schaffels
AskPatty Editor and Sync technology fan.