Ford SYNC 3 in pictures: Ford's infotainment system gets a sweeping, phone-like revamp

Ford's pioneering SYNC was more than ready for a change. The new SYNC 3 will bring a brighter, fresher interface and a capacitive touchscreen, all due to debut on 2016 model-year cars.

ford sync 3 phone
Image: Ford

If you’re stuck with the old SYNC…sorry

Is anyone going to miss the old Ford SYNC? Probably not. It had a slow touchscreen, a clunky voice interface, and other quirks.

Ford deserves credit for being early to the infotainment game with SYNC. Still, it was high time for a change, and on Thursday the company announced SYNC 3, a completely revamped version that will start appearing on some 2016 models.

Not surprisingly given earlier rumors, the new SYNC is based on the QNX platform, leaving behind the company’s longstanding partnership with Microsoft. Earlier cars, unfortunately, are stuck with what they have.

ford sync 3 home screen
Image: Ford

Brighter, fresher look

Goodbye, dark and brooding old SYNC. Hello, cheerful and bright new SYNC, with nice, big icons and buttons that look slightly three-dimensional.

The buttons are big to help with driver distraction, always an issue with touchscreen interfaces. The icons for main functions, arranged along the bottom, are also designed to be easy to see at a glance.

ford sync 3 settings
Image: Ford

If this reminds you of a smartphone screen...

...that's not a coincidence. But in a car, you're supposed to stare at the road, not the screen. That's why the buttons are huge, and the icons simple. Glance and keep driving.

The design's nothing if the hardware beneath it is subpar, though, and that was a problem with the old SYNC. SYNC 3 will use a capacitive touchscreen. The cheaper resistive touchscreens on the old SYNC were notoriously slow to respond to touches. Users with older Fords are doomed to keep jabbing their finger repeatedly. 

ford sync 3 destination
Image: Ford

Where to, SYNC?

The main navigation screen offers conveniences like programmable buttons for work and home, so you can find your way there from wherever you are. It can save addresses you've used recently in case you need to go there again, and you can set "favorite" destinations to be readily available.

(Where are the "unfavorite" destinations that you want to avoid at all costs?)

Much of this was available in some form on the old SYNC, but it will look much prettier in SYNC 3.

ford sync 3 contacts screen
Image: Ford

SYNC takes your contacts from your phone

As with the old SYNC, you can download your contacts from your phone and have them appear in a list onscreen for easier calling on the road. The list scrolls—this, too, should work faster on a capacitive touchscreen than it did with the old SYNC—and the large initial letter on the right side of the list should help when glancing at the list while driving (please do keep your eyes on the road!).

ford sync 3 music
Image: Ford

Tunes. Gotta have tunes.

Streaming music from your phone to your car is a function even the most basic automobiles can do these days. With Ford SYNC 3, the interface and the visuals have improved, with, yes, bigger, brighter, buttons, and a place for graphics. As with all SYNC screens, the main functions remain a touch away in a ribbon at the bottom of the display.

Speaking of sound, SYNC 3 is also supposed to have much better voice recognition, but that's something we can't show in a photo, unfortunately.

ford sync 3 apps screen
Image: Ford

SYNC has an app for that

Ford's SYNC AppLink should also be faster and more responsive with the new touchscreen and underlying technology. You can see some of the first generation of apps on this screen, such as streaming-music services Pandora, Spotify, and iHeart Radio. Last year's big news was the addition of Domino's to order pizza from the road. Ford is actively seeking other app development deals to build out its store.

We tried the old AppLink. It had its foibles, but Ford once again deserves some credit for being out in front, and we hope the new version will work out the kinks.

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