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Ford Wants its Cars to Talk With Your iPhone

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Autoblog picked up on an interesting story about Ford Motor Company’s (s f) efforts to create middleware that will let future cars interact with mobile devices, including iPhones. Sync, developed in conjunction with Microsoft (s msft), aims to not only give you access to your phone book and playlists, but also wants to allow you to use all those third-party apps you’ve downloaded.

Think about it: hands-free access to iPhone Apps as you drive. Sign us up.

One of the biggest hurdles creating an interface like this is getting developers to start working on apps that mobile device owners would want to use in their vehicles. “So Ford has to reach out to people eager to develop apps for cars, and make the process fun for the developers. Long approval periods and heavy layers of corporate interference will just turn would-be Sync app writers off,” says Autoblog’s Jonny Lieberman.

Sync’s open API allows developers to create apps for virtually any type of phone, but Ford selected iPhones as its research model because of its popularity. Sync developers met with a group of computer science students from the University of Michigan and asked them to build a couple of iPhone Apps so researchers could test their viability as a truly mobile app.

The first, FollowMe, lets users track each other’s locations so no one gets lost traveling caravan-style from place to place. SyncCast, the other app the students came up with, allows users to play any radio station in the U.S through the car stereo via their iPhone. It only took the students three months to develop the apps and, by all accounts, working with the Sync API was a piece of cake. Ironically, it was the iPhone’s Apple-specific toolkit that gave developers the most grief.

There’s no word when this technology will be ready for the open market but when it is, will you want it on it? Would the ability to interact hands free with your iPhone influence your car-buying decisions? Let us know in the comments.

16 Responses to “Ford Wants its Cars to Talk With Your iPhone”

  1. I won’t buy a Ford with a Microsoft product built in. Every 20 miles or so I’d have to restart my car so it’d work correctly. I can imagine that because of Sync all the electronics in the car failing as soon as I drove it off the lot. I’d probably get a Blue Windshield of Death too. A Ford with Sync … no way, no day.

  2. I would LOVE to have the full functionality of my iPhone apps in my MB but if it uses any Microsoft software or has Microsoft involved in ANY way I wouldn’t touch it with a five million mile pole!

    When Apple does it so it’s done RIGHT, I will get it for sure. Until then I would not use the product if Microsoft is involved. I have never seen them do anything innovative nor useful in thirty years. The dufus running Microsoft is a moron and should be fired.

    • I hate Microsoft for the crappy products it makes and the way it obtained it’s monopoly. I, however, love Ford’s new vehicles over similar Chrysler, GM, Toyota, and Hyundai offerings. Sync is only part of the equation. Ford has a lot of other innovative features like gas cap less gas tanks, a key pad for entry in case you lock your keys in the vehicle, hidden cargo containers, and the list goes on. My fiance’s Mercury Mariner that I drive a lot runs great. Her mom’s Lincoln Mercury is a vehicle I could live in because it is so plush inside.

      Sync did play heavily into our purchasing decision. I will give credit where credit is due. When it works, Sync is the greatest tool. If your phone allows it, it will give you turn by turn directions, play your music, and the handsfree calling is the best I’ve used.

      I also have fully loaded 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5. The Jetta is a wonderful car. When I am driving the Jetta I am very comfortable, but I really miss the Sync.

      With that said, her Mercury vehicle has been in the shop twice in the two months she has owned it. The vehicle runs flawlessly and we have no complaints. The problem was with Sync. The Ford dealer had to reset the Sync system twice. I have four other friends and family members driving various other types of Ford vehicles with Sync and haven’t had the same issue. Part of how well Sync works depends on the features of your phone and that may play into problems people may experience including myself [my blue tooth phone is two years old and bare on features].

      Apple would never create a system for Ford. Ford wanted a system that worked well not only with Apple products, but a multitude of third party products as well. Apple doesn’t want to support phones and MP3 players by anybody but itself. Further, all though I think Ford makes very good cars, I also am not sure Apple would want to tie it’s brand to strictly Ford vehicles. That, however, is what Microsoft has done.

  3. I’m looking to get a new Ford; but I wish that Sync was an Apple system. Perhaps their new tablet may morph into the dashboards of the future. I would bet that the Michigan students were Windows programmers who had to learn Objective C to program with Apple’s tools. BTW, Apple’s free programmers toolkit is a great product. It’s to Ford’s benefit to integrate with portable devices starting with the iPhone and iPod Touch.

  4. Bryan Buchs

    I rented a Mustang for a trip up the CA coast this summer. It had Sync, I have an iPhone. Getting the two to play nicely took me more or less the entire trip. Sync is a nice idea, but it needs some serious work.

  5. Just bought a Lincoln MKT – Ford Sync was a big factor in the buying of the vehicle. (Although quality of the interior workmanship, EcoBoost, and the styling were the main factors.) Integrating Sync even more with the iPhone would be a huge selling point to many your car buyers.

    I’m getting more and more impressed with Ford as time goes on.

    • My ipod Touch won’t work in my MKT using Sync. All it wants to do is index, index, re index. On a recent 3 hour trip it never finished. I am very unhappy with Ford/Lincoln over this problem – it simply does not work.

  6. Ford should push Apple to come up with a Communication system of its own to really be state of art. As of now, MS Sync is first generation and too slow to learn voice commands, difficult to learn with missing “quick help directions”, and lacks several needed buttons for GPS, Phone hookup, and Satellite Radio. I don’t want to take a 3 semester hour course to learn this thing. MS would have help manuals to sell me of course.

    Normally Microsoft does what is easiest for the engineers and not the end user.

  7. I gave a hard look at the new Ford Taurus with the announcement of in-car wifi yesterday. This announcement would cause me to jump Ford to the top of the list. I would love to be able to dock my iPhone and have it mirror the touch screen controls in the center console on a 8″+ screen.

    Keep going Ford!