Recognizing that the car is a perfect vehicle for mobile apps, Ford launched a new developer program on Monday and announced nine new smartphone apps for its Ford Sync platform. Amazon Cloud Player, Wall Street Journal Live, Rhapsody, USA Today and Glympse are are among those now available to drivers. The apps run on a smartphone but appear on the Ford Sync display and are controlled by voice and touch.
Ford executives explained why the connected car is increasingly important at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Surveys have shown that 65 percent of recent Ford buyers felt that the Sync platform was an important factor in their purchase decision. Ford also knows that there are one billion smartphones in use today with another billion expected by 2015.
So Ford created its Sync AppLink and APIs for mobile app developers, launching a portal at developer.ford.com. The software tools provide programmers with methods for their apps to access in-car voice control, displays, buttons and audio settings.
Ford provides the tools for free and helps app developers with support issues. It’s a fairly open system as described. The only caveat is that three app activities are not allowed for safety reasons: video functions, excessive text and games. There goes Netflix and Angry Birds!
After the event, I got a quick demo of the Amazon Cloud Player integration, partly for selfish reasons since I’m a paying subscriber to Amazon’s music service. Using the Sync voice button, you can tell the car to start a playlist in the cloud or on your mobile device: Music is piped through the car’s audio system through Bluetooth. Song information appears on the car’s display as well.
Glympse is another app that’s perfectly suited for the automobile. The app shares your location in real time, but doesn’t infringe on your privacy. You control who can see your location and for how long. I actually use the app on my phone to tell my family where I am on my way home so they know exactly when to expect me. Of course, the primary use case is in the car, so it just makes sense to integrate it directly into the Ford Sync system.
As a new Chevy Volt owner, I’m a bit jealous of those driving new Fords, especially since I use Amazon’s Cloud Player. For now, I’ll stick with Pandora, which is integrated in my car. And I expect the pace of app development for connected cars to pick up now that we’re done with a few years of warm-up laps. A car paired with your smartphone and filled with easy-to-use but not distracting apps is where we’re headed.