Ten days using Ford Sync AppLink with Pandora

010111sync.jpgFord’s Sync AppLink debuted December 22 and I have had ten days to use it offering some tips.
The system is not perfect, but it’s a well integrated, free, value added addition to something you have already paid for: Your phone, your car and your wireless data plan. Even the installation can be done yourself with USB memory and a download.

Recent studies indicate 46 percent of adult smartphone users have apps on their phones and 36 percent of those admit to using those apps while commuting. Moreover, the 2010 study “Staying Connected on the Go: A Look at In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Systems” conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association reports that 55 percent of smartphone owners prefer voice commands as their user interface for in-car smartphone integration, making the business case for SYNC and AppLink even more compelling – ford.

Ford Sync integrates the app on your phone via your Bluetooth connection allowing full verbal control of the app via Sync’s voice command. Some functions of the app can be controlled physically with buttons on the steering wheel.
The app interface on the phone isn’t functional during an AppLink connection.
My testing is with a Motorola Droid X on the Verizon network with a 2011 Ford Fiesta, so your experience may vary depending on phone, provider and app. Currently this is the only AppLink synced app available for my platform.
Current availability of SYNC-enabled apps:
Pandora
Apple iPhone: Coming early 2011
Android: Available now (V1.5.3 or higher)
BlackBerry: Available now (Version 1.1.6 or higher)
Stitcher
Apple iPhone: Coming early 2011
Android: Coming early 2011
BlackBerry: Late availability
OpenBeak
BlackBerry: Available now from http://m.openbeak.com and soon in Blackberry App World (Version 1.4 or higher)
010111syncdash.jpg
The point of using a Bluetooth app layer with the head unit of your car is to provide a seamless experience as possible, like leaving on your radio or using satellite radio. Without wires and fumbling with your phone.
Handing off to my Sync unit worked best when Bluetooth was already enabled on my Droid X before starting the car.
Not having the phone recognize WiFi connections while mobile stopped a momentary drop out issue.
With Android this is most efficiently achieved by placing a widget front and center on the home screens so that you can toggle between things.
Best sound was achieved by leaving the phone’s media volume on loudest.
After turning on the car and pressing the voice button say: Mobil Apps – Sync will confirm – then say Pandora
Sync will load play list into head unit and buffer. All information running in the app is now displayed on the sync screen. Infact, the app on the phone goes black except for one option to quit the app.
Voice commands:
Play Station (followed by the exact name of the station in the list)
Thumbs down
Thumb down
Skip
Pause
Resume
Bookmark song
Song info
Create station by artist (or song)
Cancel
Quit
Exit

122310sync1.jpgHelp (will read you a list of available commands while you are learning)
When you shut off the car, Pandora will revert to the familiar screen on the phone and pause. At this point the app is running in the background but not using data or playing music.
Although this is a little more effort that using Sirius or the radio, Pandora offers a free music morphing alternative for people who like to stream music and don’t like static play lists all for free. I find the play rotations of Sirius stations too redundant and local radio stations never has music I want to hear.
I would love to see the auto updating/streaming podcast app Google Listen added to AppLink.
Ford Sync website – syncmyride.com
Ford will feature demos of AppLink at the Pepcom Digital Experience media event in Las Vegas on Jan. 5, 2011, and then at the 2011 International CES consumer technology trade show in Las Vegas between Jan. 6 and Jan. 9, 2011.

About Paul Kuehnel


Paul Kuehnel
has worked for the York Daily Record/Sunday News since 1984.

Follow him on Twitter @paulkuehnel.

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