How Microsoft Sync REALLY Works on Ford Vehicles

The Ford commercials that feature Sync

We've all seen the commercials from Ford Motor Company that feature the Microsoft Sync system on some of their vehicles. As an owner of one of those vehicles equipped with the Sync system, I can tell you how it actually works for those of you who do not know.

Sync is basically a user-interfaced computer program built into most Ford vehicles including the Ford Fusion, Focus, Lincoln, or Mercury vehicles. Some of the features of Sync include voice operation of your cell phone, Ipod (or other mp3 player), driving directions, business search, sports and news, horoscopes and stock quotes.

Set up your Sync account

The first and most important thing you need to do to utilize all the Sync services is set up your Sync account on your computer. Go to www.syncmyride.com and create your account. You will be asked to name your vehicle and to select the dashboard layout of your vehicle. From your Sync account screen, you can then view your vehicle health report which you have generated from the vehicle itself. Other features you can customize from your Sync account screen include your favorites (specific stock quotes, sports teams, news headlines, horoscopes, etc. You can also set up saved points in your driving and directions list. A few of my saved points include my home address and some of my friends and family addresses. Although I do typically know how to get to my home address and those friends and family members addresses, I may be in an unfamiliar place and need to be directed back to those locations.

You will also need to specify the actice cell phone number for use with your account. Only one active phone number per account is allowed per subscription fee. You can have more than one active phone number linked to your account but you have to pay an additional subscription fee for each additional active phone number. If your phone number changes, you can add your new phone number, deactivate the old number, then activate the new number and you will not be charged the additional subscription fee.

Most Ford vehicles come with a complimentary three year subscription to the Sync services which you will have to renew every year. You won't be charged the subscription fee before your complimentary subscription has expired. However, you must renew your services account each year so that Ford may know if you will continue to use the service and that your information is current in their database.

The annual subscription fee for the Sync services is $60 per account or active phone number on the account.  My husband and I both have 2010 Ford Fusions equipped with the Microsoft Sync.  Once our three year complimentary subscriptions expire, we will owe $60 per vehicle, that's $120 a year.  We each have separate Sync accounts which is required.  Only one account per vehicle is allowed.  Your vehicle VIN number is required as part of setting up your account. 

Your Sync account login information is usually your email address and a password you have selected.

 

Pairing your phone

Sync only works with phones that are bluetooth enabled. There is a list of all compatible phones on their website. I use a T-Mobile Dash 3G smartphone which works with my Sync system. Make sure your bluetooth visibility is turned on and that it never times out. You'll need to add your phone through the vehicle's dash screen. The vehicle has a preset code for its bluetooth capability which you will need to type into your phone.

The Controls

Right side of steering wheel
Right side of steering wheel
Dash screen
Dash screen
Dash control panel
Dash control panel

Phone features

Once your phone is paired correctly to the vehicle and you have your Sync account activated, you can use all the Sync and services. One of the phone services that is not compatible with my particular phone is the text messaging. The Sync system will read your text messages aloud to you if it is compatible with your phone. Refer to the website for a list of compatible text messaging phones. I know that most of the Motorola Razr phones are compatible with the text messaging feature.

To make a phone call while the vehicle is not in motion, either press the phone button on the dash or on the steering wheel and browse your phonebook or call history using the vehicle's dash screen. Select the person you wish to call and press the "play" button on the dash. The screen will show the person's name and phone number category (home, mobile, work, etc.). Press the "play" button again to verify that is the person you indeed wish to call. The dash screen will show "dialing so-and-so". When the call is connected, you may talk to the individual using a small microphone imbedded above the driver's head. You will hear your party through the vehicle's speakers.

The dash browsing for phone operations is inactive whenever the vehicle is in motion. This is a safety feature. To make a phone call when the vehicle is in motion, press the "voice" button located on the steering wheel. The computer will say the current Sync setting along with "please say a command". In my case, the computer always says, "USB, please say a command." because I always have my iPod connected through the vehicle's USB port. After the computer asks for a command, you will say "phone". Speak loudly and clearly enough for the computer to understand you. The computer will then say, "phone. please say a command". You will then say, "call so-and-so". If you have more than one phone number listed for the individual or if you have more than one individual with a similar sounding name, (i.e. Sammy, Tammy, Amy), the computer will give you a list of your phone book entries and ask to to select one using a number. "Say one for Sammy, two for Tammy, etc." Once you tell the computer which phone number to dial, it will dial the number. You can also dial numbers not in your phone book by saying "dial" and the phone number you wish to dial.

When you receive a call, your mp3 player, cd or radio will suddenly stop playing and you will hear a the vehicle's ringtone you have selected rather than your normal ringtone.  There are a couple of default ringtones programmed into the vehicle's computer. There is an option to use one of the ringtones on your phone but I haven't figured out how to get that to work properly so I don't use it.

If you have music files on your phone, those can be played using the Sync system.  Your selection would be "bluetooth audio".  I have used this feature before and using the voice commands to do so are virtually useless.  The dash screen doesn't help either.  I have found the only way I can play music from my phone is to select bluetooth audio from the dash screen which will open your windows media player on your phone and then manually starting the playlist from the phone itself. 

Sync Services

You can access the Sync services by pressing the "voice" button and saying "services". The computer will ask you which service you want after it dials the Sync service number. If the computer doesn't understand what you want, it will ask you to say "tell me my choices". The computer will then go through its list of commands it recognizes. When the computer gets to the command you want, you can stop the list playback by pressing the "voice" button and giving it your command. Your Sync service is then refined down to specifics such as team name if you've chosen sports. In my video demonstration, I've selected "favorites" for time sake.

Driving directions are more detail oriented because the computer will ask for the city and state you are going to or one of your saved points. Then it will ask you for either a business or a specific address if you have one. The computer will then get your location through their GPS system and download the turn by turn directions to your vehicle's computer. Once the download is complete the computer will tell you download is complete and that you may use your phone.

Business search also is asked some of the same questions the driving directions service asks. You can either give specific information such as the city and state, name of the business or you can tell the computer to "search near me". Once the computer finds the business you are looking for, it will give you the name of the business, address and phone number of the business it found. It will then ask you if you wish to call the business or get driving directions from your current location to the business.

Using the Sync services does go against your minutes so if you don't have an unlimited voice calling plan, please use Sync carefully.

Sync also offers a 911 assist which you can turn off if you so desire. The 911 assist automatically dials 911 if the computer detects airbag deployment.

In my opinion, the $60 annual subscription fee is worth it considering everything the Sync services does.

Using your mp3 player

You can use the Sync system to voice or dash operate your mp3 player if you have the mp3 player plugged into the vehicle's USB port. I use an iPod Touch in my car but I'm sure nearly all of Apple's iPod products will work. There is a list of compatible mp3 players on the Sync website.

Operation of the mp3 player is very much like using your phone. You can either use the dash to browse your mp3 files or use the voice commands. You can, however, use the dash to browse your mp3 files while the vehicle is in motion. I try to avoid this because of the obvious driving distraction hazard. Voice commands for the mp3 player include "play artist", "play album", "play playlist", "next track", and "previous track". When you connect your mp3 player to your vehicle the computer may tell you it cannot index all the files on your device. Do not despair if you get this message. The computer won't download your pictures or videos to the vehicle, only audio files. When your mp3 player is playing through the Sync system, the artist's name and current song title will be displayed on the dash screen.

© 2010 Tammy L

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Comments 7 comments

bcatgray profile image

bcatgray 6 years ago from United States of America

I hate to admit, but I'm a sucker for buttons in a car. LOL I don't watch much television so I had no idea that Ford models did this. It seems pretty cool. But what if you have multiple drivers? Does it sync to everyone's at the same time? This is interesting. I'm glad Ford is gaining its respect in the car industry again.


Tammy L profile image

Tammy L 6 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas Author

Yes, the sync can take as many phones as you have but you have to pay $60 per phone synced. So in my car, we use my phone and in my husband's car, we use his phone.


Terry 4 years ago

You can use as many phones as you want with Sync. Only one phone at a time can be associated with Sync Services. Sync Services is the only part of Sync that requires a subscription fee.


mike 3 years ago

when using the iphone gps, how do I get the audio to sound through the cars sound system? I have no trouble with the music, but can't figure out the gps.


Tammy L profile image

Tammy L 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas Author

Mike:

I'm not sure you can use the iphone's gps with the sync. Sync has its own gps as part of the Sync Services. First, press the voice button. When it prompts you for a command, say "Services." It will, then, use your phone to dial the Sync Services phone number. Once it is connected, it will as you what service you want. "Directions" or "Business Search" will take you to the gps service. Just answer the questions and the automated computer will search for what you want. If the automated computer can't find what you want, you can say "Operator" and it will connect you to a live person.

I hope this helps.

Tammy


Bob 3 years ago

I can not find the link on the sync website that show compatible MP3 players, can anyone help with this?


Tammy L profile image

Tammy L 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas Author

Bob:

The sync website has changed to a less user-friendly format. I liked the old format better. I could find the list of compatible phones and mp3 players so much easier. With this new website design, I was able to find the link to check compatibility of a phone but not one for mp3 players. I know that an iPod touch will work with it because I have an iPod touch and it works with sync. The only thing I can tell you to do is plug it into the USB port on the vehicle and see if it works.

I'm sorry I couldn't be more help.

Tammy

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