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Ford Sync 4 lets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto users cut the cord

After a rocky start with its early infotainment systems, Ford hit the sweet spot with Sync 3. The system went on to be used across the Blue Oval’s lineup, from the Mustang to the Lincoln Aviator. But even good tech can’t last forever. Ford claims its new Sync 4 infotainment system has twice the computing power of Sync 3, as well as many more features.

The overhaul starts with new graphics, which are keyed to the different touchscreens used in various Ford vehicles. That addresses an issue with Sync 3, as the old system’s graphics were a bit plain, and the interface looked the same whether you were in an entry-level Ford or a $100,000 Lincoln Navigator. A split-screen setup will now be used on 12-inch touchscreens, while Ford’s largest screen — measuring 15.5 inches — will get “adaptive dash cards” that serve as shortcuts to frequently used functions. That will allow drivers to, for example, pause or skip songs without having to open the menu for their music player, according to Ford.

As with Sync 3, Sync 4 will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as Waze and Amazon Alexa integration. However, Sync 4 will let drivers access these features wirelessly, using either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Wireless phone charging will be available as well. Sync 4 also includes SiriusXM with 360L, the satellite radio company’s on-demand feature.

A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot carries over from Sync 3, but Sync 4 uses it to do more than just provide connectivity to devices. The navigation system now relies on internet connectivity for map updates, while the voice recognition system uses cloud-based processing in order to recognize more natural speech. Sync 4 “will rely heavily on the cloud,” but will still have plenty of onboard processing power for signal dead zones, according to Ford. The system will also be able to learn driver’s preferences over time, Ford claims.

Sync 4 will launch in certain Ford vehicles next year, but Ford wouldn’t specify which vehicles will get the system first. Ford will roll out over-the-air (OTA) software updates next year as well. Pioneered by Tesla, this allows companies to make fixes and add new features while a car is parked in its owner’s driveway.

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