When I was doing research on the Grand Cherokee, one of the things I was very interested about was a comparison of Ford’s Sync with MyFord Touch versus UConnect. Well, I have my own JGC – Diesel now and thought I would post some impressions about the two systems.
A couple of notes – this is comparing Sync with MyFord Touch 3.6.2 and UConnect 13.48.3.
History - I bought a 2011 Ford Edge Limited and was on one of the very first versions of Sync with MyFord Touch with Navigation (from here on out called Sync). It was half baked software at best (I work in Software) and one of the reason why I wanted to get rid of my Ford (besides the Tranny problems). I bought my JGC Diesel in January and haven’t looked back. Love this car.
By far the biggest difference between UConnect and Sync is the speed. UConnect quickly changes menus and updates between screens. Voice Recognition is fast and fairly accurate. Browsing music is a snap (both USB and SD card) and there was virtually no lag in pulling up artists or albums. My music is about 1800 songs for reference. In Nav, the map appears quickly and is redrawn fairly quickly while driving. Finding POIs is also quick and the keyboard responds virtually instantly.
With Sync, if you were to browse music, you could be waiting up to 1-3 minutes before seeing a list of albums or artists. This was done both with a USB drive and an old iPod connect via USB. Getting to Nav was an exercise in patience as Sync took its time to get to the screen, draw the map and the locate you with the GPS. The keyboard was a joke. I would wait 5-10 seconds between key presses to see the letter show.
My subjective opinion is that Sync is a better looking system. The graphics are cleaner and more crisp. I also like the main “Dashboard” where I can see Nav, Media, Phone, and Climate and some of the basic settings for each all on one screen. UConnect isn’t bad and I like the “Nav” bar at the bottom listing all of the options so I can quickly switch to them as well as seeing icons representing what the system is doing (Phone signal, heated seats, song title, etc.) but I think Sync wins in this category. Ultimately, I would like to see a combination of the two with configurable “widgets” so I can place information where I want it.
One feature I liked on Sync was the small screen next to the speedometer. This allowed me to perform a lot of the functions from the main screen. What I liked most about it was that I could have music on the main screen and the navigation commands on the small screen, or vice versa. I could start a phone conversation from the small screen while leaving the map on the main screen. It offered a lot of flexibility.
Overall and Pairing
Sync has had major problems in the past pairing phones. Ford even released a list of compatible phones and the most recent one was 2009, when the car was released in 2011. Ford as sunk a lot of their development efforts into being more compatible as well as easier to pair. I have an HTC One (I also used an iPhone and HTC One X on Sync) and never had a problem. Sometimes the pairing would “break” but I could always get to repair. Others weren’t as fortunate. Navigating the address book was as slow as the reset of the system. Easiest way was to use VR. If you had to scroll the list on the dashboard, you could probably drive and talk to them in person while waiting for the screen to scroll down.
UConnect is very easy to pair and manage. After 1k miles, no problems. Address book is easy to navigate and quick to respond.
Making and Hanging Up Calls
Answering or hanging up a call was always an adventure as you were never quite sure Sync had started or ended the call. I had multiple instances where I thought I had ended the call only to see Sync still connect to the call. Pushing the Voice Recognition (VR) button was also slow to respond and sometimes wouldn’t even come up to dial a person’s name. Sync did a decent job of recognizing tough names and one feature I’d like to see UConnect is the ability to spell the name using VR. But overall UConnect wins hands down. I also like having dedicated buttons on the steering wheel for the phone versus VR on UConnect. On Sync, these were multi-fuction buttons and didn’t always work. Forget about trying to do something through the screen as the lag killed you.
One thing I would like to see is the physical Mute button work for phone calls.
I could never get texting to work on Sync. I couldn’t receive or send them. I tried everything and it never worked. My experience is pretty much par for the course. I know that some iPhone5 users could receive texts but not send.
UConnect is a dream. I receive and send texts at will. In fact, I may have to upgrade my texting plan to accommodate all of the new texts I send like “I’m fifteen minutes late.” Everybody who I sends texts to laughs when they see it was “Sent by my Jeep”. Friggin’ fantastic!
Did a test with my Dad who doesn’t hear too well. He says that he is getting more feedback with UConnect than with Sync. But with Sync, it sounded like a wind tunnel when I was driving. He liked UConnect better, even with the feedback problems, though he said he could still tell I was driving in the car.
The biggest difference with Climate between Sync and UConnect really isn’t the software. It’s the hardware buttons on the JGC that allow you to easily change the temperature, for both driver and passenger, without being in UConnect. Amazing how much you miss this once you don’t have it. Also, the hardware buttons on Sync aren’t actual buttons by “touch sensitive” buttons meaning you don’t see the outline of the button. Makes it hard when you are driving to just feel the button and make the changes.
If you haven’t gotten the message yet it, Sync is slow. On a cold day, I would wait for Sync to start up (~ 30 to 60 seconds), and they try to switch to the Climate screen. Good luck on getting the defroster going while butt freezes to the leather.
I would like to see UConnect have settings for the passenger heated/vented seats as I do for the driver’s side. It’s interesting that UConnect decided to separate the seat and heated steering wheel controls from the Climate. Not sure why they did this.
Remote Start actually worked better on the Ford though it’s only on the latest release this is true. With Sync, both seat heaters are activated if it is below a certain temperature and the rear and front defrosters are automatically on full blast. Same for during the summer, it would blast the Max AC with recirculation on. With UConnect, only the driver’s side is on and only the front defroster. This makes no sense and have seen complaints about it on the forum.
Aside from the speed problems of Sync, and this is where you really saw the speed issues, the media works about the same.
- 1. In UConnect, if I set a SD or USB to “Shuffle”, it doesn’t stay on after I turn the car off. Also, I can’t set the SD or USB card to “Shuffle” and “Repeat”. In Sync, this worked as I expected it.
- 2. In the Ford, the SD card is used by Navigation for the maps. Therefore if you had Navigation, you couldn’t use the SD card. You were forced to use the USB port. Now Ford did have two USB ports which was nice but I like the small profile for a 32GB SD card versus having the USB stick in the way. The USB and SD ports are in the center console and I haven’t decided if it is better having them there on in the bottom of the dash. I broke two sticks reaching in to get something out of the center console (they didn’t have the short profile sticks in 16GB when I bought them).
- 3. Scrolling through a song (moving backwards or forwards 10 seconds in a song). This never worked well in Sync. In UConnect, it works flawlessly.
- 4. Song, Artist, Album titles cut off in the Sync display. Haven’t seen this yet in UConnect.
- 5. The physical mute button. I don’t have to turn down the radio anymore, just hit the mute button!
- I personally like the sound of UConnect better than Sync. Obviously this has to do more with the speakers and amp. But it is louder with much more bass and a cleaner high end.
Bluetooth streaming – Both work well. I streamed podcasts using my HTC One and only after hours of use to a get a little bit of breakup. Haven’t tested UConnect much but it does work which is something Sync couldn’t say until recently.
I may change my mind on this (or I’m doing something wrong) but I like Sync’s navigation, for as slow as it is, better than UConnect. I find myself using Yelp a lot for searches as I can’t search by POI name in UConnect. I can do simple searches but not something like “Find Parry’s Pizza” in UConnect. I could do this in Sync (though to get to this part was cumbersome – see VR section). If I do it in Yelp, it comes right up but I wish it worked with the POIs. Also, saving locations from Yelp is difficult. If I don’t save it before I say yes to navigate, the Yelp location shows up as a GPS coordinate instead of the title. I wish they’d fix this. Also, if I save it from Yelp, pre-populate the title of what I’ve selected. Right now I have to type out a title, which doesn’t work while I’m driving.
In Sync, updating of my route took forever (speed issue again). Sometimes I would miss the turn, or make the turn because I knew where I was going, because the system hadn’t caught up to where I was. If I had two quick turns in succession, good luck.
I like that with UConnect, it shows for everything interchange which lanes I should be in. I may get over the novelty of this and want to turn it off, but it’s nice right now.
Sync has a great feature where you can choose to have a voice or a chime tell you when you are coming up on a turn. I loved the chime as it didn’t interrupt phone calls or a conversation with the passenger next to me. With UConnect, if I’m on a call, the voice will blurt out my next turn and the phone caller will hear everything.
I haven’t toured around to see the accuracy of Sync versus UConnect. More to come on that.
VR is much more straight forward with UConnect than it is with Sync. For example, with Sync I have to say, “Nav”, “POI”, “By Name”, “Near By” and then say the name. Each time I have to wait for sync to confirm or prompt me to move to the next command. With UConnect, I can say “Find McDonalds” on whatever screen I’m on. Setting temperature with Sync meant saying “Climate” (even if I’m in the Climate screen), “Set Temperature”, “68 degrees” and then confirming that. UConnect, “Set temperature to 68 degrees”. Done. UConnect is much more streamlined and logical.
Here is the one feature of Sync I miss the most. I can’t spell something if VR doesn’t recognize it. Be it a song, artist, album, POI name, favorite, anything. If Sync realizes it isn’t getting what you are saying, it will ask you to spell it. Very nice.
I have had on occasion where UConnect doesn’t start the VR. The screen says it has but I don’t hear a “chime” and nothing I say is recognized. I have to stop the VR and start it again. It then works. Hopefully a small bug they can fix.
GPS – On Sync, sometimes it would take about 5-10 minutes after I started driving for GPS to sync up. Never had this problem with UConnect. Even better, sometimes on the map my car is driving through houses and on different roads. I think this was identified as a problem with GPS sensor but mine started after I upgraded and then was intermittent at best.
One nice feature though it is severely limited, is the ability find a location on your phone and send it to Sync. Unfortunately, it sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. You use to be able to do this through Google Maps but that is no longer. I’d love to see car makers start adding this feature where I can search for something on my desktop, tablet or phone and send it to the car through bluetooth.
Even though Ford keeps touting Sync AppLink, nobody has actually seen it. They’ve kept promising it on their website, in commercials etc, but nobody has actually used except for developers. There’s a section for it in Sync but nothing is available yet.
Love Yelp but don’t use Pandora at all. I’ll be interested to see how things shake out in the next year and if I want to extend UConnect Access to get Yelp and the ability to remotely lock my car. There is a lot of promise in this area.
One thing I wish would happen is that I could use my cell data plan for UConnect Access. I have a MiFi device that is perfect for this sort of thing. Also, Sprints coverage is not exactly comprehensive.
Sync doesn’t have any apps on a cell phone except Destinations which allows you to send a location to the Nav. UConnects is nice but unreliable. I’ve had problems remote starting my car with it though lock/unlock does work.
Sorry for the long post but I hope this helps somebody as I searched long and hard for it and couldn’t find any comparisons 6 months ago. This wasn’t mean to bash Sync which I think has some great features but the speed, or lack thereof, absolutely kills the system. I just saw, like many of you did, that Ford is now looking to ditch Microsoft and go to Blackberry’s QNX system. Not sure how smart that is. Garmin, while it has its faults, and Apple seem to get the UI development process. My worry with both of those is how closed their systems are.
If you have questions or thoughts, please post and I’ll try to answer. I’d also like to hear about the other car systems out there. I’ve Cadillac has a nice one and the Audi’s are on the QNX system. The one to beat is the Tesla interface. Nothing can be slicker than working off a 17” touchscreen with the clarity and graphics that Tesla has. If I was Chrysler, I would import that into the Jeep. But I’m a geeky guy who likes tech with my torque.