Ford’s new SYNC 4 infotainment system will launch with its next generation of vehicles, starting with the Mustang Mach-E in 2020.
The next iteration will include a number of improvements in terms of both hardware and software. So, what are the differences between SYNC 3 and SYNC 4?
What Is Ford SYNC 3?
SYNC 3 currently serves as Ford’s premium infotainment option. In an era where some multimedia systems are unintuitive and frustrating, Ford’s system generally gets high marks for being smooth and easy-to-use. It provides all of the vital functions people want in their vehicles. Menus are simple and most of the features that are in demand are available.
What’s the Difference Between SYNC and SYNC 3?
Many vehicles in Ford’s line-up come with the base system, which is simply called SYNC or base SYNC. This lower-level system is easily recognizable by its small, non-touch 4.2-inch LCD screen. It has voice control, Bluetooth, and SiriusXM capability. However, it has few of the features that are in high demand today. Navigation and smartphone apps (like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay) are not present. Because of these exclusions, many buyers opt to pay extra for SYNC 3.
What Does SYNC 3 Include?
SYNC 3 adds many of the features people have come to expect in newer vehicles. The larger screen size (6.5 or 8 inches) and touchscreen capability of SYNC 3 allow for additional programs. Perhaps the most notable is navigation, which lets users pinch to zoom.
The enhanced voice recognition lets drivers control their audio, phone, climate control, and navigation just by talking to the system. SYNC AppLink lets occupants control popular phone apps through the interface. These include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa.
SYNC 3 Features
- Enhanced Voice Recognition
- Premium Audio
- Apple CarPlay & Android Auto
- Amazon Alexa
- FordPass Connect Wi-Fi Hotspot
What Is Ford SYNC 4?
SYNC 4 is Ford’s newest infotainment iteration. It launches in 2020 with the release of the Mustang Mach-E. After that, it’s expected to roll out to some of the next redesigned Ford models. It boasts twice the computing power of SYNC 3.
SYNC 4 is designed for big screens as well, from 8 inches to a massive 15.5 inches. The 8-inch screen is horizontal, similar to what is found on current models. The 12-inch and 15.5-inch screens are vertically arranged.
The 15.5-inch screen will use “Adaptive Dash Cards” to display whichever features the user wants at a given time. Ford says the system will use AI to learn the user’s favorites and display them on the home screen.
The machine learning of the system can also learn about your habits, such as who you call most frequently and what locations or events you go to the most. According to Ford’s head of product development, Hau Thai-Tang, SYNC 4 will be "an intelligent, voice-activated, in-vehicle digital assistant."
Can SYNC 3 Be Upgraded to SYNC 4?
Unfortunately, the SYNC 3 system cannot be upgraded to SYNC 4. This is because the hardware is different and the software isn’t backward-compatible. Those with SYNC 3 will have to upgrade to a newer model if they want to take advantage of the new features.
What Is the Difference Between SYNC 3 and SYNC 4?
SYNC 4 has many features that are added or improved compared to SYNC 3. The interface will look better and run more smoothly, due to enhanced graphics and faster processing. The new “skin” of the system means that the visuals will look sleek and modern, plus they should be easily customizable. Apps like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as Amazon Alexa, will be available without having to plug in a mobile device.
From what we’ve seen with the Mustang Mach-E, SYNC 4 can rely more heavily on touch interface. There’s only one scroll wheel, which can be used for different purposes. Climate control, audio, and other core functions will be operated by selecting buttons on the touch screen. A digital owner’s manual will be added to the system as well.
SYNC 3 vs SYNC 4 Features
|SYNC 3 Feature||SYNC 4 Feature
|Enhanced Voice Control
||Natural Voice Control
||Cloud-Based Navigation with Real-Time Traffic and Weather
|6.5-Inch or 8-Inch Touchscreen
||8-Inch, 12-Inch, or 15.5-Inch Touchscreen
|Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
||Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
|Wi-Fi or USB Updates
Beyond these new features, one of the most talked-about aspects of SYNC 4 is its over-the-air updates. While SYNC 3 offers some wireless update capability, the new system will feature releases that are seamless, fast, and generally not even noticed by the owner.
Like Tesla, these OTA updates will allow new features to be added to the vehicle after it’s left the dealer lot. It will also allow Ford to fix any bugs that are found in the software after release. This is similar to how most smartphone operating systems work.
The comparisons to Tesla can grow tiresome, but they’re the only automaker with a robust, established OTA system. This will put Ford at the forefront of adoption. GM already sends out OTA map updates for its Super Cruise software, but that doesn’t affect the rest of the infotainment. Ford would be the second manufacturer (behind Tesla) to release OTA updates for the entire system.
Which Ford Models Will Get SYNC 4?
So far, the only confirmed model to receive SYNC 4 is the Mustang Mach-E. Any other guesses as to which cars will get it are just speculation at this point. It’s likely that most models receiving major redesigns will get the new system. That means probably the F-150, and maybe even the Mustang. If Ford brings back the Excursion, it could also use SYNC 4.
Because of the design cycle, it’s unlikely we’ll see SYNC 4 in any models apart from the Mach-E until 2022 or later. The same can be said for Ford’s luxury marque, Lincoln.
Despite having an optional large screen and a fresh redesign, the Explorer won’t receive SYNC 4 since the hardware and software are not backward-compatible.
How Will SYNC 4 Change the Infotainment Landscape?
SYNC 4 could represent one of the most advanced tech units in non-luxury cars. It also embodies the shift towards cloud-based computing and machine learning in vehicles. For better or worse, people will have the capability to operate more and more technology in their cars.
The big question is whether low-end models will still get a version of base SYNC or if they’ll get upgraded to SYNC 3. Looking at the new Bronco and Bronco Sport gives us a good baseline. The Bronco Sport comes standard with SYNC 3, and no option for SYNC 4. The more expensive Bronco has SYNC 4 standard. With consumer demand for smart infotainment, especially Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there doesn’t seem to be a role for the base SYNC in future models. It seems likely that the Escape, redesigned for 2020, will be the last new model to use the tiny 4.2-inch base SYNC system.