SYNCing BlackBerry with the new 2011 Ford Fiesta is seamless

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Over the past few days, we’ve been having quite some fun testing out the 2011 Ford Fiesta and seeing what its technology capabilities are.  So you’re asking why a BlackBerry oriented website is reviewing an automobile?  Well, we see a lot of cars these days communicating well with mobile phones, so Ford gave us this car to review.  At the moment Ford is very famous for its Microsoft SYNC system, which allows the vehicle’s head unit to communicate very well with media filled flash drives, MP3 players, and of course mobile phones.  Here of course we are completely focused on the BlackBerry.  Given that the BlackBerry Torch 9800 is the latest of the greatest from RIM, we decided to use it for this review as BlackBerry 6 is the next operating system and it would just seem “obsolete” to do it with OS 5.0.  Our adventures with the car were really fun, and it made us realize how much you can still enjoy your BlackBerry smartphone without physically holding it in your hand.  Continue reading for our full review.

Making the connection:

Syncing via Bluetooth was easy.  There’s not much other to say than this.  I turned on the Bluetooth on my BlackBerry, put the SYNC system in pairing mode, inserted the randomized code displayed on the sync screen into my BlackBerry, and I was connected.  In our video that we will be sharing with you folks, you’ll be able to have a closer look on how easy it is to sync your BlackBerry up with SYNC.  Overall, it works a charm connecting.  After pairing it for the first time, SYNC syncs with your BlackBerry as soon as you enter the vehicle (assuming your BlackBerry Bluetooth is enabled of course).

Display:

The display seems quite basic to the human eye since it’s not all digital and rich with color.  It may not look all that fancy, but it displays a lot of useful stuff – not talking about the time, date, or radio station.  On the upper right hand corner you’ll see battery life along with your cellular reception.  Both meters are really accurate.  In fact, I see the battery level actually move up as its charging so you know it is live stats.  That goes for your cellular reception as well.  I have driven through dead zones where bars dropped and instead of looking down at my BlackBerry I was able to look right up on the screen in front of me to see.  On the lower right corner you’ll see the Bluetooth light indicator which only shines blue when SYNC is actively connected with your BlackBerry.

Media:

Everyone listens to music in the car.  Most do.  If not, you’d like some sort of audio playing while roaming on the roads.  The iPod gained its in-car popularity due to its syncing convenience with most head units whether it be via auxiliary wire or USB.  So this was quite exciting to see my BlackBerry synced to the Ford Fiesta.  Not only was it connected to the SYNC system, it was wireless.

To play music, you have to make sure the car is in Bluetooth Audio mode.  To do this, simply push the voice command button and say “Bluetooth audio” and it’s active.  Next, I navigated on my BlackBerry to the music folder and just hit a desired music track.  That’s the end of having to use your BlackBerry during music playing (unless you have a specific song you need at the moment).  Located on the left side of the steering wheel is previous and next track buttons.  This makes it easy shuffling around through music, keeping your eyes on the road, and your music satisfaction high.

Also, SYNC takes over your volume while streaming music. Controlling how high or low the music is while playing is controlled by the head unit in the car and disabled completely from your BlackBerry.  Some of you may frown upon it but you’ll realize it is super convenient not having to pick up your BlackBerry to operate sound.

Phonebook:

We told you before about the new MyFord Touch system that syncs all your contacts and avatars directly in the head unit in about 60 seconds or so (that was the average for 400 some contacts).  In the Ford Fiesta, there are no avatars of course but all your contacts do sync and save in.  It allows you to browse them in groups (letters A-G, H-P, etc).  It’s really savvy when needing to make a phone call.  Syncing all your contacts into the SYNC phonebook is quite easy.  After pairing via Bluetooth, head over to Bluetooth Devices in your options then hit menu and select the “transfer contacts” option.

Making a phone call:

There’s several ways to go about making a phone call while operating the vehicle on the road.  You can select a contact manually using your BlackBerry and hitting the dial button and it will still go through the hands free Bluetooth system in SYNC.  But the whole idea here is to avoid taking your eyes off the road as much as possible.  The next option you is to use the numeric pad on the head unit to type in a phone number, but that can only go as far as you remembering the exact number.

Still not good enough? The address book option is easy to access on the SYNC menu where all your contacts are synced via Bluetooth as mentioned before and can easily be dialed that way.  This is optional of course and is according to if your device supports the Address book syncing.  In our case it did, so BlackBerry smartphones are supported.

Now this is where SYNC plays its role.  You can voice dial anyone from your address book by saying their name.  This can be achieved by pushing the voice command button located to the left of the steering wheel and saying “Call John Doe,” John Doe being whichever name you choose.  It seems to pick up a lot of accents and is very accurate, but the newer MyFord Touch system we tested out during our visit at the Ford plant picks up voices a lot better.

Voice Commands:

In general any technology that eliminates you having to use your hands physically can always be a success if done right.  In this case here, the voice button located on a handle left of the steering wheel as seen above is easy to access.  When pressed, you’ll be able to say things as mentioned before such as “Bluetooth audio,” “call,” etc.  Having the button standing out on the left side is a great location and far better than having it in the middle console where you would end up taking your eyes off the road in search of the button, even if it is for a few seconds.  As mentioned before as well, the voice command system picks up many voices through different tones and accents which is a big plus over a lot of other voice activated vehicles.

What I’d like to see:

One of the things I was a disappointed with was the Messages option.  Messages allows you to view text messages right on the screen, but BlackBerry is not supported in this version of SYNC.  As for the newer version, I’m not sure if Messages is supported but we’ll find out soon enough as we get a chance to review that as well.  Secondly, as a full time BlackBerry user, we’d love to see not only text messages up in display on the screen, but BlackBerry Messenger and emails as well.  I know that is much to ask and it seems like a far fetched idea to ask of Ford to implement in their future versions of SYNC, but it’s a hell of a good idea and would definitely attract business people or BlackBerry owners in general.

Next is the USB port built in to the car.  It would be awesome if I could plug my BlackBerry into there and play all my music that way as another optional way other than the Bluetooth Audio.  Instead it will only charge your BlackBerry and does not read any media files off the memory card.  It’s worked with flash drives, but can’t get it to read through a smartphone.

We have a nice video to release soon showing how Ford’s Microsoft SYNC works but we figured we’d give you these guidelines and hands on experiences first.  If you’re interested in the 2011 Ford Fiesta, head over to egmCarTech for the full review.  Below are some photos of the vehicle.

Check out the 2011 Ford Fiesta review from our friends over at egmCarTech.com

-by Mac Jadalhack

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  • Do you still have the car? And if so, when you plug it in via USB, do you have the option of enabling mass storage mode? I would assume that if so, it will read the contents just like it would read a flash drive. Maybe like that, you'd be able to play the audio?

  • pocketberry

    Doesn't work. I wish!