Hands-On With the Updated MyFord Touch System
Touch-screen graphics and other features have been improved, but the system still has problems.
MyFord Touch has become a lightning rod for those concerned with distracted driving and an easy target for piling on by car pundits -- and with good reason. Ford’s pioneering in-dash infotainment system can indeed be distracting and buggy.
Consumer Reports criticized MyFord Touch in the Edge, calling it “a complicated distraction.” Then J.D. Power & Associates delivered another serious blow to the system when it cited customer complaints about MyFord Touch as the main reason the Blue Oval dropped from fifth place to 23rd in its Initial Quality Study. Adding a paradoxical twist is that the initial failure of MyFord Touch followed the surprising success of Ford's Sync system.
To fix the situation, Ford mailed out free system updates to owners earlier this month. It included a USB flash drive that owners could plug into the vehicle’s USB port to update the system’s software, instructions for performing the fix and an updated user guide. If owners don’t want to hassle with performing the software upgrade themselves, they can have a Ford or Lincoln dealer do it for them, for free.
Ford promises that the upgrade will deliver simplified graphics, bolder text, faster touch-screen response and improved voice controls and phone compatibility. At a press event last week to launch the 2013 Flex and Taurus, I got a chance to test those claims firsthand using the latest version of MyFord Touch. Here’s what I found:
The graphics and text are easier to discern at a glance and seem more intuitive, and -- based on several hours driving both the Flex and the Taurus -- the touch-screen and voice controls appear to work better than before. But I did come across a couple of pesky problems.
One was that my iPhone 4 didn’t pair the first time I tried in two different Flex vehicles. (The one Taurus I had access to had no such problem.) It did pair the second time around, and in each instance the same thing occurred during the initial effort: After being prompted to find Sync on my phone, which I did, the vehicle and the system didn’t communicate to make the pairing successful, then timed out. When I tried the second time, there was no problem.
But there is a problem if you can’t easily pair your phone on the first attempt. Ford often points out that it’s impossible to anticipate issues with every phone -- and every software and firmware update with every phone -- but frankly, consumers don’t really care. They just want it to work.
The second issue was with access to music on the iPhone. Again, two separate times in two separate Flex vehicles, when I tried to call up an artist, a readout on the screen said “Loading …” but nothing would happen until I chose another source. (Check it out in the video below.) Then when I switched back to listening to music on the iPod, it worked fine. I suspect that it had something to do with the system indexing the almost 3,500 songs on my iPhone, but, again, such flubs are frustrating.
Maybe if you use the system every day -- and it knows your phone and you know MyFord Touch’s quirks -- it’s not a big deal. But given how the MyFord Touch system has been such a product and public-relations nightmare for Ford, I expected it to be more glitch-free. Maybe the next version of MyFord Touch will be -- if Ford dares to call it by that name.
Doug Newcomb has been covering car technology for more than 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and car technology, especially driving and listening to music.
I expected it to be more glitch-free. Maybe the next version of MyFord Touch will be -- if Ford dares to call it by that name.
That's Microsoft for you. maybe the next patch upgrades will help but be prepared for another option to either not work or be removed. I'm all for technology but I still see this would be a big distraction to people driving on he road and that's the number one danger.
Things I like:
The system appears to be more stable. So far it hasn't frozen, hung up, or spontaneously rebooted, all problems that continually plagued my system before.
It seems to be faster -- in responding to commands. I wouldn't call it FAST, in terms of a crisp, instantaneous response, just faster than before.
The alphanumerics on the navigation maps are larger and easier to read.
The navigation maps are updated much faster while driving, especially when you are turning -- as the car changes heading the map slews around beautifully, very fast, almost in real time.
When you play a song from an attached USB device (an iPod), there is an "Additional info" mode that shows the album cover art much larger and provides album and track information, which the old system didn't have, or at least I didn't notice it.
Things I don't like:
They removed the outside air temperature indicator from the main display and it's now showing only on the driver's dash board instruments. I keep looking for it on the main display and not seeing it.
When you play a song from an attached USB device (an iPod) there is no longer a horizontal progress bar on the main display, but it's still on the driver's dash board instruments.
Although it responds faster to taps on the main display, it can't change the hardware-determined sensitivity of that display, and it still requires too much force. It should be as sensitive as a smart-phone's touch-sensitive display.
On the weather map display, apparently you can no longer control the intensity of the weather features as displayed -- making rain or snow areas lighter or darker. I don't understand how REDUCING previous functionalities is an improvement.
This system STILL doesn't have an alternate color scheme to accommodate owners who are red-green color blind like myself. It makes liberal use of those colors and it's still very hard for me to use properly. This would have been an easy fix and I think Ford is in non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for not accommodating this handicap.
Oh look! Ford is making another promise of new and improved. Unfortunately they're still turning a blind eye to their inferior product and blaming something or someone else. In this case, cell phone makers.
Ford: "Displacement is Job 1".
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