Review and advise: Pandora on HTC EVO with Ford Sync

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So, after most of my shenanigans with bluetooth were over, of course I decided to try the new App Link for Sync.

Several steps were required — I downloaded Sync update (old thumb drive did not work, so, before downloading anything, make sure your USB thumb drive is readable by plugging it into car and saying/selecting USB) – “SYNC Mobile Application Connectivity Package: SYNC AppLink Version 4.0” which specifically mentions Pandora (Android 2.1+ — in my case 2.2), and installed it.

The installation was fairly fast, but then it took system about 7-8 minutes to reboot, during which regular radio was playing just fine.

Then I re-paired the phone, and tried to check Mobile Apps section. No mobile apps, said robo-voice. Okay, maybe I can add one? Not found, said robo voice.
Normally this is the time to read, ahem, a manual: Pandora and Ford and, more specifically SYNC instructions on how to successfully find/add the apps.

Great. Bluetooth on, turned on car, went into Mobile App menu, started pandora, “Find New Apps” — nothing found. Argh!

Well, apparently SYNC instructions omitted one very important step.
If Pandora is already running and playing something finding new apps won’t work.
Because mine was set to auto-start it was playing already and attempt to connect it to App Link failed.

So, to successfully “find the app”:
– make sure Pandora is not running
– go into apps menu, point at “Find New Apps”
– start the Pandora application and immediately click the OK button on dashboard to find it.

If you go into Find New Apps mode while pandora shows blue startup screen everything will click. Pandora will show two vertical arrows, your car screen will show Pandora and you’re all done.

Now, when you restart your car later, you can press the voice command button and say “Mobile Apps” (“Mobile Apps, please say a command”) and then “Pandora”. If Pandora is still running (and why shouldn’t it), you will see quick flash of “Loading”/”Buffering” and then Pandora will show current artist/song on your Sync screen. Plus system will switch to “bluetooth audio” mode automatically. Nifty!

Pandora by itself (without the App Link) also works fine — you can use previous/next wheel buttons to control it and OK button to pause. So technically you don’t need to install anything. But, there are two huge advantages in App Link mode:

– You can control Pandora even when it’s in the background. Which means if you’re driving with Navigation open on the phone screen (Google Maps/Navigation, Sprint Navigation, Waze etc) you can still skip a song. Normally, as soon as application goes into background (you’ve switched to a map view) there’s no way to control your music.

– Artist/song information is shown right on your dashboard screen. So you don’t have to keep the phone screen on and deal with unlocking it if you get curious about what exactly that artificial intelligence dag up for you. Less distraction – safer driving.

A few small nitpicks/suggestions:

– Big USB “plug” logo on the screen is kinda useless, a Pandora icon in addition to SYNC would be great, because specifically you can’t say if it’s a USB drive that system uses or Pandora radio (this is along the lines of my previous rants about screen layout of the system

Haven’t figured out yet how to rate songs with thumbs up/down, not with buttons anyways, as there are just a few of them No way to thumbs up/down with button (could use those “soft buttons” that don’t have anything attached to them right now) but you can press voice button and say “Thumbs up” or “Thumbs down”, a message will show for a moment “Thumbed up” (or down) to confirm what you’ve just did

– “Back/Previous Track” button doesn’t work. If you use Pandora in “normal” mode, it actually does work and you can rewind a song

– Station name only shows up between songs, when you see “Blah Radio Buffering…” (see the first blurry shot), it’s mostly irrelevant though, because it’s your station anyways. Also you can press voice button and switch to the station of your choosing or even create a new one

– Long song names don’t scroll automatically, you have to press “Info” button

In conclusion: thumbs up. Useful thing. Now all I want is that more applications get the same treatment and get better integrated into SYNC, making Fiesta even better and more convenient.

2 Responses to “Review and advise: Pandora on HTC EVO with Ford Sync”

  1. Julius Marchwicki

    Thanks for the feedback on using AppLink. We noticed the same issues with Pandora already running on the phone after the in-vehicle install. We’ll update our documentation to include info about shutting down and restarting the application after the vehicle software install so others don’t run into the same problem.

    To thumbs up with buttons, press and hold the seek right button. To thumbs down, press and hold seek left. I’ll review some of your other suggestions and see what we can do to improve the experience.

    Julius M.
    SYNC AppLink Product Manager

    Reply

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