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Ford adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to Sync 3, enhances its own AppLink

Choice is good, and when it comes to in-car smartphone connectivity, Ford's giving you options. Whether you're an Apple user, an Android user or on some other platform entirely, the company's cars are about to get a lot smarter.

Ford's Sync 3 will soon be offering a lot more functionality.
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

This story is part of CES 2016. Our editors bring you complete CES 2016 coverage and scour the showroom floor for the hottest new tech gadgets around.

When the big Blue Oval finally put MyFord Touch out to pasture last year, that was good news for most. The system wasn't warmly received when it was new and, frankly, the industry quickly moved on after its debut. That system's replacement was Sync 3, and at the 2016 International CES in Las Vegas, Ford is announcing a huge functionality boost, adding compatibility with both Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto.

Sync 3 is Ford's latest infotainment system, controlling things like media playback, car settings and navigation. It began rolling out on many 2016 models as an option and, starting with 2017 model year cars, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be baked in. With either Android Auto or CarPlay, your smartphone basically takes over the car's central display, enabling things like Spotify music streaming, voice-based messaging and even navigation powered by Apple or Google Maps. With these services, you can stay connected while driving in a safe, distraction-free way.

However, if you're not the sort who wants to hand your dashboard over to your phone, Ford's own AppLink platform is also getting some upgrades. AppLink is similar to CarPlay in that it allows mobile apps to talk directly to the car, and with the latest version those apps have insight into more vehicle data like position and fuel consumption. For example, AAA's new app will now enable easy searching for waypoints and fueling stations, Concur will make tracking business mileage easy, while EventSeeker and CitySeeker will let you quickly and easily find events while on the go.

And, if that weren't enough, Ford's new Sync Connect service will provide in-car LTE connectivity, meaning you'll be able to locate, unlock and even start your car directly from your phone.

The new apps will work with any AppLink-compatible car, while the 2017 Ford Escape will be the first to hit the market with CarPlay and Android Auto on board. Have yourself a 2016 car with Sync 3? Look for an upgrade before the end of the year. This is especially welcome news, because while choice is good, not having to buy a new car is even better.