For better or worse, Ford owners have been basking in the overzealous infotainment ways of MyFord Touch for over a year now. Since then, the service's been updated with amenities such as integrated Nuance voice recognition for SYNC, but now the Dearborn-based automobile monolith is taking things a few steps forward. Penned for release "early next year," the MyFord Touch Upgrade will usher in a massive revamp across every nook and cranny of the system as a whole. Starting with the 2013 model year Flex, Taurus and Escape, drivers will be greeted by over 1,000 revised screens implementing an "improved look," with an up to 40 percent increase in font sizes, a simpler -- and more cohesive -- GUI focused displaying only important info (for less clutter) and notably, doubly fast response times for touch and voice-based inputs. And oh yes, it gets even better.

Those with tablets will be pleased to know that multimedia playback will be supported via USB, while mobile phones will benefit from quicker automatic Bluetooth pairing and better echo and noise-cancellation. Ford has also baked-in voice support for sports buffs with Sirius Game Finder, as well as bibliophiles with Audible.com integration (which can also be touch controlled, should you desire it). Best of all, you'll no longer need to recite any parenthetical or bracketed album info your music tracks may have, or the direction of street names when inputting addresses for directions. Speaking of, the TeleNav-enabled nav system will have further map detail courtesy of Navteq, with enhancements like more 3D imaging, "photorealistic" signage and better route planning thanks to "a database of historical traffic patterns." If you've already got some miles on an existing MyFord Touch-enabled ride, no worries -- Ford will give your system the upgrade pro bono when it's available, taking all but a (hopefully) quick visit to your local dealer. Potential and current Ford owners will find more visuals in the gallery below and full details in the press release past break.

Update: Ford has let us know that existing owners will not be required to visit their dealer for the upgrade, and will be receiving a USB drive allowing for a self-install in the mail. That said, you can still drop by your dealer after getting it to have the install done there.

Ford MyTouch Upgrade press shots

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Faster, Simpler, Easier to Use: MyFord Touch Upgrade Provides Customers with Enhanced Driving Experience

Ford will launch performance upgrades and new features for MyFord Touch® beginning with 2013 models – no-charge upgrade will be available to existing owners

Simpler graphics, faster touch-screen response and easier-to-use controls are among the many enhancements to the voice-activated in-car connectivity system

DEARBORN, Mich., Nov. 7, 2011 – Ford customers said MyFord Touch® could be faster and feature simpler graphics that are easier to use and that's exactly what Ford plans to deliver with a broad set of performance upgrades to the system – launching first on the new 2013 Ford Escape, Flex, and Taurus.

Available early next year – and also offered at no charge to existing MyFord Touch owners – the software upgrade enhances the ownership experience as it was developed by listening and responding to customer feedback.

"SYNC® has clearly been a game-changing technology, and now we're changing the game again, showing how quickly we can deliver more of what customers really want," said Graydon Reitz, director, Ford Global Electronics and Electrical Systems Engineering. "Our strategy to create the SYNC software platform and add the customizable screens of MyFord Touch gives us a level of flexibility and speed to respond to customer input like never before seen in the auto industry."

The new touch-screen interface features new simpler graphics and controls that are easier to use. Customers will also experience significantly faster touch-screen response times, one of the top requests from owners.

New features include support for tablet devices and Audible.com audiobooks, improved navigation maps and enhanced voice recognition interaction.

Listening to customers
Since MyFord launched last fall, Ford has held four customer clinics in which owners talked directly to Ford engineers about their experiences with the new technology. Owner feedback was clear and consistent, revealing that MyFord Touch was a key purchase reason.

A survey of 2011 Ford Edge owners shows that four of the top seven purchase reasons were elements of the MyFord Touch system: the touch-screen, steering wheel controls, voice recognition and interior styling.

While owners reported that they love the system, there were distinct areas where they wanted improvements. Earlier this year, Ford started delivering on their requests, beginning with more instructions and information on how to best utilize the capabilities of the system.

Ford launched two programs modeled after what consumers experience when purchasing a new electronic device. First, the company added a new MyFord Touch owner support website featuring how-to videos at HYPERLINK "http://www.syncmyride.com" www.syncmyride.com. Second, free "SYNC My Ride" personalized training sessions for new owners are now offered through Ford dealers – scheduled at customers' convenience.

"The keys to continuous improvement are simple: Listen, learn and respond. That's how we're going to keep our customers happy," said Gary Jablonski, manager, SYNC Platform Development. "Evolving the software with meaningful enhanced features was part of our plan from the very beginning. It's no different than the experience with our smartphones and laptop computers – except now, it's your car that gets better."

New look
The visual enhancements to MyFord Touch are based on simplifying the graphics with larger, bolder fonts, removing low-priority visual content, and designing screens based on a consistent pattern. More than 1,000 screens in total have been updated with the improved look.

"Our goal when designing the upgrade was to simplify the screens and give customers a fast and easy way to get information at any given moment," said Jennifer Brace, user interface Design engineer for Ford. "That meant removing buttons, relocating high-use controls closer to the driver's reach, simplifying tasks and improving font size."

The new fonts are as much as 40 percent larger on some redesigned screens. The fonts also are wider and bolder to provide easier legibility, particularly among the rapidly increasing number of drivers age 60 and older.

New features
Ford also took the opportunity to update the performance of the system and add new features for customers to help them keep pace with the fast-moving consumer electronics market.

Faster touch-screen response time, for example, was a key request from owners. Initial testing shows that touch and voice response is at least two times faster than the current system.

Also, the software upgrade includes the following enhancements:

Improved voice recognition experience powered by Nuance
Quicker voice recognition upon startup and faster command prompt when the voice button is pushed

Voice commands used in conjunction with navigation are simplified through elimination of the need to provide street direction, e.g., "Main Street" instead of "North Main Street"

Music requests are simpler by removing the need to include the additional song, album or artist information often found at the end of a name in (parenthesis) or [brackets]

Customers can find their favorite sports team in action via new Sirius Game Finder simply by saying a command such as "Tune to Detroit Lions game"

Tablet device compatibility
Music and other media content from most popular tablet computers like the Apple iPad can now be accessed through a simple USB connection

Audible.com audiobook support
Listen to Audible.com content using voice commands or the easy-to-use touch-screen controls

Connected navigation powered by TeleNav features new map data by NAVTEQ
Updated map views are richer and feature more 3D landmarks
Views of freeway junctions and signs are enhanced through photorealistic screen images
Smart routing options are provided based on a database of historical traffic patterns

Phone compatibility
Automatic Bluetooth® connection upon vehicle entry has been improved
Noise and echo cancellation during phone calls has been improved to enhance call quality

Gracenote® album cover art database
Inclusion of the latest music metadata available enhancing the music playback experience

Improved voice recognition for music search allowing drivers to pinpoint artists with hard-to-pronounce names or nicknames

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MyFord Touch Upgrade inbound, brings 'faster, simpler, easier' infotainment to your late-model whip