Ford announces voice-controlled NPR Android app using SYNC AppLink technology

Ford's SYNC system is pretty cool, and it just got a bit cooler with on-demand playlists and programming from NPR, all controlled via voice using SYNC AppLink.  NPR is the first major player to embrace the Internet-Enabled Car market, releasing a dedicated NPR News app.  The NPR News app lets users create playlists of stories and programs for later listening, and lets you pick a topic and hear the news without touching a thing.  With hands-free laws becoming prevalant, it's high time we see voice automated apps for the car.  We imagine this is a trend that will continue, and it's great to see NPR on board.  You can grab the updated NPR news app after the break, as well as read the official press release.

Ford Enables Voice Control of NPR App Delivering In-Car, On-Demand Access to News, Programs and Stations

  • NPR’s entry into Internet-enabled cars with Ford marks a first among major news organizations
  • The SYNC® AppLink-enabled NPR News app lets Ford drivers listen to their favorite public radio programs and stations on their own schedule while on the road
  • Users can create playlists of stories and programs to listen to later or select from topics and then call them up with simple voice commands
  • NPR News is the first dedicated news app for SYNC AppLink that Ford is launching at the 2012 International CES

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 9, 2012 – With the latest edition of the NPR smartphone app, Ford drivers can listen to Morning EditionAll Things ConsideredFresh Air and other favorite programs and stations conveniently at their request using SYNC® AppLink and the power of their voice.

As highlighted in the Arbitron & Edison study “Infinite Dial 2011: Navigating Digital Platforms,” drivers are increasingly taking advantage of ubiquitous wireless data connections to stream audio on the road. Just in the past year, 5 percent more drivers are using their cell phones to listen to Internet radio on the road. Overall, time spent listening to online radio has also increased an impressive 49 percent in the last three years. Over the recent Christmas weekend alone, an estimated 6.8 million new Android and iOS phones and tablets were activated, more than double the previous year’s count.

“NPR is now taking advantage of the advanced smartphone control interface that we’ve built into SYNC AppLink to enable a wider range of information and entertainment options for our customers,” said Doug VanDagens, global director of Connected Services, Ford Motor Company. “With AppLink, drivers can manage smartphones through the in-car audio system or via the power of voice while keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”

“NPR has been a trusted companion to drivers for more than 40 years, and we are thrilled to be the first major news organization to release our own in-car app,” said NPR President and CEO Gary Knell. “We are helping to usher in a new era of radio listening by offering today’s and tomorrow’s listeners another way to connect with great news, public affairs and music content from NPR and hundreds of public radio stations.”

Ford and NPR teamed up to adapt the NPR News app for SYNC AppLink, building on NPR’s reputation as a leading news source and digital innovator, and the strength of its network of local NPR Member stations that 34 million people rely on nationwide. Over the past two years, NPR has doubled its digital audience to 19 million users, developing free apps for tablets, smartphones and desktops that both current and new audiences are embracing.

The NPR News app integration with SYNC AppLink brings the features of NPR’s mobile application on iPhone and Android into the car with features that include:

  • NPR’s Newscast: Hear the latest coverage of breaking news as soon as you get into your car – or anytime you choose by simply saying “Hourly News” at the voice prompt
  • Get local news from across the nation: Say “Stations” and select your favorite NPR Member station for local news and programs, from KCRW in Santa Monica to WNYC in New York
  • Program your car’s radio station presets from the NPR app: Love Michigan Radio? Press and hold one of the preset buttons on the dashboard to assign it, so it’s easy to tune directly to your favorite station
  • Just say “Programs” to listen to your favorite NPR and other public radio programs when you want. Want to hear Car Talk on Monday morning or Tell Me More at night? All NPR programs are available 24/7. If a local station is playing the requested program, the app will automatically play the live stream; otherwise a prerecorded stream will play
  • Pick stories by topic: Just want science stories? Tell your car “Topics,” then ask for “Science.” Now you can select stories from 20 of the most popular NPR topics including politics, movies, health and more
  • Create a playlist: Make your selections on your smartphone before you hit the road and enjoy your own custom mix of national and local news and public radio talk and entertainment programs on your ride
  • Control your listening experience: Now you can pause, skip, advance, even go back within the same story, or to earlier stories
  • Get friendly tips: Carl Kasell, popular former NPR newscaster and official judge and scorekeeper of Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me! will help you navigate between programs

Carl provides tips such as “Hi, this is Carl Kasell, I’m here to help you get the most out of your NPR experience. Your favorite stations are accessible through the number buttons on your dash. Press once to listen. Press again to discover more from that station. However, no matter how many times you press, I won’t magically appear in your car. Sorry.” Audio clips of some of the tips can be previewed online.


The NPR News app for Ford SYNC offers the variety, choice and control of a smartphone app in your car. Designed to minimize driver distraction, the NPR News app is easily controlled with voice commands and simple steering wheel controls, allowing drivers to effortlessly customize their public radio listening experience.

The updated NPR app is available now through the Android Market and iTunes App Store. SYNC AppLink is available on a range of 2012 model Ford vehicles including Fiesta, Mustang, F150, Fusion and more.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.