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Cars Life

Ford Puma: the mysteries of its connectivity

The new Ford Puma has a rich variety of ways in which you can connect the car up to the outside world, in terms of internet connectivity. Whether it’s via Bluetooth or WiFi to your phone, the car’s in-build data connection or a physical connection to your own device, each has its own peculiarities. And, unfortunately, Ford’s manual is pretty dire.

So, I decided to work it all out and it reveals some interesting information!

The Test

For the first time in a while, I actually sat down and wrote myself a test plan – a list of what I intended to do, step by step, and what I then needed to look for.

First thing’s first, though, I disconnected everything. My phone’s bluetooth, the built-in hotspot, etc, etc. I wanted to start from no connectivity, slowly add things in and then check to see what worked and what didn’t.

I used an iPhone and, therefore, Apple CarPlay but I later verified what I found with Android Auto, where there were no differences seen.

The Results

No connection

Straight away, something… unusual… came up. The FordPass app was able to tell me the current status of my car even though I had no connections active. Using FordPass Pro, I can see whether the car is locked and unlocked and that definitely updated as I did this.

What does this mean? Well, the only thing that it can mean is that the built-in modem is being used to communicate this information. I’ve paid for the free 3 months hotspot but it’s my assumption that this is separate and will continue to work after that (the hotspot, after all, is switched off too).

In fact, the manual points you to the Connectivity Settings in SYNC 3, which is separate to the hotspot. This list therefore seems to indicate what the internal modem is used for…

Bluetooth connection

Connecting my car to my phone via Bluetooth, this would mean that options such as Apple Play are not available. However, in the Phone section pressing the Siri button i worked.

What does this mean? Via bluetooth, the phone activates Siri on your phone and uses your own data for it. All the car does is provide a microphone and speaker pass-through but all the rest is on your phone.

USB connection

Now, I connect the phone to the car via USB and Apple CarPlay springs into life. I try out the Siri voice prompt (i.e. without pressing the button) and play Apple Radio, all successfully.

What does this mean? As the phone is still the only data connection right now (other than that pesky in-build Sim card which I can’t switch off and, we have to assume, isn’t doing any of this), then all of this is working via my phone’s connection.

Car hotspot

I now turn back on the car’s hotspot. Theoretically, all this should do is allow any devices in the car to connect to it and everything else does, indeed, seem to work just the same

Phone hotspot

I turn on the hotspot feature of my phone and connect the car to it. All works the same except the WiFi symbol is now present in the corner of the screen to indicate that it’s connected to WiFi.

What I also discovered too is that the car will remember multiple WiFi devices too – my car is parked on the drive and can pick up my home WiFi and I can set that up to. When on the drive, the car will use the home WiFi and then try my phone when I’m out and about.

Which is a good job because of how lousy iPhone hotspots are. You see, to save power they drop off after a while of not being used. So, despite my phone’s hotspot still being active, if I go back to the car later, it won’t be able to connect to it and, indeed, if you ask the car to show a list of WiFi devices found, it won’t find my phone’s. This isn’t the fault of the car but the phone.

What we don’t know at this stage is when it will use this and when it will use phone data.

So, I connect the phone via USB but turn off WiFi and mobile data. I can start CarPlay but cannot play music or use Siri.

What does this mean? The car’s WiFi connection is not used for Apple CarPlay.

Summary

Okay, here are the connection types and what they’re used for.

Connection Types

Internal modem

  • Vehicle connectivity to the FordPass app, including the remote control functionality
  • Mobile apps
  • Optional: Subscription services, such as Live Traffic
  • Optional: WiFi hotspot

Bluetooth

  • All phone connectivity activity – phone calls, text messages, voice assistant

WiFi

  • System updates

USB Cable

  • All Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. Your mobile device’s data is then used.

Flipping all of this on its head, this is a list of the various connectivity functions, followed by how they’re connected:

Functionality

  • Android Auto (music, hands-free voice assistant, etc) – USB cable
  • Apple CarPlay (music, hands-free voice assistant, etc) – USB cable
  • Live Traffic – internal modem
  • Local Hazard Information – internal modem
  • Mobile Apps – internal modem
  • Phone calls – Bluetooth
  • System updates – WiFi
  • Vehicle connectivity – internal modem
  • Voice Assistant (via SYNC3) – Bluetooth
  • WiFi Hotspot – internal modem
  1. this option is only available when not connected via USB[]

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