The 2011 Ford Fiesta will be the first Blue Oval car to employ the company's new SYNC AppLink system, which allows voice and button control of smartphones with apps like Pandora and Stitcher. But it'll only work on Blackberry and Android phones--iPhone users are left out in the cold until the 2012 model year brings new hardware updates necessary to interface with Apple's rather closed handset.

Pitched as a "safe, convenient" way to access smartphone apps from behind the wheel, the new AppLink system is available as a downloadable software upgrade to the standard SYNC system. The system will allow SYNC-enabled apps to be controlled via both voice commands and the vehicle's hardware controls.

Those with good mid-term memory will recall that Ford announced Twitter and Open Beak integration for the SYNC system back in January, to come first on the 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX as a direct integration with SYNC. Once all of these bits trickle into every car, Ford will have the tightest social media/smartphone app integration in the industry. But is that a good thing?

Ford is touting the safety and convenience of the smartphone integration for the obvious reasons: it eliminates the need to actually hold and operate your phone as you drive. But can simultaneously switching between Internet radio stations, listening to your latest RSS feeds and tweeting the whole while really be safer? All of this tech comes as the country cracks down on in-car cellphone usage and texting, but rather than discouraging driver distractions, it appears to be ramping them up, albeit in a more hands-free package.

We'd really like to see people just driving when behind the wheel, but there's no denying the technology itself is pretty cool. Before long, we'll be streaming episodes of Top Gear onto our windshields, listening to esoteric German neo-classical music, attempting to match powerslides with Jeremy Clarkson and crew all while staying up-to-the-minute on the latest Motor Authority stories and tweeting about the horror stories from last night's bar-hopping. Hooray, progress.

For more coverage on the AppLink system, check out John Voelcker's article at GreenCarReports.