Review: Griffin iTrip AutoPilot
The iTrip AutoPilot is Griffin’s latest FM transmitter and car charger for the iPod which also brings with it iPhone and iPhone 3G compatibility. The FM transmitter features playback control for your portable Apple device from your console via your cigarette lighter. The adapter also provides your device’s charging status through a light ring enclosing the play/pause button.
However, Griffin has put most of its focus on the iTrip AutoPilot’s FM transmitter. The transmitter emits on a wide range of FM frequencies (from 88.1 to 107.9) and provides a easy-to-read LCD display. Most notably, Griffin features its exclusive SmartScan technology which attempts to provide the best audio signal by scanning your radio dial to deliver to you the three best frequencies available and stores them as three recallable presets.
The iTrip AutoPilot also provides song information for those with RDS enabled car radio technology.
Charging and Playback Control
As a car charger, the AutoPilot provides a steady and consistent charge. Cord management doesn’t provide many options. Most times, it becomes a hassle for those who wish to hide as much of their cord around their console as possible. The adapter provide play controls in easy reach allowing users to play, pause, skip rather quickly. However, using these controls brings your music application to the forefront, shutting down any other application your maybe using (such has SMS or Google Maps for iPhone users).
From a feature standpoint, the iTrip AutoPilot brings the most possible to those looking for a FM Transmitter. The LCD display is easy to read in any light, the three button controls are simple for users, and the SmartScan technology attempts to do all the work for you by scanning you FM dial and selecting stations that the AutoPilot identifies as the most ideal frequencies in your current location. However, for those that live in mid-to-high populated cities, the SmartScan technology is almost obsolete. Perhaps because of the poor strength of the FM transmitter, I’ve yet to have success with this feature. The stations the AutoPilot provides are easily overpowered by local radio stations. It’s only when I self-select stations at the top or bottom of the frequency range am I able to adequately use the FM Transmitter. I’ve had more success with SmartScan on road trips when I find myself away from most average-sized cities.
For those that have attempted to use an FM transmitter with their iPhone or iPhone 3G, you’ve surly noticed the annoying loud frequency interference screech that occurs anytime your cell reception relocates, you receive or send calls, emails, or SMS, or your phone’s location services are used. The iTrip AutoPilot has eliminated these screeches by bringing iPhone compatibility. At times, I do receive the infamous “this accessory hates your iPhone, how about shutting everything down by enabling airplane mode making your iPhone almost useless,” but rest assured, the accessory is compatible.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
The iTrip AutoPilot provides a great option for those looking to charge their Apple device on-the-go while allowing quick playback controls for users, but is most limited by its relatively weak FM transmitter.
Pros: Stable and consistent charge, easy access play controls, RDS song information technology, easy-to-read display
Cons: FM transmitter strength, SmartScan can be buggy, pricey