If you’ve got an iPhone you’ve probably got most, if not all, of your digital music is stored on it and you can enjoy it pretty much anywhere you go – as long as you’re wearing your headphones. What about when you’re in the car? It’s not safe to drive with two earphones in and it can get really uncomfortable on long journeys. There is another option. An iPhone FM Transmitter. Since they were made legal in 2006 FM transmitters are a great way to listen to music from your phone through your Hi-Fi or car stereo. They’re easy to set up and don’t require any technical knowledge other than being able to tune in a radio!
There are essentially 3 different types of FM Transmitter available for the iPhone, stand-alone FM transmitters, Charging FM Transmitters and Bluetooth/FM car kits. To give you an overview of what’s available, here are some of the most popular iPhone FM Transmitters.
The TuneBase FM falls into the Charging FM Transmitters category. It plugs into the cigarette lighter in your car and has a flexible, adjustable arm to hold your iPhone or iPod. What makes this kit so great is that the holder can be rotated through 90° making it perfect for using with Sat Nav Apps. The TuneBase FM is one of a few holders that can hold your iPhone with a case fitted.
The FM Transmitter has 4 memory slots that you can use to store frequencies, this allows you to switch to a clear station quickly and easily. The Belkin Tunebase can also be used as a handsfree system in the car, but not in the same way as the Venturi or TrailBlazer further down the page. Instead of connecting your call over a bluetooth connection, the Belkin Tunebase transmits incoming audio through your car stereo and uses your iPhone’s internal microphone. It saves the hassle of pairing your phone to the car kit but works just as well.
The KitPerfect works in a very similar way to the Belkin TuneBase. It’s an in car holder & FM transmitter that can also be used for calls. It has a flexible neck that allows you to position your iPhone exactly where you want it. It has a clear LED display that shows you the frequency that you need to tune your stereo into and will work with iPhones and iPods.
The KitPerfect will charge your iPhone while it’s docked and has a separate on/off switch so you can turn it off when it’s not needed. The KitPerfect is designed to be used in portrait mode but the flexible goose-neck can be rotated if needed for use with sat nav apps.
When Apple released iPhone OS3.0, one of the big new features was that you could now get apps that can control third party accessories. As excited as the developer community got about this, there are still very few accessories out there that take advantage of this.
The latest version of the Griffin iTrip is one of the first mainstream accessories to take advantage of this, and once you’ve installed the free app, you can adjust the frequency, save stations and scan for a clear frequency all through your phone. The App also allows you to control music playback and will scroll track and podcast information on the screen when the display is sleeping.
Another charging solution from Belkin. Like the iTrip above, the TuneCase Auto Live uses an app on your iPhone to establish which is the clearest frequency. It uses GPS data from your iPhone to work out which frequencies are unused where you are and then suggests a frequency for you to tune your stereo in to. If you don’t like the idea of it using your location the Belkin Tunecast Auto with ClearScan doesn’t use an app or GPS – Instead it scans the airwaves to find a clear frequency.
The Jabra Cruiser is a small, slim portable car kit that combines an FM transmitter with a Bluetooth Car Kit. The Jabra Cruiser simply clips to the sun visor of your car and pairs to your iPhone or 2nd generation iPod touch using Bluetooth. The Cruiser supports both the A2DP and AVRCP profiles which means that you can stream your music to it over Bluetooth for playback either through the built in speaker or through your car stereo using it’s built in FM Transmitter.
The iPhone and iPod touch don’t fully support AVRCP, but you can still play/ pause your music using the play controls on the front of the Cruiser. Hopefully the next update from Apple will bring full AVRCP support to both devices. Find out more about A2DP and AVRCP profiles.
The Jabra Cruiser will also play your phone calls through your car stereo speakers for improved clarity. The Cruiser has dual microphones that work together to cut out background noise, making this a perfect choice for any one who spends a lot of time driving on motorways or noisy roads.
The TuneFM3 is about as simple as you can get when it comes to FM transmitters. You just plug it into the dock connector on the bottom of your iPhone and tune your stereo in. Music playback starts automatically, saving you the hassle of having to launch the iPod app and press play. Unlike most FM transmitters that use the Dock Connector, the TuneFM3 has a mini USB port that allows you to charge your iPhone at the same time using a Mini USB Car Charger. The White on Black display makes reading the display effortless, especially at night.
The TuneFM3 was primarily designed for use with iPods, so when you connect it to your iPhone you will see a pop up message saying that “this accessory is not made for iPhone”. This isn’t the case, if you press no it will work just fine. This warning is only displayed as there is no shielding built in to prevent calls and messages interfering with the FM transmission.
This is similar in many ways to the transmitter above it, but with a few less features. It doesn’t have a charging port, and the LCD isn’t backlit, so adjusting it at night will require you to pull over and put the interior light on.
As you might have noticed, Griffin and Belkin are the leading manufacturer when it comes to iPhone accessories – particularly FM Transmitters. The iTrip Auto with smart scan charges your iPhone at the same time as broadcasting your music to your stereo.
The SmartScan technology scans the airwaves for the three best frequencies then saves them automatically to 3 programmable presets for easy recall at the touch of a button. You can control your music play back using the buttons on the in-line remote or on your iPhone. The feature that stands out to me with this one is that it broadcasts song information over RDS, so as long as your car stereo supports it, you’ll be able to see song and artist information on the screen of your stereo.
The Venturi Kit is an FM transmitter and Bluetooth Car Kit combined. It sits in your cigarette lighter socket in the car and has a couple of ways for you to listen to music from your iPhone through your car stereo. You can either connect your iPhone to the Venturi using a 3.5mm audio cable, or you can stream your music to it over Bluetooth. The Venturi supports the same Bluetooth Profiles as the Jabra Cruiser, so you can play/pause your music without having to touch your phone.
There is a USB charging port on the side of the kit so you can connect and charge your iPhone using your existing USB cable. As the Venturi is a Bluetooth kit you can use it for handsfree calling too. Any calls that you receive will be broadcast over FM to you car stereo and the callers name and number will be sent to the stereo display using RDS.
The Trailblazer is a new arrival to Mobile Fun and like the Venturi above you can connect your iPhone to it using either a 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth. Both calls and music are broadcast over FM to your car stereo and you can answer/end calls and play/pause your music on the Trailblazer.
If you have a cigarette lighter in an awkward position in your car this is a better option than the Venturi. The control unit is on the end of a flexible neck rather than at the base and as a result, the part that goes into your cigarette lighter is no bigger than a standard car charger. The Trailblazer also has a USB port for charging your iPhone.
This isn’t all of the iPhone FM Transmitters, just the ones that I think do a great job with the iPhone, if you want to see what else is available, take a look at our range of iPhone FM Transmitters or iPhone Car Kits.
If you’ve seen an iPhone FM Transmitters that we don’t currently range, let us know using the comments form below