PHOENIX - Do you have new car gadget envy? I do! I want all the slick bells and whistles those brand spankin' new high-tech cars come with. Unfortunately, there is no 4-wheel upgrade in my future.
A big piece of that envy is wireless Bluetooth streaming. If you haven't used it, it's awesome. It streams music directly from your smartphone to your car stereo with no messy cables.
Luckily, for anyone with new car gadget envy, there are some products on the market that make it super simple to add this feature to your existing radio. I had a chance to test out 2 of them for you
Griffin Bluetrip Aux $79.99
The Griffin Bluetrip Aux is about as simple as it gets. The device itself is tiny and slips into your cigarette lighter port on your car. It's so small that most people probably won't even notice it. There is a headphone jack where you plug a ⅛" audio cable. The other end connects to your ⅛" aux-in jack on your car stereo. If you don't have an aux-in jack on your existing stereo, you're out of luck with the Bluetrip.
There's a button on the front of the Bluetrip. Hold it down to quickly pair the device with your smartphone. Once paired, you are ready to go. All music played on your smartphone will stream wirelessly to your car stereo. It works really well. It also supports phone calls with the tiny microphone built into the front of the Bluetrip. If a call comes in you can press the button on the front of the Bluetrip to answer the call. This means you can answer a call even if your smartphone is in your purse or briefcase.
Phone calls worked well, and people on the other end seemed to have no problem hearing me talk. Keep in mind though that the microphone is on the Bluetrip itself. This means if your cigarette plug is far away from your mouth, it could pose a problem. Griffin says technology is built-in to filter out the background noise.
My only complaint about the Bluetrip is that it doesn't offer a way to charge your phone. You'll need to buy a splitter for your cigarette plug which means you'll end up with a big mess of cables hanging from your dash. This kind of defeats the whole purpose. Nonetheless, I like the simplicity of the device and how discrete it is when used without a splitter. It's one of the best options out there if you're looking for a simple way to add streaming Bluetooth music and phone calls to your existing stereo.
Tunelink Auto $99.99
If you could care less about phone calls, New Potato Technologies offers the Tunelink Auto. It's focus is music and it does it really well.
The Tunelink is about the size of most cigarette lighter plugs. It looks like a typical car charger but without a cable hanging out of it. There are no buttons on the device itself, just a USB port for charging and a ⅛" jack to plug the Tunelink into your stereo. Pairing the Tunelink with my smartphone was simple. Once paired, it works great. Any audio played through my smartphone streams right into my stereo and it sounds great.
For those of you who don't have an 1/8" aux-in jack on the front of your existing stereo, Tunelink offers an FM option. Simply find an empty FM channel and Tunelink will stream all of your smartphone music right into that channel. In my tests in metro Phoenix it worked but it's not the best option. It wasn't as loud as I would like and seemed a touch fuzzy. Useable? Sure. Ideal? Not exactly. Perhaps it would work better in a smaller city that isn't full of radio stations like Phoenix. Aux-in is the way to go if possible but it's great that the Tunelink offers another option.
You tune the Tunelink using the Android or iPhone app. This is definitely a killer feature of the Tunelink device. You can control various features of the Tunelink with the app including volume levels, the FM frequency and the charging mode of the USB port. The app will even help you find the best FM station to use for ideal audio quality. It's a slick app that really makes the Tunelink device shine. There's even a feature that allows you to share the Tunelink with other smartphones in the car. This way, 2 or 3 people can take turns being the in-car DJ. This is a cool option to have.
The Tunelink Auto is one of the best options for anyone looking to play music wirelessly to their non-bluetooth car stereo. Tunelink Auto doesn't do phone calls, it focuses on music and does music well. With both Aux-in and FM streaming, it'll work with almost any setup. The audio quality is great, the free app that controls the device is slick and the entire experience is invisible once you have everything setup.