The world has no lack of iPod FM transmitters. Unfortunately, because FM broadcasting technology is tightly controlled by the Federal Communications Commission, the FM transmission performance of this year's crop of iPod FM transmitters is largely unchanged from the previous year.
The Griffin iTrip Auto ($79) is no exception to the parade of vaguely revamped products from 2006. Unfortunately for Griffin, the iTrip Auto Smartscan may actually be a step backward, compared with last year's model.
The Griffin iTrip Auto is essentially one long cable (3.5 feet) with a universal iPod dock connection on one end, a cigarette lighter adapter on the other, and a digital FM tuner right smack in the middle. Unlike the Belkin Tunebase or the DLO TransPod, the perceived benefit of the iTrip Auto is that it doesn't try to provide a sturdy (and usually bulky) docking station for your iPod. Instead, the iTrip's cable allows you to place your iPod wherever is most convenient--whether that's on the passenger seat, in a cup holder, or shoved in a change tray. If you're the type of person who hates messy cables, the iTrip Auto is not the right choice for you.
Cable mess aside, the major failure of the Griffin iTrip Auto is its thoughtless interface design. Gone is the legible monochrome display found on last year's iTrip Auto. In its place is a squinty,blue readout that is hopelessly obscured behind a mirrored plastic shell. The result is a product that is nearly impossible to read in the daylight hours. After the sun goes down, the display's illuminated blue letters eventually reveal themselves, leaving the iTrip Auto's indistinguishable black buttons as the only dumbfounding design flaw.