Newer cars let you connect your phone over Bluetooth, empowering you to stream music and make calls. The capability is found in most base models nowadays, but drivers of older cars typically have to install an aftermarket radio to get in on the fun. The Griffin iTrip AUX Bluetooth is a cheaper way to get some of the benefits of Bluetooth without having to fork over as much money.
But at $49.99, the iTrip AUX Bluetooth remains a bit pricey itself. It works as advertised, but in this case, I don't know if that is enough. Here, let me tell you why.
There isn't all that much to say about getting the iTrip AUX Bluetooth up and running. This is the type of accessory you could find in a bucket at a yard sale, and after finding out what it actually is from the owner, go home and figure it out without needing a manual or performing a quick Google search. The dongle looks like it goes into your 12 volt outlet, and that's precisely where you stick it.
There are only two things on the user-facing side of the product: a light and an auxiliary port. You're going to need to plug an aux cable into the latter and connect it to your car's matching port. If you don't already have a cable, one comes included out of the box.
How It Works
Using the iTrip AUX Bluetooth is akin to using an aux cable, just without the wire.
Your phone doesn't automatically connect to the device so you have to search for it in your list of available Bluetooth connections each time you hop in the car. Edit: For some reason the HTC One M7 I used for testing did not automatically connect to the iTrip Aux Bluetooth, but apparently my Nexus 5 does. Both auto-connect to my car's built-in Bluetooth without problem. Judging from a customer's review on Griffin's product page, I'm not the only person to run into this issue.
Fortunately, you don't have to manually put the dongle into discovery mode. Every time the car starts up, it starts blinking rapidly in search of something to partner up with (its mating dance, if you will). I never had any problems getting my phone to connect.
After that, you're pretty much done. There isn't anything else to the device. There are no buttons. There's no companion app. And as for the sound quality, I didn't notice any difference between playing audio through the iTrip Aux, an aux cable, or my usual Bluetooth connection. Your vehicle's speakers will play more of a role than anything here (but more on that later).
If you have a Bluetooth setup in your car, things should automatically switch over when you make a call. If you don't, sorry, this device won't help you make hands-free calls, as it doesn't come with a microphone.
The iTrip AUX Bluetooth's lack of an automatic connection is kind of a bummer for me, since I've grown used to my phone connect on its own when I hop in the car. Yet while this may be inconvenient compared to automatically syncing up, it might not seem like much work compared to plugging in a cord. That depends on what you're accustomed to. Would you rather fumble for a cable or click through a number of screens on your smartphone whenever you hop into the car? (edit: see above)
The included cable is a little on the short end, which can be a problem depending on how your car's interior is arranged. For example, my vehicle has a 12 volt outlet underneath the stereo and a second one in the center console. The sole auxiliary port is also tucked away in the center console, close enough for only one of the two 12 volt outlets to reach with the provided cable. I can switch to a longer one to reach the second port, but that would involve stretching a cable over my gear shift and cup holders. It's inconvenient while driving, not to mention unsightly. And if I'm going to plug in the cable every time I use the iTrip AUX Bluetooth, I might as well just use the cable.
Long story short, pay attention to the way your car's ports are set up before rushing to pick one of these up.
It's worth pointing out the awful sound quality Artem, Android Police's founder, experienced in his vehicle. But in Griffin's defense, Artem's car did not ship with a 3.5mm port, requiring him to go to an audio shop and have the folks there wire a pair of RCA inputs directly into his XM system (which is how one goes about addressing the issue in the Infiniti G37). The car has worked just fine with every phone he's tried in the past, but in the case of the iTrip AUX Bluetooth, sound quality was low and tinny. It worked when Artem tried the dongle in another vehicle, so this may be a corner case. Do with the information what you will.
Should You Buy It?
I had never used a product of this type before, and frankly, it's a pretty cool way to get around the whole issue of getting Bluetooth connectivity in your car without buying a new one or installing an aftermarket car audio unit (assuming you don't have Artem's luck). Even if you have Bluetooth already, it's a good way to let friends or children play music in the car without having to unsync your device or manually plug theirs in.
The Griffin iTrip AUX Bluetooth is a great product that works as promised, but it's also somewhat of a pricey one.
The Griffin iTrip AUX Bluetooth is a great product that works as promised, but it's also somewhat of a pricey one. At $49.99, it's not the cheapest way to plug your phone into your car, nor is it the cheapest way to do so using a Bluetooth dongle plugged into your 12 volt receptacle. The iClever Himbox HB01 goes for just $29.99 on Amazon, and it comes with an extra USB port and manual volume controls. The Kinivo BTC450 does the same for $35. I haven't used those products, but reviews are positive, which makes it hard for me to recommend choosing Griffin's product over either one.
At the end of the day, the iTrip AUX Bluetooth remains a good piece of tech, and if you get your hands on one for less than full price, that would be the way to go.