Plays iPhone music via car stereo
Charges iPhone while in use
Doesn’t always pick clearest stations
Occasional bursts of static
High list price
Finding a good iPhone FM transmitter isn’t easy. There are a lot of contenders and a lot of product features that need attention to create a good product. Monster’s iCarPlay 800 Wireless is a promising contender in the iPhone FM transmitter arena, but some interface difficulties and usability quirks combine to make place it in the middle of the pack.
A Solid iPhone FM Transmitter
The iCarPlay 800 Wireless is, in many respects, a standard iPhone FM transmitter. One end plugs into a car’s power adapter to charge the iPhone or iPod while in use. The other end attaches to the iPhone’s dock connector and lets you either tune into an FM station to send the iPhone’s music to the car stereo or scan to select an open station. It offers three preset stations and an LCD display to let you know what station you’re on.
When evaluating it for these features, the device does what it claims and works pretty well. But a lot of nuances and small shortcomings add up to a less-than-ideal experience.
Quirks and Shortcoming
To control the station that the iCarPlay 800 Wireless broadcasts over, you either scan for open signals or use the dial to tune it. Scanning is somewhat problematic. The scan button is the same as the third preset, which is held down to begin a scan. This was not immediately obvious. When I figured it out, the process of scanning took so long that I assumed that it wasn’t working. If you wait it out, though, scan works and does find stations.
The stations the iCarPlay 800 Wireless finds aren’t always clear or interference free. This is true of all iPhone FM transmitters, but the stations located by the Belkin TuneCast Auto Live were consistently clearer than those identified by the iCarPlay 800, even when using the devices in the same physical location.
If the station the device scans to isn’t to your liking, you can also tune in other stations manually. Doing this with a dial rather than a button just isn’t a good experience while driving. Clicking a button can be done easily with one hand, and without really looking at the device. Tuning the dial requires more attention and feels less safe, definitely something you don’t want with something designed for use in the car.
The iCarPlay is also prone to short, loud bursts of static, even on clear channels. This seems to happen most when skipping songs, and is unpleasant.
The Bottom Line
The iCarPlay 800 Wireless does what it sets out to do. Unfortunately, though, a user interface not ideal for driving and slow scanning that doesn’t deliver the clearest station combine to make other iPhone FM transmitters better choices.