Review: Griffin TuneFlex AUX SmartClick for iPhone/iPod touch
In a perfect world, like above, the TuneFlex can position your iPhone perfectly. But not in the Camry…
Lord knows the Toyota Camry has its problems, but all the highly publicized defect recalls and deaths are really taking away from the biggest problem the Camry has – namely that there is no decent way to mount an iPhone it it. I’ve tired suction cup mounts which are annoying to have on a window with the various cables hanging down, I’ve tried junky vent clips that invariably break off and fall into the vent, never to be seen again, and cup holder mounts that pop out of the Camry’s removable cup holder divider. So it was with great hope, tempered with much pessimism, that I decided to try out Griffin’s TuneFlex AUX SmartClick for iPhone/iPod touch.
This kind of seems like a waste of plastic, no?
The TuneFlex AUX aims to solve most of your in-car iPhone/iPod needs by delivering power to your device, audio out (via the AUX jack in your car, if you have one), and a remote control for changing songs and such. I already had a car charger and a line out cable to my AUX port, so what really enticed me was the flexible positioning stand and the remote.
The TuneFlex consists of a cigarette adapter with a long, semi-flexible arm, to which you can attach a somewhat ridiculous assortment of adapters to fit whichever model iPod/iPhone you happen to own. The adapters hold your iPhone quite snugly, and there was pretty much zero wiggle room. Unfortunately, this custom fit method of securing the device means your iPhone/iPod will NOT fit in the cradle with pretty much ANY type of case you may use. So if you have a hard to remove case, removing it twice a day to dock the iPhone is going to be a pain. I would much rather see Griffin adapt an adjustable cradle design, one that can expand to fit all manner of devices.
Nope, you can’t leave your case on if you want to use the TuneFlex
Near the bottom of the TuneFlex is an AUX out port, as well as a volume adjustment dial. There is an included mini Stereo cable which is thinner than most I have used in the past, but this is actually a good thing as it is quite flexible, and much less obtrusive than my others.
Finally there is a remote control which can either be fastened to your car’s steering wheel via a velcro mount for easy thumb navigation while driving. The remote clips onto the mount magnetically, and can be popped off if you’d like to give “song skip control” to some backseat driver.
TuneFlex AUX in action
One of the few real issues I’ve had with the iPhone that I’ve never been able to really solve is navigating songs while driving. Obviously with the old school iPods and their physical controls, you could fast forward and skip songs without taking your eyes off the road. However, a touch screen is a whole other animal. Most of the time on my commute I am listening to podcasts and such, and as anyone who has ever listened to a podcast knows, you need to fast forward those. The TuneFlex’s remote is a godsend while driving, as it’s somewhat oversized buttons are easy to feel with the fingers and a simple press and hold of the forward button will begin fast forwarding it, while a short press will skip a song forward. The same thing obviously applies to reverse. Aside from those navigation controls, all you really have left is a play/pause toggle and “shuffle”.
If only the Camry’s adapter was up in the front of the console, I’d be set.
Recently I’ve been very into trying out various GPS apps for the iPhone, and that brings me to the other main reason I was so interested in the TuneFlex. As I mentioned earlier, my Camry has very limited options for mounting an iPhone. It was my hope that perhaps the TuneFlex’s posable arm would be able to put my iPhone right where I needed to have it so I could glance at a GPS app without taking my eyes too far off the road. Unfortunately, due to the two locations decided to place it’s cigarette adapters, this is not quite the case. The best I could do was place it in the adapter in the center console, which is about 12 inches too close to me to really be helpful, and I still need to turn my head and look down to see the screen.
Aside from placement, I found the TuneFlex AUX to work quite well in my daily driving. The audio was fine, although slightly lower than when I connected the AUX cable directly to my iPhone’s headphone jack for some reason even with the TuneFlex’s volume cranked to the maximum. The remote worked great, although I found myself removing it from the steering wheel as I found the velcro fastener to be annoying when I made turns and let the wheel slide through my palms.
Well, aside from placement issues, which I blame more on Toyota than Griffin, I have a couple minor complaints about the TuneFlex. First, the cigarette adapter at the bottom of the device is somewhat oddly designed, as I would say at least a good inch and a half or more is sticking up ABOVE the top of the outlet. This makes the stand a bit wobbly at times, and I even had a couple times where a patch of rough road caused the adapter to move just enough to lose electrical contact with the TuneFlex, which in turn pauses your music. I’m not sure if each model or cigarette adapter is a different depth or something and Griffin felt the need to design the plug to fit as many as possible, but in my car it just looked odd, and felt like it never truly got all the way in.
The adapter seems designed for deeper cigarette plugs, and can wobble a bit on rough roads.
But the most annoying thing about it is the adapter thing. First, as I’ve said, removing a case on a daily basis is a recipe for disaster, and you’ll eventually break the case. But adapters are just an annoying way to go in general, as I never know how/where to store the extra SEVEN adapters I am not using. Do I throw them away? What if I buy a nano? I really wish manufacturers would adopt the take a look at theadjustable iPhone bike mount we reviewed from USB fever. Two years later, that padded, adjustable mount, which can hold ANY iPod or iPhone, is still going strong. If rumors that the next iPhone will be slightly larger, even mm larger, than the current model are true, then you won’t be able to use the TuneFlex for it or ANY future Apple devices.
I suppose for me the only other thing I would wish is that Griffin made the TuneFlex about 6 inches longer. While odds are the longer the arm, the more wobble you inherently will introduce, that would allow me to achieve a more ideal placement. I seem to remember a previous TuneFlex-like model having a longer arm, although I can’t be positive. As you can see in the top picture in this post, even if you have a well-placed cigarette lighter in your car, the TuneFlex may still be a bit short. Ideally I would want my iPhone to be about where that AUX screen on her display is in order to be able to keep my eyes on the road better.
Griffin sells the TuneFlex AUX on their site for $80, but you can find it on Amazon for a more reasonable $47. Depending on how your car is laid out, the Griffin TuneFlex AUX may or may not be the perfect solution for your driving needs. While the AUX out and remote work great for me, for times when I need to be able to see my iPhone while driving, such as when using a GPS app, the TuneFlex is just not flexible (or long) enough.
Price: $79.99 ( $47 on Amazon).
Pros: Charges your iPhone, provides line out audio, includes a remote control for safer driving, fits most recent iPods and iPhones
Cons: Connection to cigarette adapter doesn’t feel snug, Lack of adjustable cradle means you need to remove your cases in order to charge your iPhone, bendable arm should be longer, may not work for your car depending on where your plugs are