Posts tagged: dock

Multi-function Dock and FM transmitter that doesn’t suck!

By , February 23, 2012 10:53 pm

I’ve been trying to find a way to get my iPhone, iPod, Nano, etc. to play in my cars without having to replace or hardwire some new deck into the car permanently. I’ve also tried all kinds of things like tape deck adapters and FM transmitters. They all mostly suck big-time. Recently I wanted to add handsfree capability to our family SUV (Volvo XC90) and discovered that it used a fiber optic based system that was ridiculously expensive to upgrade. So I went looking for another solution.

This is ridiculously cheap, but it works!

On Amazon I started reading all kins of reviews of units that basically had lukewarm to bad reviews. In this search I started thinking I could use another charger for the car that would double as a mount. You know how those web searches can become a big black hole.

Then I came across this All in One unit for the ridiculously low price of $12.69! No this is not a typo. For the price of a cable I could have a mount, charger, fm-transmitter, and a remote. It was ludicrous. Since I have Amazon Prime and the shipping was free, I figured, “what the heck”?

I also perused the reviews and there were a surprising number of good ones considering this cost less than I spent on lunch today.

So in 2 days time, good old Amazon Prime came through again and I had my unit in my hand. I snapped a picture to share with you and then started to fiddle with it. Besides the fact that this thing has more appendages than a baby in a bilirubin chamber (ok, total non-sequiter) it seemed pretty well made. The mounting was secure, all the parts fits and the cigarette lighter adapter even had some rubber protrusions to makes sure it fit tightly.

The “remote” was amusing. They tried to make it look like a ipod! I really didn’t expect it to work so well, but hey, in the next weeks the truth will come out.

My phone in the cradle with the remote to the right.
















OK, so how has it been in the past few weeks? Well, it’s a mixed bag. There are some goofy things, but also a surprising number of good things to report.  So let’s get to the deets.


  • The FM transmitter actually works! I get a light static, but other than that the music is clear and the GPS voice directions are fine! I am amazed. It’s so much better than the half a dozen other FM transmitters I have tried.
  • I can use it as a speakerphone for handsfree! This solves a world of problems for me. This is much better than a bluetooth headset or my Jabra clipped to the visor.
  • It charges the phone, but a little slowly. Actually, if I am running the GPS, it charges it TOO slowly. Sometimes the battery level goes down after a trip with the charger plugged in.
  • The crazy little remote actually works! It’s IR so you have to point it at the top of the unit, but it does work.
  • The stalk is bendable and stay put.
  • The phone mount is very solid and holds the phone securely.
  • There’s an additional USB port on the side to charge another device.


  • The GPS seems to get confused and loses the signal at times. This may have to do with the fact that my mount is on the center console so the phone doesn’t have a clear view of the sky. It is annoying as I lose the signal a lot more than when I had it mounted higher up on the dash with the vent mount.
  • Although the lighter adapter is tight, The weight of the unit caused the entire lighter assembly to wiggle around.
  • The FM frequency is on top of the unit, covered by the iPhone. It’s a pain to see the station if you need to change it in route.
  • The charger is weak.
  • For some reason my iPod touch will not transmit via FM if I plug in the main charger. I can use the USB port charger on the side without issue.
  • It a bit janky with all the cables coming out of it.


The bottom line is that for $12.69, this is a total steal. Consider that Apple charges $19.95 for the cable alone and it’s no comparison. In Summary, this is worth a try for the price. It ain’t pretty, but it’s functional.

Dock it to me! iPhone 4 charger and speaker by Altec Lansing.

By , February 4, 2012 7:37 pm

Here’s my latest new gadget. I was in the market for a new charging cable. The one that I normally use at my desk at home was getting all frayed and ready to bust at any time. If I goto the Apple store, they want $20 for the cable. If I goto Fry’s they have a “compatible” that goes for $7. Surely there must be something in between that would be better and perhaps get me more functionality.

Fits perfectly, charges the phone and sounds good too!

Now, I’ve been hankering to get some external speakers for my iPhone that wasn’t huge and a big hassle to have around. I started poking around Amazon (where I go for everything these days) and looking for a cable and a speaker.

Then a happy accident happened. For not much more than the cable from the Apple Store, I could get an Altec Lansing docking station with a speaker. The reviews were surprisingly good and the measurement showed that is was rather a small box. Now, I am very skeptical of things with very small speakers sounding any good at all. However; anything is better than just cranking up the built in (tiny) speaker of the iPhone. Besides, I was going to leave this sitting at my desk for background music while I worked in the office, so it didn’t need to have wicked bass or anything like that. It just had to sound good at low volumes.

So what the heck, I ordered it and thought I could always return it if it wasn’t any good. Boy was I surprised!

It has been over 3 weeks now and I can say without reservation that this little speaker / charger / dock really is a great device. As you can see from the picture at the right, it’s a simple unit. I just plug my phone in on top and the little green light illuminates to show me that it’s charging. Easy huh?

When I play music (like Pandora) the sound comes through the speaker and sounds really good. In fact, it’s a lot louder than I expected. As you can see in the picture, I usually end up turning the volume way down (about 1/4) and it still has plenty of volume to fill my office.

So in summary, I think this is a great little unit that fits the bill perfectly. It was about $28 which is much cheaper than I ever expected and it hardly takes up any space on my desk. I’ve been very happy with this unit. So, if you are thinking about a new cable to leave on your desk for charging, why don’t you notch it up a bit and get a full blown speaker and charger along with it!

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