AirZone FM Follow Me
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Previously I have checked out various in-car entertainment devices for linking the car radio to MP3 players and various iPod devices. Using either a cable to link to the radio’s auxiliary socket (not all radios have this feature) or an FM transmission signal, these solutions relied on a connection to the car’s cigarette light socket to provide the necessary power required by the device. In some cases there was the additional benefit that the music player’s battery would be recharged. Gear4, however, with its AirZone FM Follow Me product has adopted a different approach with regards to supplying power. Rather than rely on the car to supply the power, Gear4 takes the power from the media player which has to be an iPod of the Phone, Touch, Classic, Nano or Mini variety.
The kit consists of a black AirZone FM unit and a small User Manual. As well as offering its different route to sourcing its power, the AirZone FM Follow Me is the smallest device that I have come across for transmitting content from an iPod to a car’s radio. The unit measures 52 x 28 x 7mm (W x H x D) and can easily fit into a pocket without causing any unsightly bulge.
When you connect the AirZone FM unit to an iPod, it will turn the player on and automatically scan the airwaves for the five clearest frequencies using the built-in ClearSearch technology. These frequencies will be stored as pre-sets. You then need to pair your car radio to one of these frequencies and press the play control on the iPod. If your car radio supports RDS (Radio Data System) technology then any available track and artist details will be shown on the radio’s display.
RDS technology can also provide an additional feature that is indicated in the title of this product. Once up and running, you can switch between the available channels using up and down controls on the AirZone FM unit. RDS technology will ensure that your car radio follows suit and changes its frequency to match the AirZone unit. This explains the “Follow Me” part of the product’s title.
My initial experiences with this product were less than positive –it just refused to work when connected to an iPod. Once the unit had been replaced, I was able to make the necessary connection between an iPod Classic and my car radio for transmitting a signal. Switching between frequencies was easy although not instantaneous – there was a short delay before the radio retuned. How useful the Follow Me feature will be is debatable. I have yet to encounter any problem, even on long distant journeys, that required a change of frequency when using other devices.
It quickly became obvious that, unlike other devices performing a similar task, the performance of AirZone FM Follow Me relied a great deal on having line-of-sight between the two elements. If, for whatever reason, the iPod turned or slid under an obstruction, such as a bag on the passenger seat, then there was noticeable signal break up and interference. Securing the iPod in a fixed position with the AirZone FM Follow Me pointing direct at the car radio alleviated the problem.
The AirZone FM Follow Me can cover the full band channels (87.6 – 107.9). You can store up to five pre-sets but lacks the ability to recharge the host iPod device when in operation. Gear4 has priced this product at £59.99.
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