Review: Griffin Technology "Navigate"
I've lost count of how many iPods I have here in the office, but it's at least a dozen of various sizes, shapes, and technologies, ranging from a first generation mini-hard drive unit with a firewire connector to the very latest Classic (that's an odd expression, isn't it?)
In addition, I'm a big fan of my Apple iPhone, which among many other great features, is a splendid iPod in its own right and currently stores 1716 of my favorite CD tracks quite neatly (49 artists, 146 CDs), along with tons of apps, my phone book, and enough games to even keep my kids quiet for ten minutes.
The problem with all of these devices is that when you're ready to skip to the next track because you just don't want to hear the one that came up in shuffle mode, or even just prefer to jump past certain songs, it's a pain in the booty to pull your iPod or iPhone out of your pack, bag or pocket, unlock it, and tap the right button to get to the next track.
Apple's addressed that with the slick new iPod shuffle's smart controller headphone cord (a double-tap advances to the next track) but for the millions of other iPods in the market, what's the smart solution?
Enter the Griffin Technology Navigate device...
The Griffin Navigate is a two-trick pony, though, as it doesn't just offer an inline iPod control pad that hooks up to your iPod and lets you gain better control of your music experience, it's also an FM radio. Not an FM gizmo to let you play your iPod music on your car stereo by tuning in the correct frequency (though Griffin Technology sells one of those too) but a device that lets you receive FM channels.
In fact, the FM capabilities I found completely worthless and there was only one station I could receive well enough to listen to in my Boulder, Colorado neighborhood and it was a religious talk program. Egads. Now I will concede I don't live in a dense FM signal neighborhood, but my car stereo can certainly find at least twenty strong stereo signals that it can lock onto and play without any static or interference. The functionality of the FM tuner, for me, was worthless.
Fortunately the device redeems itself with its slick iPod controls!
First off, it's important to realize that this isn't something that hooks into the headphone jack of your iPod. It's a full-blown iPod connector, which is how it is able to control the iPod (or iPhone) itself. The connector has about 2' of cable with the controller on the other end, as you can see here:
As they say, "headphones not included".
You'll get a sense for what makes this gizmo so cool, however, with this closeup of the control unit itself:
Yes, in the middle of the controls is a bright, crisp OLED screen that shows you artist and track title for whatever is playing. As I type this I'm enjoying "Janet Jackson" "All Nite", and even in bright daylight, it's quite readable. Given that my iPhone (or iPod) can be stashed safely in a pocket or zippered bag, it's great to be able to see what's playing and, of course, to pick your next song rather than just press "next" until the first ten seconds sound like what you want to hear.
The controls, in order clockwise from 12 o'clock, are "next", "mode", "previous", "volume down", "play/pause", and "volume up". Pretty much everything I find I need from a remote. The Navigate lets you step through your iPod music by playlist, artist, album and shuffle mode.
As an aside, I have to give extra props to Griffin Technology for one great line in the included users guide, referring to their telephone customer support: "Your call will be answered by real human beings who actually know and use Griffin products." Nice!
Now, is it worth a whopping $59.99 when a new 2GB iPod shuffle from Apple is only $79? Well, a bit of online shopping found it for $39 at Provantage, so maybe the question is whether it's worth $40 for you to be able to control your iPod or iPhone without ever pulling it out of your pocket?
I really like this little device and particularly when I'm on the bus listening to music but don't really want to pull out my iPhone when I'm jammed in, being able to have a tiny remote control clipped to my shirt or bag strap is a big win, and the bright display is a huge benefit if, like me, you constantly dance through your music trying to find just the right track to tickle your fancy at the moment.
Griffin Technology 9562-NAVIGT Navigate Inline Controller, $59.99 MSRP. Learn more on the Griffin site.
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