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REVIEW: Griffin Navigate Inline Controller and FM Radio for iPhone and iPod

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There are a number of reasons why you may want to keep your iPhone or iPod in your pocket. Maybe you’re in a shadier part of town and you don’t want to flash your shiny (and expensive) gadget. Maybe you’re out on a run and you can’t fumble around in your pockets. Putting “total control… at your fingertips” is the new Navigate Inline Controller from Griffin Technology.

At first glance, I almost thought that the Navigate was yet another Griffin FM transmitter, but that’s not at all what the Navigate is meant to do. Instead, it’s a remote control that brings tactile feedback back to the iPhone and iPod.

Features at a Glance

According to the official product page, the Griffin Navigate comes with the following features:

  • Compact inline remote control and radio for iPhone and iPod
  • Built-in OLED shows screen info from your iPod
  • Provides Playlist, EQ, and Shuffle Mode navigation
  • Play, Stop, Pause, Forward, Backward, and Scan controls that your fingers can locate by touch
  • FM stereo radio with RDS track info display and 4 station presets

As with the Griffin RoadTrip, the controller for the Griffin Navigate gives you a tactile feel. In this way, you can navigate (no pun intended) through your music library without actually looking at a screen. This is great for when you are driving or are otherwise occupied in some way.

Setting Up and Controls

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My initial impressions of the Griffin Navigate are that the build quality is in line with the quality we’ve come to expect from Griffin. The choice of materials is quite good and the remote doesn’t feel cheap at all.

For the controls, you get a slider lock on the top and then a series of face controls that surround the high-contrast OLED display. On the left is the play/pause button and on the right is the Mode button. The volume controls and forward/back buttons are located above and below the display.

Each of these slightly rubberized buttons has an imprinted Braille-like symbol on it. As mentioned, you can “feel” for the buttons without having to look at them. The controller itself is about the size of matchbox.

Displaying the Track Info

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And this is partly why I think the Griffin Navigate is such a cool product. It connects to your iPod or iPhone (used with a 2G iPod nano here) via the dock connector in the base. All of the core information about your iPod is being transferred through the cable, so you are able to see the artist and track names on the Navigate’s display.

On the other end of the Navigate, you can connect whatever 3.5mm audio device you’d like. The typical utility would be with a standard set of headphones, but you could just as easily connect this to a compatible speaker system instead.

In addition to showing the track info, you can also use the Griffin Navigate to surf through your playlists, select songs based on artist, and even tweak your equalizer settings. The display is simplified, to be sure, but you can do just about everything that your iPod can do right from the remote.

Bonus FM Radio Function!

I find it a little silly that the iPod lacks an FM radio when just about every other MP3 player on the market lets you jam to your local deejay. The Griffin Navigate overcomes this shortcoming by providing FM radio (not an FM transmitter) to your iPod. Further more, it is compatible with RDS track info, so you can get the name of the station and song, if available.

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It’s not available just yet, but Griffin will be launching the iFM Radio Browser through the App Store soon. This “standalone radio interaction program” for the iPhone and iPod touch automatically populates the FM tuning menu with local stations. You can also view the last several songs heard, the radio station name, and so forth.

A Handy Inline Remote Control

The Griffin Navigate isn’t going to be everyone, since not everyone can justify spending $59.99 on a wired iPod remote. That said, people who do want something like this will find a lot of utility here. The inline controller truly duplicates (almost) all the iPod functionality, letting you flip through playlists and see current track info. The FM radio function is a definite bonus.

Audio quality is not lost in the process, because the Navigate uses the digital connection of the dock connector, translating those pure tunes through to a 3.5mm jack. If the Navigate were to also function as an FM transmitter, Griffin would have a huge winner on its hands.

Overall, the Griffin Navigate gets an 8.0/10.

About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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