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The iTrip plugs into the headphone socket (or USB port, depending on the model) of the iPod and converts the audio output into an FM radio signal, which can then be picked up by appliances such as car radios. It has a range of about fifteen feet (four and a half metres), and can broadcast on any FM frequency from 76.0 to 108.0 MHz (though the default US configuration is limited to 87.9 to 107.9 MHz). Instead of using batteries, the iTrip draws its power from the iPod through the remote connector port and the dock connector for an iTrip with a dock connector.
The main iTrip product, which is still sold just under the name iTrip, consists of just the main cylindrical unit, the headphone jack, and remote connector. Instead of external buttons, the iTrip uses the iPod itself to control the broadcast frequency. Software bundled with the iTrip adds a playlist to iTunes containing audio files with a special set of tones in them. When this playlist is synched to the iPod, the user plays one of the tracks corresponding to the desired frequency, which causes the connected iTrip to adjust frequency. To avoid the accidental retuning of the iTrip, each sound file has a short pause followed by another tone that causes the tuning command to abort.
The iTrip Black is identical to the standard iTrip but black with white lettering, to match the design of the iPod U2 Special Edition.
Shortly after the release of the iPod mini, Griffin introduced an iTrip mini designed to fit the iPod mini. The unit's body is designed to continue the iPod mini's profile, and the headphone jack and remote connector are located to the side to match the same location on the iPod mini. Aside from these physical shape differences, the functionality of the iTrip mini is the same as the standard iPod iTrip.
iTrip with LCD
In August 2005, Griffin launched a new version of the iTrip which incorporates a backlit LCD and a knob on the right hand side to control the iTrip's settings. It also introduced two sets of broadcast frequencies, US and International, and two transmission modes, LX and DX. The LX mode provides stereo audio at the expense of signal quality, while DX mode broadcasts a stronger, mono signal. The iTrip with LCD is sold alongside the 'original' format iTrip.
iTrip with Dock Connector
In October 2005, shortly after the launch of the 5th Generation iPod, a version of the iTrip that uses the lower dock connector was announced, following the removal of the remote control connector from the 5th Generation. This use of the dock connector makes it compatible with 3rd, 4th and 5th Generation iPods, iPod mini, iPod nano, and iPod touch though the design is targeted primarily at the main iPod line. The iTrip with Dock Connector incorporates an LCD screen as with the iTrip with LCD, and is controlled by a switch on the side. It comes in black or white, to match the colour options of the iPod.
In December 2005 Griffin introduced the iTrip Auto, a version geared exclusively for use in a vehicle. It resembles the USB cord that comes with the iPod, but contains the FM transmitter inline with the cord as well as a car charger at the end of the cord. This is particularly useful for long trips and for charging your iPod when in the car without having to purchase multiple adapters and cords. This version of the iTrip also optimizes the audio coming out of the iPod so no volume adjustments need to be made on the iPod itself, thus allowing you to control the volume exclusively through your car's radio.
Griffin Technology further expanded the iTrip Auto line with the iTrip Auto Universal, iTrip Auto Universal +, and iTrip Auto for Sansa. The iTrip Auto Universal is now discontinued, having been replaced by the iTrip Auto Universal + (pronounced "Universal Plus"), which includes a USB port to charge the player using its standard charger, maintaining the ability to play music through the audio line-out. A version of iTrip Auto is made specifically to connect with a SanDisk Sansa through its proprietary dock connector.
iTrip for nano
Also in October 2005, a version of the iTrip designed exclusively for the iPod nano was announced. It connects to the iPod nano via the dock connector and headphone socket on the base in a 'sled' design: the iPod nano sits in front of the main body of the iTrip which is roughly the same shape and size as the iPod nano itself, and extends underneath it to connect to the base. The iTrip's settings are controlled onscreen with the iPod itself. A USB port is also included on the base to allow charging/synching without removing the iTrip. This iTrip also introduces a 3-station memory, a Japanese frequency mode and dynamic volume control branded SmartSound.
iTrip for PSP
In March 2006 Griffin produced a version of the iTrip especially for the PlayStation Portable. This device would slip onto the bottom of the PSP unit, plugging into the headphone jack as well as the charger connector to keep it in place. In order to allow the user to charge the PSP while having the iTrip connected, there is an alternate charger connector at the bottom.
- The relatively low power output of the iTrip makes it unsuitable for use in large urban areas because of the number of other radio signals. This is compounded by the fact that strong FM signals can bleed over into neighboring frequencies making the frequencies unusable with the iTrip. The Griffin website does provide U.S. users with a web page called Station Finder which gives details of available frequencies of different U.S. cities. In addition, an iTrip may be hacked to use a larger antenna that allows for use in urban areas. However, this violates U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules.
- Because they draw power from the remote control port on the iPod, the original iTrip, iTrip with LCD and iTrip mini prevent the simultaneous use of the wired remote or extra headphones. The later versions that use the dock connector allow access to the headphone jack; the newer iPod models at which they are aimed do not have the connector for a wired remote anyway.
- Due to changes in FCC regulations, newer models of the iTrip have a range much less than the 15 feet that the older models use. Depending on the frequency it is broadcasting on, it can be anywhere from 3 feet to 1 inch.
When the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) made a recommendation to member states to introduce FM low power transmitters, iTrip became available in European countries, with the appropriate CE Marks appearing on them.
Within the CEPT, in the case the of the members states that also belong to the European Union the situation is as follows. In 2006, the legislative powers for harmonization of the technical conditions for use of spectrum for a wide variety of short-range devices, including applications such as alarms, local communications equipment, door openers and medical implants were transferred from the EU Member States to the European Union by Decision of the European Commission 2006/771/EC. Therefore European States no longer have legislative powers in this field, but the powers to police and impose sanctions for non-respect of this EU acts remain in the hands of the Member States. Following the recommendation of the CEPT, by Decision of the European Commission 2009/381/CE amending Decision 2006/771/EC on harmonization of the radio spectrum for use by short-range devices , in the frequencies of 87,5-108 MHz, micro FM transmitters of less than 50 nanowatts of effective radiated power are allowed. Since then, these FM transmitters are allowed to enter and are being marketed in the territory of the European Union for use by consumers, as long as they bear the CE mark. For countries that belong to the CEPT but are not Member States of the European Union, national laws apply and reference must be made to legal procedures in each country.
- United Kingdom use
On 23 November 2006 OFCOM, the UK radio communications body, announced that from 8 December 2006 the use of certain low power FM transmitters, which wirelessly connect MP3 players and other personal audio devices to radios and in-car entertainment systems, would be legal for use in the UK.
Consumer demand has led to a European policy to develop a harmonized technical approach designed to limit the potential of interference to other wireless devices.
- Explanation of how to hack the iTrip by adding a larger antenna, and how to enable European frequencies
- iTrip product info page by Griffin Technology
- Register article announcing OFCOM's Decision to Legalise the iTrip in the UK
- Lists unused US FM frequencies in a given area