Gadling gear review: Satechi SoundFly View Bluetooth FM transmitter

One of the great features of owning a smartphone is that it allows us to carry our entire library of music, not to mention stream live audio or video, anywhere we go. That feature is great for when you get stuck in line at the DMV or are stranded in the waiting room at your doctor’s office, so it seems only natural that smartphone users would want to listen to that music or streaming audio in their car as well. But unless you have a stereo that accepts external input in some fashion, that can be a challenging, and potential expensive proposition. The SoundFly View Bluetooth FM transmitter from Satechi not only accomplishes that feat, but also brings hands-free phone calls to the package as well. Better yet, it manages to do all of that, without breaking the bank.

The SoundFly View is a small, relatively simple device, which is powered by a 5V port in your vehicle. Once plugged in and activated, it is a two step process for getting the SoundFly to wirelessly transmit music or phone calls to your in-car audio system. First, you need to pair it with your cell phone using Bluetooth technology and then you’ll need to find a clear, unused, FM radio channel to accept the transmission. Both processes are fairly straight forward, and easily accomplished, and I had my iPhone sharing music and making phone calls in just a few minutes.

Using an FM transmitter to get music from an mp3 player or smartphone onto your car stereo is not a new concept, although the technology is far from refined. In theory, it should work well, but low-powered FM transmitters can be easily over powered by radio signals, and finding a free channel to use in larger urban areas can be a real challenge at times. Satechi hasn’t completely overcome those issues, but for the most part, the SoundFly’s built in FM transmitter is strong enough to resist outside signals, allowing you to listen to your music, or stream Pandora or Spotify, while driving. To accomplish that, you simply set your radio to an unused channel, then set the SoundFly to transmit on that same channel. Sound quality is surprisingly good, with solid bass and clear vocals, which hasn’t always been the case with similar devices in the past.Once you have the system up and running, the SoundFly’s two-inch display shows artist and track information for the music you’re listening to and operates as a caller-ID for incoming phone calls as well. That screen is solid, and accomplishes what we need, but it is far from remarkable. Satechi has given us the ability to adjust the contrast, and choose from three different background colors, but no one will be wowed by the quality of the LCD display.

As mentioned, aside from streaming audio from our smartphone, the SoundFly also allows us to make hands-free cell phone calls. When paired with your phone, the device downloads your phone book, giving you access to it directly on screen, or if your phone supports voice commands, you can simply tap a button and tell it to dial a contact. While on a call, the incoming audio is transmitted to your car speakers, while a built in mic picks up what is said and sends it to the person on the other end. That mic does a solid job for how small it is, but it will pick-up background noise from time to time, making it a challenge for others to hear what is said. Your mileage will vary of course, but a quieter vehicle helps to keep background noise to a minimum.

Satechi managed to pack in a few extra features to the SoundFly View that help to make it an even better option for drivers. For example, it has built in audio-in and out ports that help to improve sound quality over the wireless technologies that are used and extend its functionality to devices that don’t include Bluetooth at all. It also includes a USB port that can be used to charge your devices while on the go, while an SD-card slot gives you the option to skip the device altogether. A handy remote control is also included, although it is debatable whether or not a remote is needed when the SoundFly can be situated so that it is right at your fingertips.

All in all, this is a very good option for streaming audio and making phone calls in your car. Travelers making long road trips will love all the functionality that Satechi has put into this device, and it makes a great companion for any smartphone. It even works with Siri on the iPhone 4S, giving you the ability to use her services hands-free as well. Considering the SoundFly View is just $79.95, it is also an affordable option for those looking for a way to integrate their phones more fully with their vehicle, without paying hundreds of dollars. With the Spring Break and summer road trip seasons ahead, this device could be a very popular one with travelers hitting the road this year.