Since the dawn of time, mankind has reached for the stars and continually pushed the envelope in technology and science, testing human limits and trying to reach the next level. First came the wheel, then the car, followed shortly by the airplane, space travel, and then… portable music! It’s oddly convenient that the apex of human engineering prowess (reaching the moon), suddenly came to a halt very close to the time that people gained the ability to listen to music on-the go. Did we really trade in walking on the moon for rock music and the cassette tape? Well, maybe… maybe not, but who are we to judge? We have subwoofers in our cars now and phones that let us stream to our hearts content. Helping us bridge the gap between portable music and our car stereos is ROAV, with their SmartCharge device. Gone now are the days of plugging auxiliary cords into headphone jacks in our cars; we’ve got Bluetooth, baby. So, here I am today to tell you how you too can free your car audio experience from the wires of the world.
Overview: I can remember it like it was yesterday… my first CD player, around the year 1994. I saved up my birthday money and bought my very own RCA CD Player – and it even had anti-skip protection! Of course, before that was my RCA Cassette Player for mixed tapes, and prior to that was my Sony Walkman Radio – yup, not even a cassette player. It was always great to be able to listen to music wherever I went, but the only solution for using these devices in the car was to connect it to a Cassette Converter that connected to the device using a headphone jack, and then the tape would plug directly into the cassette player of the car – yes, it was mostly as terrible as it sounds. Unfortunately, video killed the radio star, and CD’s killed cassettes – in this order. Eventually car companies ditched cassette players in favor of CD’s, and the mother of invention brought us FM Modulators, which cut the cord between the headphone jack and stereo head unit. Well, the next leap in wireless transmission arrived in the form of Bluetooth, which ROAV cleverly took advantage of to bridge the gap between our phones, and cars without Bluetooth connections – which is surprisingly a lot. Utilizing the ROAV SmartCharge F3, we get FM modulation through a Bluetooth connection, and clever charging adapter which even has a 3.5mm headphone jack if you want a stronger connection.
How does it work? The SmartCharge allows you to connect your phone to the device over Bluetooth and then broadcasts its own signal over FM radio signal straight to your car stereo. All you have to do is set your stereo to a vacant station and then dial the SmartCharge to the same channel, e.g., 88.3, or any other station in your area that may not be broadcasting anything. Once it’s dialed in and your phone or device is connected, your music will play over the speakers in your car, and the world becomes a better place again! It really is a novel invention that makes life so much easier, especially for those of us who live in a world where we don’t have a Bluetooth connection in our car to directly connect our phones. Additionally, the SmartCharge allows you to answer phone calls as well. All you have to do is hit the “play” button on the SmartCharge when you have an incoming call and it will allow you to talk to someone over your car speakers – yay for safety.
– (1) Standard USB Charging Port
– (1) Quick Charge 3.0 USB Charging Port
– FM Transmitter
– Bluetooth connection for Audio
– Auxiliary Port Connection
– SD Card Support for Media
Charging Port: The name “SmartCharge” is not misleading. In addition to playing music, The SmartCharge F3 also has a standard USB port on the side of it that you can plus your phone into. And if that’s not enough, it has the latest and greatest in charging technology – Quick Charge 3.0! This allow you to recharge your phone and keep it powered up for those long car rides while you’re listening to tunes, or generally just lets your top your battery off when you’re away from home.
FM Transmitter Connection: The overall sound quality of the SmartCharge is adequate for music using the FM transmitter. I had no problems listening to music and enjoying the volume/quality. I would have liked for the volume to be a little bit louder. It came in at about 65-70% of what I would consider “full volume” as compared to what native radio stations were able to produce, but it did work well enough for me to listen to my music comfortably. It’s definitely way better than the alternative, which is not being able to listen to my music in the car. It’s no substitute for a solid auxiliary cord connection or native Bluetooth, and it’s also susceptible to radio interference if you suddenly you enter an area where the station you are using has a broadcast signal in range. The voice calls aren’t that great. I tried several times and the only way I could get a reliable phone call connection was to connect the SmartCharge to my car using an auxiliary cord. I tried with three different phones and the connection didn’t improve – I tried my iPhone XR, Note 9, and BlackBerry KE2 LE. The sound experience was consistent for music, but the voice calls sounded faint, and echoed on the receiving end. I couldn’t get it to work any better without connecting my aux cord.
Aux Cord Connection: Using the SmartCharge with the aux cord is fantastic. It’s like magically creating a native Bluetooth experience in your car – granted you have an auxiliary cord port on your stereo. One of the things I hate the most about my family car (2009), is that it doesn’t have a built-in Bluetooth connection for me to connect my phone to, but it has an Auxiliary Cord Port. Well, all you have to do is plug the SmartCharge into the power outlet and then bam! Using the aux cord, you can pipe the connection directly to your car, which then creates the Bluetooth capability that I, and you, have always wanted. This creates a crisp and clear connection that isn’t subject to interference, volume drop-offs and poor quality calls. It’s just as solid as any connection to a Bluetooth speaker or earphones, and voice calls are fantastic!
Conclusion: I think there are still some bugs to work out in the Matrix, but overall if you’re looking for a way to connect your phone to your Bluetooth-less car, then the SmartCharge is a fantastic option. Maybe you will have better luck with phone calls on FM mode, but the music experience is perfectly fine for most people, I’m assuming. However, if you’re fortunate enough to have an auxiliary port in your car, then you can enjoy a fantastic Bluetooth connection and sound experience! The price tag is $29.99, which I think is pretty fair for what you’re getting. ROAV makes quality products, and this one is also backed by their 15-month warranty. Overall, I give it one out of two possible thumbs up.
If you’re interested in picking up one of ROAV’s SmartCharge F3 devices for your car, you can find them on Amazon for the everyday price of $29.99, and they even qualify for Prime 2-Day shipping if you’re an Amazon Prime member – https://www.amazon.com/SmartCharge-Transmitter-Bluetooth-Dedicated-ROAV/dp/B07DFBHDBT?tag=androidcentral00-20&ascsubtag=UUacUvbUpU6458847 – As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them down in the comments section.