Review: Pyramid Distribution iClooly Alumi Stand for iPhone 3G/3GS
Way back in 2008, Japan-based developer RockridgeSound released an interesting but expensive little stand for the iPod touch called iClooly, later offering a separate version for the iPhone 3G and 3GS. This month, a company called Pyramid Distribution belatedly brought iClooly for the iPhones to the United States, renaming it the iClooly Alumi Stand, and offering it at a modestly more reasonable price of $40. The result is a product that is competitive with earlier competitors from companies such as Just Mobile, Thermaltake, and others, though it has its own issues that are worth noting.
Unlike Just Mobile’s Xtand and Thermaltake’s Luxa2 H1-Touch, iClooly Alumi Stand actually encloses your entire iPhone 3G or 3GS inside of a frame that extends around 0.2” beyond each edge of the device. Parroting the design of the Apple iMac computer that was then in production when iClooly was first released, there’s an aluminum leg at the bottom, and a device frame that starts with a half-inch of aluminum—the only part that’s visible to the user when the device is facing forwards.
Also like the iMac is its use of a thin layer of black plastic that holds the iPhone inside while providing radio transparency through the entire back of the frame. This design enables iClooly to have pushable button covers for the iPhone’s Sleep/Wake and volume buttons, while leaving holes for the top headphone and bottom Dock Connector ports. Notably, RockridgeSound obscures the ringer switch altogether, most likely because it couldn’t find a way to let you either properly penetrate the plastic with a finger, or cover the switch with something more flexible than the rest of the hard shell. A plastic button on the back pops the iPhone out of the frame when you’re not using it.
There are two ways to look at this design relative to the aforementioned Xtand and H1-Touch alternatives. First, there’s no doubt that iClooly is a sleeker and more protective design—what it borrows from Apple works very well to hold and shield the iPhone 3G, not that protection is really critical for something that’s just going to sit on a desk. The aluminum leg at the bottom permits iMac-like tilting of the screen through roughly 15 degrees of freedom, as well as 90 degree rotation from completely vertical to one horizontal position, solely with the headphone port facing to the left, and the Dock Connector to the right.
In that way and others, iClooly is more limiting than its competitors, which have open sides for greater device compatibility, and rotate completely in a circle rather than only partially in one direction. The aluminum part of the iClooly frame slightly obscures parts of the speaker and microphone at the bottom, and limits connectors to ones that are as thin as or perhaps a little thicker than Apple’s own. For the headphone port hole, which wasn’t cut properly on our review sample, a headphone port adapter cable is included to enable use of iClooly with cables thinner than Apple’s. And the cable pass-through hole cut in the bottom leg is just large enough for Apple’s USB plug to squeeze in, but won’t accommodate anything that’s much larger.
Ultimately, iClooly has one advantage over its competitors—a cleaner, more obviously Apple-derived look—but with the disadvantages of somewhat less impressive build quality, accessory compatibility, and at least by comparison with H1-Touch, case and multi-device compatibility. Xtand offers a somewhat better design at the same price, and H1-Touch a considerably more advanced one at a higher price. Putting aside how late it is in arriving on U.S. shores, we’d call iClooly good but not great overall, and thus worthy of our general recommendation; a more polished sequel for the same price would surely be worthy of checking out.