Review: Apple iPhone Dock
Had history unraveled differently, there might have been only one Apple-branded iPhone dock, and it might have been different from the two that are available today. Instead, there are two iPhone docks from Apple: the iPhone Dock ($49) and the iPhone Dual Dock ($49), both specifically designed to mount, charge, and synchronize the iPhone on any flat surface, and the latter with one added feature and one additional limitation.
In the past, Apple’s iPod docks haven’t been generously equipped. Most of the time, docks have sold for $29 to $39 and shipped bare—just a piece of white plastic with a male Dock Connector front and center, audio and sometimes video ports in the back, and a spot to connect your iPod’s packed-in data cable to your computer. With the iPhone, that’s changed: both the iPhone Dock and Dual Dock come with a USB Power Adapter and a USB cable, which Apple now sells for $29 in a separate package. In other words, you’re now paying only $20 more for either Dock, which is a great deal by Apple standards, but not by absolute ones.
Both docks come only in glossy white plastic, and boast the same general features. iPhone charges in a recessed docking well that has been custom-adapted for its unique bottom speaker, microphone, and Home button, with a special vent that permits you to dock the phone and still use it in speakerphone or iPod audio playback modes without significant muffling or additional distortion. You can’t use iPhone with either dock if it’s inside of a case, but the full-body protective films we’ve tested work just fine. The back of each dock has a line-out port with fixed-level volume rather than the variable line-out found on Apple’s iPod Universal Dock (iLounge rating: B+), and the bottom has an anti-slip, anti-scratch rubber surface to keep the unit stable on your table or desk.
Dual Dock differs from the iPhone Dock in two key ways. Its USB cable is permanently grafted into its back, while the iPhone Dock’s cable is detachable, revealing a Dock Connector pass-through port on the Dock’s rear. And it also has a second charging hole, found immediately to the right of the iPhone’s well, which holds the iPhone Bluetooth Headset if you have one. This additional port widens the Dual Dock by roughly 3/4 of an inch, but otherwise leaves the design alone.
It could go without saying, but we found no problems whatsoever with either our iPhone Dock or iPhone Dual Dock when it came to charging and synchronizing the iPhone or charging the iPhone Bluetooth Headset. The Headset attaches magnetically to the Dual Dock’s port, just as it does with Apple’s Bluetooth Travel Cable, to provide additional stability while it’s charging. Both docks worked properly with the USB Power Adapters, as well.
Which of these docks is the smarter purchase? Given that they’re priced at the same $49, and come with the same general components, the Dual Dock is the wiser buy for anyone who is even considering the possibility of buying Apple’s iPhone Bluetooth Headset: though the Headset includes its own Dual Dock, more possible recharging stations is always a good idea, and the added width of the Dual Dock isn’t going to be a show-stopper for any prospective buyer. That said, the standard Dock’s detachable USB cable duplicates the one that comes with the iPhone, and offers you an easier to pack travel option than the hardwired cable of the Dual Dock. Whether that, or the Dock’s slightly smaller size, matters to you is a point of personal preference.
The only omissions from both of these docks are obvious ones. Unlike the iPod’s Universal Dock, neither the iPhone Dock nor the iPhone Dual Dock contains an Infrared sensor for optional remote controllability, nor does either have a video output port—currently, though not necessarily always a moot point given that the iPhone’s not presently capable of outputting video, but may be able to do so in the future. In other words, you’re getting only as much raw functionality here as you would from one of Apple’s iPod nano Docks. If you need a more sophisticated iPhone-ready dock, or one that can actually fit all iPod models, the iPod Universal Dock will be a better purchase, and less expensive, though you’ll have to deal with a nag screen whenever you connect, and won’t get a wall charger or cable in its box.