Review: Arkon SuperCharge iPhone Car Dock
iPhone car mounts will likely surge in popularity after the launch of the new iPhone, thanks to iOS 6's newly built-in turn-by-turn navigation feature -- something that's coming to certain older iPhones as well. So it's only somewhat surprising that Arkon would choose now to release SuperCharge ($45), a iPhone 3GS/4/4S-compatible powered car mount. Built with the soon-to-be-classic 30-pin Dock Connector, SuperCharge both holds and powers the three last iPhones, using a screw and ball joint-based arm with a handsome adjustable frame that accommodates various cases.
Although it’s composed primarily of plastic, SuperCharge actually looks and feel quite nice. The curved, suction cup-equipped arm is connected by a ball joint to a rotating square on the back of the cradle. It’s held in place by a screw-on washer that can be loosened and tightened by hand, allowing you to get the arm just the right position. The square it’s attached to has three positions, allowing the iPhone to be used in a traditional portrait setup or either landscape position. At the bottom or left, depending on orientation, is a Mini-USB port. This is where the included car power adapter plugs in. Users have the choice of connecting the suction cup to their windshield or using the included adhesive-lined plate to attach it to the dashboard.
While the rest of SuperCharge is all black, the iPhone holder incorporates silver elements to add a bit of character. Viewed from the side it’s C-shaped, with a lip that juts out at 90° from the bottom, and a spring-loaded adjustable arm at the top. To insert your iPhone, you press a button, and the arm pops up on two metal posts. The iPhone fits onto the Dock Connector in almost any protective case, which is actually pretty surprising and a big win. We even tried the abnormally thick Otterbox Defender Series Case and found that it allowed for an electronic connection. A floating button in the center of the frame provides back support whether or not a case is used.
Arkon got a lot right with SuperCharge: current-generation iPhone owners looking for a way to mount and power their devices will find that this is an attractive, sensible solution that’s easy on the wallet. There are a few drawbacks, though: if you use the Dock Connector port to connect your iPhone for in-car audio, you’re out of luck with this mount. The headphone port is still accessible, assuming you’re willing to connect two cables and manage your iPhone’s volume level separately from your car’s speakers. Additionally, while the power supply is appreciated, it results in a cable hanging down from your windshield or dash, which can be unattractive and potentially dangerous. Users who plan on upgrading to the new iPhone when it’s released should hold back, and hope that Arkon quickly updates SuperCharge to accommodate Apple’s updated design. As-is, this version of SuperCharge is worthy of a strong general recommendation for current-generation iPhone users.