Review: Bluelounge Saidoka Lightning Dock
No company's new products have been impacted more negatively by Apple's recent Lightning transition than Bluelounge's. Previously known for beautiful but slightly too expensive docking and charging solutions, Bluelounge used CES to debut a lineup of new Lightning products, including a novel new keychain-sized cable called Kii ($40) and a desktop iPhone charging dock called Saidoka ($50). The company's representatives seemed to know that the prices weren't right -- Dock Connector versions would each be offered for a whopping $20 less -- but Bluelounge suggested that it didn't have any choice given Apple's higher fees for Lightning connectors. So what we're left with today are two accessories that are both quite nice, but just too expensive for what they offer.
Saidoka is one of the cooler-looking options among the small selection of iPhone 5 docks currently on the market. The plastic dock is a rounded rectangle, and almost entirely flat, with a gentle inner recline leading down to the Lightning connector at the bottom. It is designed to sit like a tray atop a table or desk, positioning the iPhone’s screen upwards at roughly the same angle as Apple’s keyboards and Magic Trackpad. Bluelounge includes a rubber insert for bare iPhones, while the bare plastic unit allows for very limited case compatibility when it’s not installed. A fabric Micro-USB cable is also included, and plugs into the top edge for charging and syncing.
At 3.25” wide, 4.5” deep, and a little over 0.5” tall, Saidoka is quite compact—larger than an iPhone, but smaller than the Magic Trackpad. The glossy white or black plastic shell feels somewhat hollow, although not necessarily cheap. Underneath are two micro-suction strips embedded in a plate of matte plastic. Peel off a thin layer of plastic and they’ll help to anchor the dock on your desk, so that it doesn’t move around if it gets jostled, or if the iPhone vibrates. Because it’s not a traditional adhesive, the material doesn’t leave a mark, and be repositioned at will. Saidoka is not, however, designed to be stuck to a wall; the iPhone’s angle would be precarious and the suction strips wouldn’t be secure enough to hold everything reliably.
Inserting and removing the iPhone is as easy as snapping it in place, and pulling it out when you’re done. Thanks to the micro-suction strips, the dock won’t tug outwards with the iPhone as you pull away. Unfortunately, Bluelounge has to deal with the same case compatibility issues that other licensed Lightning accessory makers have been stuck with. Because Apple mandates a considerable amount of plastic around the Lightning plug, and contradictorily specifies smaller port openings for cases, very few cases actually allow an electronic connection. The only ones that work with Saidoka are shell-style cases, which we don’t generally recommend using due to their poor protection.
We truly like the concept behind Saidoka, but unfortunately, the issues of case compatibility and price greatly reduce the value. The display angle is smart, and the ease of use is right where it should be; the overall design is simple, but not boring. Unfortunately, $50 is just too much to pay, particularly when using a case—something most iPhone users do—is so limited. These factors make Saidoka almost the definition of a B- rating. It’s a good idea and a pretty good product, but the price and case compatibility reduce what otherwise would have been broad general appeal.