Review: iHome iPLWBT5 Docking Clock Radio for iPhone and Apple Watch
iHome's iPLWBT5 ($130) is an alarm clock radio with a built-in Lightning dock, and a built-in Apple Watch charger, allowing users to charge a Lightning-based iPhone and Apple Watch simultaneously with no cables. iPLWBT5 has typical alarm clock functions, while also letting users wake up to audio from a docked device or Bluetooth — yes, the speaker is also Bluetooth compatible. An extra USB charging port can be found on the back of the clock radio, so users can even charge a third device, if they so desire. The alarm clock's display has an auto dimming feature to adjust to nearby light. Other features include dual alarms, speakerphone functionality, and auto sync for the time — iHome's clock radio will immediately sync with a docked iOS device to display the time accurately.
iPLWBT5 has a rather typical iHome design — mostly plastic, it’s utilitarian but inoffensive, and it will fit in well in many bedrooms. Weighing about a pound, the alarm clock radio is about 9.5” at its widest point (including the charger), about 3” high (not including the iPhone rear support) and 4.65” deep. It’s about the size you’d expect an alarm clock radio to be, regardless of any charging support.
Stereo speakers are on the front of the alarm clock, with a display showing the time and date. The display can also show which mode the clock is in for listening, and if any alarms have been set. The top of the speaker has typical alarm clock radio controls — volume and playback controls, alarm, mode, sleep, speakerphone, and power buttons, and of course, a snooze button. The back of iPLWBT5 has ports for the clock radio’s (somewhat bulky) AC adapter, USB charging, and an aux-in port. Buttons on the back are used for setting/syncing the time with your iOS device, and Bluetooth pairing.
The Apple Watch charger is straightforward — it’s a built-in charging disc on the side of the alarm clock radio. It doesn’t support Nightstand mode, but considering this is an alarm clock, there’s no need for it. The Lightning charger is well-implemented — the connector can move back and forth to accommodate a device, and a small, clear plastic piece with a rubber pad offers rear support. A rubber pad around the Lightning connector can be removed to accommodate cases. We docked both an iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus with different cases without issue. The absolute bulkiest cases on the market might cause some problems, but most users should be able to dock and charge an iPhone or iPod with ease.
iPLWBT5 offers a number of ways to listen to music — Bluetooth, aux-in port, or directly from a docked device. The sound is comparable to another iHome alarm clock we recently reviewed, the iZBT10 Zenergy. Which is to say, the sound isn’t exactly impressive, but it’s perfectly acceptable for a bedside alarm clock. The clock radio performed very well in speakerphone tests, with both callers reporting clear, strong sound. iPLWBT5 also has battery backup, so if your power goes out, the clock radio and alarm settings shouldn’t be affected.
iHome’s clock radio may not have the most eye-catching design of anything you can put on your nightstand or dresser, but it’s hard to find a product more useful for Apple Watch users. iPLWBT5 is a great case-compatible charging dock for iPhone and Apple Watch, and for the same price as competing standalone iPhone/Apple Watch charging docks, it offers all the extra functionality of a full alarm clock radio. It also has Bluetooth speaker compatibility, and an extra charging port for good measure.