We’ve written extensively about the frustrating limitations Apple imposes on accessory developers for Lightning connectors and case compatibility. The iPhone maker will not license Lightning docks unless they have a wide plastic housing around the plug that all but prevents the use of cases. RND Power Solution’s Sync & Charge Dock ($35) is the latest accessory to suffer from these rules. The plastic dock comes with a Lightning plug built-in, and was at first advertised as being compatible with most cases. Since our First Look was posted, the manufacturer has stepped back those claims, now saying only that some cases will work, including shells and OtterBox’s Defender Series Case, in addition to bare iPhones. That’s a shame, because the price tag would otherwise make this one pretty appealing.
Sync & Charge Dock is a plastic disc just under four inches in diameter, available in black or white. Right in the middle, the plastic is molded to rise up and form a rear support for your iPhone or iPod touch. Directly in front of that is the Lightning plug, surrounded by gray plastic. It moves back and forth, from a resting position of 75°, forward to 105°. Also included is a removable insert, designed to be left on when no case is being used, and taken off when one is. Unlike the rest of the plastic, which is glossy, this piece has a matte finish. There are ridges on either side to make it clear that the accessory is not for iPads, another Apple requirement.
A micro-USB cable is included with the dock, and plugs cleanly into the back, eliminating the need to purchase one separately. As the product’s name suggests, you’re able to charge, as well as sync if connected to a computer. It’s clear that RND tried to get the material around the Lightning plug as small as it could to offer the greatest amount of compatibility. Instead of a solid rectangle all the way across, it’s narrower on the ends, and bulges out around the plug itself. Regrettably, this isn’t enough to ensure full case compatibility. Cases with standard round cutouts around the ports will be blocked.
RND’s dock may not be the fanciest around, but for $35, it’s the least expensive turnkey Lightning solution we’ve yet found. Belkin’s Charge + Sync Dock costs only $5 more, and has a better design, but doesn’t even attempt case compatibility. That’s why the two come in at the same rating level, earning a limited recommendation. This is the most easily accessible way to plop an iPhone into a stand that can charge it up, and at least some cases will work, which is better than none at all.
Company and Price
Company: RND Power Solutions
Model: Sync & Charge Dock
Compatible: iPhone 5/5c/5s, iPod touch (5G)