The iPhone 5 Lightning Dock review

By , Nov 20, 2012

As most of you probably know by now, Apple has no plans to create a first party dock like it has for previous versions of the iPhone. That’s unfortunate, since I rely on a dock for doing videos and such, and I know plenty of others miss it as well.

The only recourse us iPhone 5 owners have, is to opt for a third party product. One such product is The Lightning Dock, a dock comprised of a solid piece of aluminum, which can be ordered in one of four configurations.

After ordering my Lightning Dock back on October 5th, I finally received it in the mail yesterday via USPS. Needless to say, I was stoked to finally have a dock that could function with new Lightning enabled devices like the iPhone 5, iPod touch 5th gen, and even the iPad mini.

Take a look inside for our hands-on video walkthrough and review…

My Lightning Dock came packaged in a fairly unassuming white bubble wrap envelope. Since the folks behind the dock shipped with USPS, instead of UPS or FedEx, I was pleasantly surprised to find it sitting with the rest of the “regular mail”. I had received a shipment notification about a week earlier, but by yesterday I had totally forgot that it was on its way.

Opening the package presents you with a simplistic white box that’s about the size of two cup coasters stacked on top of one another. The printing on the box looks like it could have been put together with the printer in my office, and for that matter, so does the box itself. It has the Apple-inspired simplicity, but it’s not quite Apple quality.

One thing you will notice is how heavy the box is, which is a bit surprising given its size. Remember, though, that there’s a solid chunk of aluminum nestled neatly inside. Sliding the box open exposes an instruction card, that again, looks like I printed it on my Canon photo printer, along with a small tool kit containing a hex screwdriver, two plexiglass back support pieces, and of course, the dock itself.

Like most docks, the actual cable used to hook into the power source isn’t included with the package. The difference with The Lightning Dock is that you actually have to “permanently” mate the Lightning Cable with the dock itself. That’s because, unlike previous docks — such as the official iPhone 4 dock — there is no connector port to plug the cable into. Instead, you must supply a Lightning Cable that acts as the end-to-end connector to the device and to the power source.

All of this is accomplished by means of hole in the top of the dock, along with a removable backplate in the bottom of the dock used for porting the cable from the underside. The end of the Lightning Cable connector thus sticks out far enough so that your device can connect to it while standing upright on the base of the dock. It may seem complicated, but it’s dead simple and it works well. In fact, as you probably saw via the video, setup took no more than five minutes total.

Although the package comes with the hex screwdriver needed to tighten the small screw that presses against the Lightning cable connector to keep it in place, you’ll need to supply your own Philips screwdriver to remove and replace the bottom plate.

The folks at The Lightning Dock give you the option to order a plexiglass backplate so that your device can rest against the plate while it’s docked. This is great for those who don’t like the idea of their iPhones being help upright using the Lightning connector alone. To be honest, I was surprised at how good of a job the Lightning connector fared by its lonesome. If I had to do it again, I probably would have forgone the decision to buy the extra $9 back plate, but it admittedly does provide some extra peace of mind.

As I stated, The Lightning Dock comes in four flavors (five, if you count the now unavailable wood version). There’s black aluminum and traditional silver aluminum. Either color is available in one of two finishes — a bead finish or a brushed finish. The brushed finish usually runs an extra $5, but as of this writing, it appears that they’re all on sale at $34.95 a pop. I purchased the (at the time) less expensive black aluminum bead finish, and I’m quite satisfied with how it looks when paired with my black iPhone 5.

After using The Lightning Dock for about a day, I’ve concluded that this is a very well designed dock that can function with a variety of Lightning enabled devices and configurations. It can be adjusted to work well with an iPhone wrapped in a case, it can work with the thinner iPod touch, and it even works with the iPad mini. The nice thing about The Lightning Dock is that the cable’s connector can be adjusted up or down to accommodate different types of cases and circumstances.

Along with good overall design, The Lightning Dock is a well built device that isn’t prone to tipping over, thanks in part, because of its heft. It features four rubber non-slip pads on the bottom for extra protection, and a machined duct so that the lightning cable can snugly slide out of the back of the dock without causing imbalance.

If there’s one complaint I have about The Lightning Dock, it’s those plexiglass backplates that cost $9. Not only are those overpriced, but they’re quite ugly as well. It would have been nice if the backplates somewhat resembled the color of the rest of the setup, but instead they’re just white pieces of plastic that stick out of the device like a sore thumb. Fortunately, you won’t see them while your iPhone or iPod touch is connected.

There aren’t many solutions when it comes to docking a next generation iOS device, but even if there were, I’m convinced that The Lightning Dock would be near the top of the list. It’s well built, features a rock solid design, and it’s a cinch to setup. If you’re looking for an iPhone 5 docking solution, I highly recommend that you give The Lightning Dock a try.

Update: So the folks at The Lightning Dock sent me an email clarifying the use of the plexiglass backplate. As it turns out, the white covering can be removed in order to reveal the smooth transparant plexiglass. I had tried to remove the white adhesive protective cover to no avail, but apparently I didn’t try diligently enough.

After about 5 minutes of struggle (perhaps my nails aren’t long enough?) I finally was able to remove the covers, revealing the plexiglass in full. As you can see, it looks much better this way.

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  • Johnathan Jennings

    I’d never use it cause I charge my phone in bed, and I’m always using it while it’s charging. Cool for people who would use it though.

  • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

    I think the lack of an included lightning cable is a deal breaker. The fact that I would have to use my only charger for the dock isn’t cool. Add on the price of a lightning cable to the total price of the dock. With that being said, I like the simplicity of the design of the dock. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come in the lightning accessory market.

    • Jeff

      No official Apple dock includes a cable either. I don’t see why there’s an exception here?

      • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

        Just saying for my personal preference I would want an extra cable with it. I also thought you said they originally were offering a cable with it. So it was a thought at one point, and I didn’t know official apple docks didn’t come with a cable. That’s a little strange for me. Just my opinion. Great review though.

      • http://twitter.com/jdogg84able Jdgg84

        Well it a dock they are selling to you. No the cable, the cable comes with the device already, so they assume you have one. Makes sense if you ask me.

        @JeffBenjam:disqus Is that a peice of protective plastic i spy on the back of your device? Smart man :)

      • luckyarcher

        No official dock makes you unscrew a backplate either. it’s entirely plug and play unlike this one.

  • luckyarcher

    Use your own cable and pay $35 for a solid block to place your phone on. Overpriced POS, thats what this is.

  • http://profiles.google.com/david.e.crocker David Crocker

    I love this thing! You guys are whining about the price – a solidly built (and beautiful) piece of aluminum.

    • http://twitter.com/DReyOne1 D Rey

      ya its solid. Its the design that the cord sits into that is the problem not the chunk of aluminum. Its gorgeous don’t get me wrong. but looks will never replace funcionality. And I have one so dont think im just talking out of my ass.

    • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

      Requires you to sacrifice a $20 cable and has no audio out, it’s a fricken overpriced aluminum paper weight.

      • LeVance

        I just bought an iPod dock with an audio out from Apple and it DOES NOT WORK with the 32 pin to 8 pin connector. The 32 pin connector works when connected directly to the phone, the dock works when connected to the computer, for some reason they do not work together. This dock does allows any lighting cable to work without having to worry about interference from DRM chips.

      • Anthony Antunez

        Not sure why you are replying to my year old comment and I don’t quite seem to understand what you are getting at. There is now an official Apple iPhone 5/5s dock which has a built in audio out port and works perfectly fine. You don’t need the 32pin to 8pin connector.

  • http://twitter.com/vitalovitalo Vitaliy Denisevich

    I would buy it if it came in WHITE!

  • xTGIrOnZzZ

    Hi Jeff, just wondering did you try an iPad Mini on it?

  • http://twitter.com/basanezrx Reinaldo B.

    I think this a great, solid product. Just ordered one and suggested it to a few friends. The ability to use a case with it is great! No apple dock allows you to do this unfortunately.

    • http://twitter.com/DReyOne1 D Rey

      Be prepared to be a little disappointed. I would never recommend this now that I have it in my hand.

      • http://twitter.com/basanezrx Reinaldo B.

        Wow! Thanks for feedback. A real shame though. Let’s see how I feel when I get it. If not there’s always The Elevation Dock (http://www.elevationlab.com/products/elevationdock-for-iphone5), but that’s pricey so I’ll see. Thanks.

      • http://twitter.com/DReyOne1 D Rey

        Ya that’s a to much for my liking. I do like the design though.

  • http://twitter.com/DReyOne1 D Rey

    I just got mine yesterday too and i think it is a pile of absolute crap for the amount of money I paid for it. I guarantee my lightning connecter cord will be broken or have a short in it in the near future. Not impressed with the customer service, turn around time, or quality of the design of the product.

  • Petrichor

    On The Lightning Dock website, they show the back support as a clear piece of plastic (plexiglass, or whatever material it is). Why is this one white? I wouldn’t mind it being clear, but white is ugly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

      I think it is clear and I think Jeff just didn’t remove the white plastic wrap or its just a different option.

      • Petrichor

        That’s exactly what I’m wondering. Jeff?

      • http://twitter.com/DReyOne1 D Rey

        that is exactly correct. The white stuff is a super stuck on sticker. It was a super pain to get off.

  • soccerkrzy

    And of course, the new location of the headphone jack makes it useless if you’re sitting at your desk all day, want it in the dock, and want to use headphones. Smooth move Apple, still think relocating the headphone jack is retarded.

    • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

      It’s the docks fault not the location of the headphone jack. A real dock will take the audio from the lightning port and reroute it to an external headphone jack just like the old Apple docks. This dock is a piece of overpriced crap.

  • Brandon Dudley

    The reason why these guys didn’t do a “plug and play” version was because they then would have been waiting for the Apple security chip that goes inside the lightning connector

  • cruzcontrol1001

    I have the belkin dock and love it uses the cord the phone came with also but has a front and back support and a headphone jack the plugs into my iPhone and re-routes it to the back of the dock.

  • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

    Can’t believe how over priced this thing is. For $10 more I got the old Apple dock for my iPhone 4 two years ago that came with a crap load of inserts for different devices, came with a remote to control my music, built in audio out, and did not require me to unscrew some backplate and bend my cable in a terrible way. This thing is just a block of aluminum. It should be like $20 at most not $40
    -___-

  • seyss

    so jeff is black

  • @dongiuj

    What a rip off!
    I hope you didn’t pay for that, Jeff. Did they give it to you for free just to do a bit of advertising for them?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001918313727 Alex Marques

    I made my own DIY dock from the iPhone 5 box :)

  • Callum

    overpriced but if you want one thats your only option

  • JetsetterFL

    Well – the customer service from this company is pathetic – they don’t respond to emails – provide no phone # to reach an individual…and when you try to post asking a question on their website – they filter it out. After numerous emails, nothing has been responded to….

  • iandub

    Buyer beware – site states 5-7 day ship – actual is more like 15. They also have the balls to charge for 2-3 day shipping. Mine was shipped yesterday and the shipment time? 14 days!!!!! This guy must have a special contract with UPS to use donkeys.

    • Kim

      Amen same thing happened to me. Tried to contact them regarding this matter still no reply.

  • Snarfster

    This is overpriced. Factor in the permanent use of what will likely be your only lightening cable and it becomes absurd.
    Aluminium is also not that heavy – solid or not. This must have something else lending the weight.

  • sam

    where can i buy it?

  • brian neiferd

    If your iPhone has a case, DO NOT BUY THIS DOCK with the backstop. I have one of the thinnest iPhone cases you can buy on my iPhone, and this dock will not work with the backstop. The poorly engineered backstop allows zero room for an iPhone with case. Also, if your iPad has a case, DO NOT BUY THIS DOCK. I bought a 2nd one for my iPad, which also has one of the thinnest cases on the market, and the dock cannot be used at all with the iPad because the backstop will not fit and the Lightning connector alone cannot support the weight of the iPad, making the entire dock useless. I wasted my money on 2 of these poorly engineered overpriced docks, don’t wase yours.

  • brian neiferd

    I purchased 2 of these docks, and the included hex wrench was not the correct size (too small), and will easily strip the set screw if you tighten more than snug. Be careful.

  • avexdesigns

    This thing is Sh*t. My lighting cable doesnt even fit through the hole. Unless I’m missing something here.

  • http://sciencedem.blogspot.com editor

    Like this dock; very stable ; weighty;