With an increasing number of places passing hands-free legislation, drivers are looking for ways to use and access their devices without breaking the law. While there is a large choice of car dock solutions, the Dock’n Connect car docks by iBolt utilize the NFC capabilities of newer phones with an included NFC tag. When placed on the dock, the NFC tag sends a signal to the phone which then launches the Dock ‘n Drive app. iBolt was kind enough to send us one of their docks, and we take a look in our iBolt xProDock Connect review.
The xProDock Connect comes with a suction mount base, smartphone holder, connector ring, dash disc, USB cable (more than long enough to reach anywhere you put the car dock), alcohol pad, and an NFC tag. The main components are crafted from a heavy duty plastic, and it feels really solid. Assembly is easy, simply place the connector ring over the base arm and snap the smartphone holder section onto the ball on the arm. Slide the ring up and tighten it when you have the mount situated to your liking. The swivel ball allows for the mount to be used horizontally or vertically, depending on where you mount it and what orientation you prefer.
The bottom of the base does have a suction cup which allows you to mount the car dock directly to your windshield or on a smooth surface. Stick the mount where you want on your windshield, and pull down the base switch which draws up the base creating a tight seal, firmly attaching the car dock in place.
For those of you like me who aren’t fans of window mounting car docks, the included dash disc allows you to attach the car dock to your dashboard. I have a section of my dashboard which is relatively smooth and I tried to mount the dock without using this additional base piece and unfortunately after a few hours the dock simply fell off. The dash disc sticks to your dashboard with 3M tape, and it is extremely sticky. I was unhappy with my first mounting location, and it took quite a bit of force to remove the dash disc. The good news though is that I was able to re-position it where I wanted using the same tape and it stuck just as well the second time.
Once the dash disc was installed, the main component is mounted the same as you would on the windshield – simply place the suction mount base onto the dash disc and pull down on the base switch to create the seal.
The smartphone holder consists of two bottom tabs (in horizontal mode) which are adjustable by pulling down a piece of plastic on the underside of the tabs. The top tab is spring loaded and the easiest way to put your device into it is to push up on the top tab with your phone, slide it into the bottom tabs and let the top tab slide down. I found that I have to use both hands to insert or remove the phone as the top spring is pretty tight, but that reassures me that the phone won’t budge while it’s on the dock. The dock was able to accommodate a Nexus 5 with a case, as well as a Galaxy Note 4, Nexus 6, and Moto X (2nd gen) without cases without any problem.
My only real complaint with the design is the size of the base and dash disc. Without the dash disc, the base barely fit where I wanted it on my truck – a 2014 Ram 1500, but as I mentioned above it didn’t stay stuck on the relatively smooth plastic surface. While I did get the dash disc to stick in place, it does extend over the lip a bit and while it’s not unsightly, it’s not flush or back from the edge of the dashboard. I did try a couple of different locations and given the style of my dashboard, it really was the best spot where I could get the most surface area coverage from the dash disc. Of course, YMMV depending on your vehicle.
What sets the xProDock Connect, and the other iBolt Connect car docks, apart from some of the other choices on the market is the inclusion of the NFC tag which triggers their Dock’n Drive app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. Once you have NFC enabled on your phone, placing it on the car dock will automatically launch the app.
At first glance, the app isn’t very pretty, but it is functional. The app displays up to 6 applications and either a compass wrapped clock or odometer as the default view. There are some minor customization options – font size, icon size, and color to name a few – and you can choose any application on your phone for any of the 6 available app slots. A simplified view can also be selected which shows just the compass clock/odometer and music controls. A lot of this may be repetitive in newer cars though as many do come with steering wheel music controls, and of course every vehicle does have an odometer.
The “It Can Wait” feature is where the app does add something different though, giving it the ability to intercept and automatically reply to text messages with a custom message that you set (before you set out on the road of course). Human nature makes it difficult to ignore that buzzing phone notification, and having an app intercept it and respond on your behalf lets you keep your concentration on driving.
While some manufacturers add a driving mode, or something similar, not all do so if your phone doesn’t fall into that category this is definitely an option. Even if your device does, this is another option which you may want to look at, especially given that it automatically launches via NFC.
The xProDock retails for $39.99USD which might seem a bit on the pricey side but it does really include everything you need in order to utilize it as well as the Dock’n Drive app. Two other Connect kits are available from iBolt as well, the sPro2 ($29.95USD) and the miniPro ($24.95USD) but for what is included I do think the xProDock is the best value out of the three.
If you have a phone that already has a driving mode, you may be inclined to skip the xProDock. It is a very solid car dock however, and the included NFC tag to launch the companion app adds an extra level of convenience. The Dock’n Drive app is handy, easy to use and customize, and the “It Can Wait” text feature will help keep you on the right side of the law when driving.