28
Apr
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Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

Google has finally released the last of the accessories for its first foray into the mobile handset market, the Nexus One. Shortly after the Nexus One was announced, we were graced with the desktop dock - a simple, yet functional device that takes advantage of the metal contacts on the bottom of the phone to allow charging and audio playback without the need to mess with pesky wires.

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We’ve been teased with the prospect of a car dock in promotional videos, such as this one, but were never given a target date. Well, as of a couple of weeks ago, if you had $60 USD to spare, you could find yourself to be a proud owner of a genuine Nexus One Car Dock. Usually, there is only so much that can be said about a car dock, but after playing around with it for about two weeks, it’s clear that the Google folks had a few tricks up their sleeve.

What’s In The Box

  • Nexus One Car Dock
  • Cigarette Lighter Adapter
  • Plastic disk with adhesive side and alcohol swab to clean surface

Construction

This is, hands down, the best car dock I have had the pleasure of using. Granted, my past card dock experiences have pretty much been limited to sub-$10 chunks of plastic shipped from Hong Kong, but once you have this in your hand, you can just tell that something is different.

Some may say that it’s over-engineered, and to an extent, I agree with them – but on the other hand, if you’re paying $55 for a glorified suction cup, that’s the way it should be.

The dock is a fairly compact affair constructed out of a mix of matte and glossy black plastic, and what looks like stainless steel (my metallurgy is a bit rusty (see what I did there?), so don’t quote me on that).

The holster that the phone snaps into is the soft, matte plastic, and keeps the phone fairly secure. On the bottom of the holster, you’ll find a small microphone, though I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not simply an opening for the phone’s mic.

Just above that you’ll find the three metal prongs that meet the bottom of your phone in order to charge it and launch Car Home.

For those that are interested, the camera is not obscured by the holster.

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The phone is held in place by a latch at the top of the holster. My phone has a Best Skin Ever on, and snaps in just fine, but don’t expect to use this with a case of any kind. I’ve grown accustomed to shedding my cases before bed for the desktop dock, so doing so before popping the phone into the car dock isn’t too much of a chore. This may be a deal breaker for some though, so if you absolutely need your phone to be in a case at all times, you can go ahead and stop reading.

The holster is attached to the base by a metal rod that connects to what appears to be ball joints – one on the back of the holster, and one on the base with the suction cup. Upon first glance, the joints seem to offer limited mobility, but after some tinkering you’ll find that they will pretty much allow you to position the phone however you need to. They move in a fluid and somewhat taught manner that feels especially solid and reaffirms Google’s commitment to releasing accessories that feel as solid as the Nexus One. I can’t see these joints loosening up and refusing to keep the phone in place too easily.

Rounding the package out is a base with a suction mechanism that seems to have been stolen from a Batman movie. I’m pretty sure that if I had 3 more car docks, I could use them to scale a building. Once the suction cup is placed on a flat surface, you apply a moderate amount of pressure, and turn the base in the indicated direction to latch the dock. Once that is done, it’s likely going to stay there pretty reliably. On the base, you’ll also find the only available port on the entire device – a micro USB port, to be used with the included cigarette lighter adapter. As far as adapters go, it’s also built pretty solid, and I feel far more comfortable using this charger than the $5 OEM one I found online.

Construction Consensus: The Nexus One Car Dock is tough and usable, yet still manages to keep things pretty simple.

Features

Like I mentioned earlier, the Nexus One Car Dock is more than simply just a glorified piece of plastic attached to a ridiculous suction cup. Along with the ability to automatically launch Car Home once the phone is docked (zomg!), you’re also getting a built in speaker, which Google apparently thinks is decent enough to listen to your music and media with.

While the speaker is fine for phone calls, I really wouldn’t recommend using it for any music, unless you absolutely have to – and in the event that you do have to use it for music, expect some distortion when listening to anything remotely loud (rock, punk, etc).

If you rely on using the 3.5mm jack to listen to your music on your stereo, it’s important to note that you’re still going to have to plug the audio cable into the phone once it’s docked. For some reason, Google neglected to place a port directly into the dock’s base, but it does leave the jack at the top of the phone unobstructed, so it’s really not that much of an inconvenience.

Whether you’re using the audio jack or a bluetooth device to interface with your car audio system, you’ll be able to use the new dock settings menu on the Car Home app to chose how you’d like to route your audio. You can pick between routing both music/media and phone calls to the dock, or neither. Routing the phone to the dock, and music/media to your other device means that all phone calls will be handled by the built-in speakerphone, but anything from navigation to music will be sent through your car stereo.

Feature Consensus: While it would have been nice to have more audio routing options (for example, keep the navigation and phone calls on the dock, while routing music to your stereo), you’re still getting a nice bonus in the form of the built-in speaker – it’s not something Google had to include, and, for phone calls at least, it performs surprisingly well.

Overall Consensus

Buy it if you can drop the dough. You’re not missing out on a lot by not picking this up, and at the price, it would be understandable if you choose to skip it, but if you can spare the extra green, you’ll find that the added connivance it affords and features it offers are well worth the steep (for a car dock, at least) price tag.

Available at: http://google.com/phone

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Video Review

Chris Dehghanpoor
Chris is an Android devotee based out of Houston, TX. He enjoys indie rock, general geekery and long walks on the beach. If you can't find him online, he's probably playing Plants VS Zombies.
  • http://iandouglas.com Ian Douglas

    How long is the cigarette adapter charger wire, in length? I'm hoping it's at least 16"? Awesome review, thanks.i was disputed at how little documentation google put online about the charger

    • Chris Dehghanpoor

      I'll have to measure it out. It's the flexible spiral type cord, similar to what corded phones use to use. I think it should at least reach that length, though it may be somewhat taught. I'll see if I track down a tape measure and snap some pics when I get home.

      I meant to include it in the video review, but was working with limited batteries, so I didn't have a chance.

    • Chris Dehghanpoor

      I wasn't able to track down a tape measure, so I don't know the exact length, but I can tell you I can comfortably stretch it the entire length of my arm span (from fingertip to fingertip, so it's at least 16" when stretched(more like at least 36"), so I don't think you'll have an issue.

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Great review, Chris!

  • http://3370photo.com RIch V

    I found this to be much more useful as a desktop dock.

    I use it in landscape mode to watch U-Stream while I work on my desktop.

    I found the speaker-phone to be too soft and my car too loud to be useful, but on the desktop it works great.

    A line out on it would have been quite useful for the car.

    • Chris Dehghanpoor

      Using it as a desktop dock isn't a bad idea. Are you plugging a USB cable into it when using it on your desk?

  • anakin78z

    Ok, while I really like my car dock, I've had a few issues with it, and was wondering if you've experienced the same:

    1. It disconnects a lot. Halfway home I notice the audio quality changes, and I realize that audio is no longer coming from the dock speaker, instead blasting from the phone speaker. Have you guys noticed this?

    2. It doesn't want to use it to make phone calls. I've changed the setting to use the dock for phone calls 4 times now, but it keeps resetting it, so every time I get a call, I can't hear anything.

    3. It doesn't adjust the media volume. You can use the volume buttons on the dock all you want, but it won't actually change the media volume on your phone, only the volume on the speaker itself. So if you don't already have your music turned way up by the time you connect, you're out of luck, as you can't even reach the phone's volume rocker.

    Finally, one cool feature your review didn't mention (unless it's in the video) is that the camera remains exposed, and you can take cool video while driving down the road.

    • Chris Dehghanpoor

      Heya,

      Actually, I did mention the camera thing just above the first set of pictures.

      Regarding your questions:

      1. I've seen random issues with the bluetooth, but not this particular one. It may do that if the dock loses a power connection temporarily. Is the power adapter secure?

      2. Do you have the option to 'Remember Settings' checked in the dock settings? If so, try going to (your phones) Settings -> Wireless -> Bluetooth -> Long press the Nexus One Car Dock and make sure that phone is checked there. That may help. I haven't seen this issue either.

      3. This I have seen, and it's annoying. Pretty large oversight, IMO, but I forgot to mention it since I mainly listen to media audio through my car stereo where this is less of a problem(since I can just adjust my stereo). I'll probably add this to the review later tonight.

      Thanks for the feedback, this was my first review, so all input is appreciated!

      • anakin78z

        Hey,
        My bad :) The camera thing is so awesome though, it's worth repeating ;).

        re:
        1. power adapter is secure, and car home stays open, which is the puzzling part. I would think that it would disconnect completely and reconnect if it looses power, but only the bluetooth audio seems to drop out.

        2. Yep, I did that, every single time. I have no idea why this is the only setting on my whole phone that doesn't stick :(

        3. Indeed a large oversight, and I'm hoping the 2.2 update addresses this.

  • tmogeek

    The update to Froyo has fixed the issue with using the car dock in landscape mode. The home screen and contacts are now oriented so that they are much easier to read and use.

  • steve

    Hows the overheating battery issue treating you? SETCPU app goes into failsafe mode on mine within 3 minutes. And its set at 102 degrees.

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