08
Jan
th

As even a brief survey of the world could tell you, we live in the future. As such, isn't it about time to stop plugging wires into all your devices? Qi-compatible charging is showing up in more phones and tablets to make it easier to get some juice by just setting your phone down. Still, there isn't a good wireless solution for the car, but the Air Dock might be the first. This device is currently on Indiegogo with a few weeks to go, and we've got some prototypes to test. So, is this a crowd funding project you need to back?

How It Works

The Air Dock relies on a microsuction surface to hold your device in place. So you just attach the suction cup to your dash or windshield, then drop the phone on and it should hold. This is the same tech that was used in the Nexus wireless charging orb, which didn't hold particularly well. However, in the case of the Air Dock, the hold seems to be much better. The surface is completely flat, so the surface area of your phone in contact with the dock is much larger. You can give this thing a solid shake the phone won't budge.

wm_DSC_0399

The standard Air Dock works best when the device has a smooth glossy back (like a Galaxy S4 or Nexus 4) – that's just a consequence of how microsuction works. That's why there is a second version of the Air Dock that relies on magnets – we have one of these in for testing too. The magnets in the dock line up with the metal disks in some phones like the Nexus 5. The matte back on the N5 does stick to microsuction, but not well enough to use as a car dock.

124

So that's the principle behind attaching the phone, but the real reason you might want the Air Dock is for the Qi charging. Behind the sticky surface is the inductive Qi charging coil. When your phone is attached, charging will happen immediately without plugging anything in. It requires a 2.1A micro-USB power adapter, though, like most wireless chargers.

But Does It Work?

The regular microsuction Air Dock works very well with a smooth device. I attached a Nexus 4 to the Air Dock, and as expected, it stuck. You have to press a little when you attach to make sure the grip is strong, but then it's not going anywhere. I shook it around, rode around with it in the car for a bit, and it didn't come loose. When you want to detach, just give it a solid tug while holding the base and it should snap off.

wm_DSC_0386

I also put the Nexus 5 in a case to simulate a phone that doesn't have a glass back, but is still somewhat glossy. Again, the standard Air Dock held on very well. The grip wasn't quite as solid as it was with the glass N4, but I'd say it was 90% as good. Still more than sufficient to use as a car dock. Microsuction surfaces will accumulate dust over time and get less grippy, but you should be able to wash it off and continue to use it normally. I haven't had the dock long enough to see how that works here, but that's been the case with similar devices I've used.

What really appeals to me is the magnetic version. Inside are a few tiny neodymium rare Earth magnets spaced to grab onto the Nexus 5 just like the official Nexus charger. The Nexus 5 clips on just as you'd expect and stays put. It doesn't quite have the supernatural hold of a glossy phone on the microsuction, but it's still more than enough for a car dock. Some other phones (like the GS4) have sensors that will be triggered by the magnets, so you'd want to use the regular Air Dock instead.

wm_DSC_0387

You might be wondering if the magnets will also work with the 2013 Nexus 7, since it uses the same Nexus charger system. Well, yes. I have to say I'm pretty jazzed about this – the N7 is pretty neat as an in-car navigation system. Obviously, you'll need to tether it to a phone or have the LTE N7 to make this practical, but it's still a nice option. The N7 stays attached, though I've noticed it is liable to fall off if hung completely upside down. In the car, it hasn't been an issue.

As for charging, the Air Dock seems to provide almost 1A of current output to the device when plugged into a 2.1A adapter. That's about what you'd expect from other wireless chargers and is sufficient to keep your phone charging while using turn-by-turn navigation (albeit a little slowly). I can't really speak to the rest of the build as this is a prototype and the mounting bracket is 3D printed. What I see of the final product looks good, though.

wm_11

It's looking like the Air Dock is going to hit its funding target, which is a fixed funding goal, thankfully. It is closing in on $50,000 with the minimum funding set at $60,000. There are a limited number of spots in the first fun of the campaign, so make sure to get your pledge in if you want an Air Dock by April 2014. More perks will be added if there is interest.

[Air Dock]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

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

    Strong magnet - check.

    Wireless charging - check.

    I'm curious if the suction cup is a good solution to attach it to the dash (here in California, things can't be attached to windshields and need to sit on the dash, which I prefer anyway, to be honest). In my experience, suctions cups don't work on textured dashboards. I ended up using a big stable mount similar to http://www.amazon.com/Arkon-SM512-Slim-Grip-Windshield-Smartphones/dp/B0044467EG (though mine is combined with a Capta).

    It looks close to perfect otherwise.

    • Steph Chi

      You've got the point : textured dashboard is a problem for many people ... So, a joint venture with Capta could be the right way to go ;-)

    • richie97

      I use this mount, and when I get my AirDock, I'll just swap out the head. Should work great.

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DPMNNUO/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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

        Neat.

      • Josh Flowers

        You, sir, just made me buy that product. Well done.

    • kpjimmy

      I have been using the mounting plates on my dash for a few years. Only had to replace the plate once due to a HOT Texas summer. Other than that, I have been using the Xenomix (Korean brand) mounts and are the best mounts I have used to date. Suction cups like on the Arkons always warp in time for me as well.

    • duse

      I've never understood why these things are so huge. Why can't it accomplish the same thing but with a much smaller and less baggy footprint?

    • andy_o

      Arkon is great, I use this one. I think they were the first ones to come up with this kind of suction cup that will stick to the dash (as long as it's relatively flat). Some others have also come out with this kind of suction. It really does work. Though if you're like me and need to put away the mount frequently, you might have to rinse it with water once in a while. When I put it away I just stick it to one of those free plastic discs you get with suction cup mounts so it doesn't accumulate dust.

      I also love the particular design of that mount, it lets you put the phone forward, and a bit lower than a regular dash mount would. Right in front of the AC the phone never overheats and stops charging. Very useful especially with a Qi charger.

  • http://www.mscha.nl/ Michael Schaap

    Don't the magnets in the magnetic version impact the compass in the Nexus 5, and how does that affect navigation?

    • squiddy20

      I presume the compass hardware is not physically a tiny sliver of metal that points to magnetic north that can be messed up with a magnet. Navigation usually comes from GPS, cell tower triangulation, Wifi triangulation or a combination of those. None of them should be interrupted by the magnets.

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        It has a literal magnetometer in it. So yes, it should, in fact, be somewhat impacted by this. But as I already have a magnet dock, I've found those other factors take higher priority in navigation tasks.

        • Josh Brown

          The metal frame of your car will distort the magnetic field enough to render the magnetometer useless anyway. Fun fact: that's why ships use gyroscopes for navigation instead of magnets.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            Good info! And that explains why Waze seems to never know what direction I'm facing when I'm stopped.

    • RyanWhitwam

      The compass in the N5 is not affected by magnets in this way. Works fine.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      I have a magnetic dock for mine as well (the iMagnet) and haven't noticed any major issues. When I come to a complete stop, sometimes Waze decides I'm going a different direction than I was previously, but as it also did that before, I'm unsure if it's worse.

    • hyperbolic

      Actually I was thinking about other components that could be affected from the magnet.

    • Steve B

      Well, considering that Google built their own inductive charging pad with magnets built in I'm pretty sure the magnets are fine.

  • glennv17

    Did not know that 3D printing was being used to build prototypes to the specification of an eventual final release. Pretty cool.

    I'd definitely go for something like this if I could trust the magnets holding my N5. Still need to buy a wireless charger for home though, that'll be the first step.

  • John Smith

    does the micro-suction work if the air dock is freezing cold ?

    • RyanWhitwam

      Well, define freezing cold. I live in Minnesota and it was fine, but I let the car warm up before driving.

      • John Smith

        Maybe not "Polar Vortex" cold, but I suppose anything between 20F and 33F sounds reasonable to be encountered

  • Ismael Rodriguez

    Sounds pretty cool, but I'd rather wait until wireless charging can provide a higher output. If I use gps navigation on my Note II (often with Bluetooth on and connected to my radio), the low of a charge won't keep the phone running for long. Especially not on a long drive.

    Still, it does look pretty cool. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

  • Oobiewan

    I wonder why no one did this already who actually has the money for manufacturing these.

  • Stuart Anderson

    Already put in my $45 a couple days ago.

  • Quryous

    .
    Is there any practical way to use it with a Note 3 in a typical folio style case?

    If not, then it loses everyone in my whole organization, where typically everyone has some sort of folio case that fits into their shirt or jacket pocket. NONE of these are smooth backed enough to a suction device to work on, and none have magnets.
    .

  • Steve Secor

    I got in on the early bird perk. This review makes me even more excited. It seems to be just what I was waiting for!

  • Alexei Watson

    Just put in for two. whoops

    • Karen Mitchell

      my&nbspfriend's&nbspmom&nbspΜ­­­­­­а­­­­­­K­­­­­­е­­­­­­ѕ&nbsp$­­­­­­­­­61/հ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ս­­­­­­r&nbspon&nbspthe&nbspl­­­­­­а­­­­­­ρ­­­­­­τ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ρ.&nbspShe&nbsphas&nbspbeen&nbspfired&nbspfrom&nbspW­­­­­­ο­­­­­­r­­­­­­K&nbspfor&nbspten&nbspΜ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ­­­­­­ѕ&nbspbut&nbsplast&nbspΜ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ&nbspher&nbspρ­­­­­­а­­­­У&nbspwas&nbsp$­­­­­­­­­20370&nbspjust&nbspW­­­­­­ο­­­­­­r­­­­­­King&nbspon&nbspthe&nbspl­­­­­­а­­­­­­ρ­­­­­­τ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ρ&nbspfor&nbspa&nbspϜ­­­­­­е­­­­­­W&nbspհ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ս­­­­­­rs.&nbspwhy&nbspnot&nbsptry&nbspհ­­­­­­е­­­­­­r­­­­­­е,...&nbspWW&#x57&#46Googleproject2014activitybusinessgetnowactivitybusiness&#46&#113&#x72&#46&#x6E&#101&#x74&#x2F&#109&#x4Bl&#106/

      ✦✦✦ ✦✦✦✦✦ ✦ﴪ✦✦ ✦✦✦✦ ✦𐄱✦✦But the Indiegogo site seems to suggest that there is only one version that has both magnets and suction.

  • dariusmoss

    what app is that in the pics?

    • SlenderSniper

      "Battery Widget? Reborn!"

  • Paul_Werner

    I'm going to stick with my car mount until I can get that Sony radio to snap my phone into later on this year

    • Steve B

      Yeah, so you can charge it via usb cable since it doesn't have Qi.

      • Bob G

        Maybe he has a Sony phone and won't need that usb cable.

        • Paul_Werner

          I have a nexus 5 and currently plug it into the car lighter plug via usb. This will be a bit cleaner since I'll just need a tiny usb to go from the radio to phone instead of all the way to my window mount now. It would have been nicer if it had Qi but I guess you can't have everything. This is the closest so far though.

          Now if something comes out to outdo this then I'll pick that up unless I already purchased the Sony one

  • http://www.allankintz.com ack154

    I bought an iMagnet dock for my Nexus 5 a couple months ago. I love it as is, but my immediate thought was "this needs wireless charging." I am absolutely in on this! Thank you for posting something about it, I probably would not have seen it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    Ooooo I'll have to snag a few of these for our Nexuses once they're out.

  • Akshay Saini

    This article makes it seem like there are two versions of the charger, one with magnets and one without. But the Indiegogo site seems to suggest that there is only one version that has both magnets and suction. If I want to order the magnet version (if it's separate) how do I do it?

    • Luxferro

      I'm curious about that too.

    • http://www.allankintz.com ack154

      Most of the Indiegogo listing does make it seem like there's only one - but when you get to the "future" bit near the middle, it calls out making a specific magnetic version... so who knows. I'm in for a magnetic one regardless - but as of yet, there doesn't seem to be any way to differentiate.

    • Hitesh Kantharia

      I was searching the device over the web and came across Synergy. Has anyone used it seen Synergy in action?

      http://wirelessoutlook.com/charging-pads/synergy-wireless-car-charger-and-phone-holder/

      • Ignite

        The Synergy one never achieved full funding.

        • Rob Mounts

          Looks like you can pre-order on Amazon though and have it ship when it is launched.

    • RyanWhitwam

      I think the listing has been updated a bit. It was going to be separate versions before. The 'future' section near the bottom used to be the only mention of the magnetic version. They might be planning to put magnets in all of them now? I'm not sure. I think it's safe to say you'll be able to get magnets if you need them.

      • Akshay Saini

        Thanks. Picked one up, looking forward to April!

  • Lazer Bear

    Just a small typo, "So that's the principal behind attaching the phone" should be "principle".

  • Jav11 .

    stick xperia z1s too.

  • Chris Seward

    I would love to know if it can still charge a nexus 5 with both GPS nav and bluetooth audio running. I have the Owllus OwlPad, which is unable to charge my phone with both running... I'm looking for a dock that can manage this...

    • KingRando

      Probably not. Bluetooth alone is a battery killer even when charging

      • Codemonkey83

        Seriously, how old is your phone? I think you meant GPS usage.

  • Bisazz

    I just finished making my own DIY version of this. Bought a cheap wireless charging puck and vent mount, glued some magnets around the charger, glued the charger to the vent mount, works perfectly with my nexus 5. If I want to use it with my case though I had to put some smaller magnets inside the case, but it's almost unnoticeable.

    Using a Tasker to automatically turn on bluetooth and my music player when it's in portrait, and navigation and gps when in landscape.

  • Welfi_1988

    It isn't the first mobile Qi charger: I backed Synergy wireless charger on kickstarter and indiegogo in august last year but funding didn't reach it's goal. but it was a great product, just not enough media interest to spread it to the world.

    Here the link to the kickstarter (which has already been unsuccessful): http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cellinnovations/synergy-worlds-best-wireless-smartphone-charger

  • Brian Tehan

    iOttie Easy Flex Wireless

    http://www.iottie.com/About/Press.aspx

    • Steve B

      This is legit. The original iOttie mount is amazing. With Qi included nothing can compare. Considering the plain mount is around $20 on Amazon, if they can launch the new version under $40 I'll be mighty happy.

      • andy_o

        The clamping mechanism is weird though. You have to separate the arms manually, put the phone in, and then press the button which will snap the arms inward and lock the phone. To get the phone out, separate the arms manually again.

        While it might look cool to press a button and lock the phone, this is the exact opposite to what a number of other mounts do (for good reason). With the others you press the button to separate the arms, put the phone in, and then close the arms manually, which is easier to do with one hand, and taking out the phone is also easier.

        • nxtiak

          I have, and I can do it with one hand, you just hold the phone and push it to the right and the arm opens and you pull the phone out.
          Also you can do the same putting it in, just put in the phone sideways pushing the arm then place it flat. It's actually very very very easy.

    • Ignite

      There are no magnets though, which is a selling point for alot of people.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

    Nice I'd get one of these if they added a CD player mount like the the mountek ones.

    • Jacob

      They now offer a CD Mount. I have one and it is amazing!

  • TheScientists

    I'd be interested if they had a version that mates to a vent mount. Don't like windshield or dash mounts.

    • ddh819

      hopefully it's compatible with any ball mount so you could use a vent mount with a ball adapter

    • Cory_S

      I have a mount that goes into your CD player slot, love the heck out of it being I haven't used a CD in 10ish years. I'm hoping this mount will screw on to it's ball joint.

    • Samudra

      I'm the exact opposite. I like my nav system to be relatively within my line of sight while driving so I can glance at it without really taking my eyes off the road.

      • TheScientists

        I like having my phone mounted to the vent to the right of my steering wheel. This keeps it within closest possible reach for my right hand, keeps my windshield free of obstructions, and keeps it just below the top of the dash. I find it less of an issue to glance at it in this manner than glancing at my speedometer or radio.

  • PatcheZ

    This reminds me of what I have in my car with the palm induction charger mod on my S3 with a touchstone charger. I too added neodymium magnets for a stronger grip. Unfortunately it only charges at half amp, so it doesn't end up charging if using google maps.

  • Jeff Herd

    My car dock has a great feature — wireless charging at CHOETECH