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XM SkyDock review: XM SkyDock

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The Good The XM SkyDock's app-based interface allows users to tag their favorite songs and artists and store up to 12 favorite channels. The unit installs quickly without tools for most applications. The Skydock offers a variety of out-of-the-box connection options for car stereos, including an auxiliary audio output and a built-in FM transmitter.

The Bad The unit only plays back audio when the XM app is open on the iPhone, which means you can't multitask while listening. Installation is a bit more involved than simple plug and play.

The Bottom Line The XM SkyDock is an easy and relatively inexpensive way for iPhone users to add satellite radio to a vehicle, as long as they aren't power multitaskers.

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6.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

The XM SkyDock is an XM Satellite radio receiver that works with iPod Touch (1G, 2G) and the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS with iPhone OS 3.0 or better. With its easy installation and slick app-based interface, the XM SkyDock seems like a relatively hassle-free way for an iPhone/iPod Touch user to add satellite radio to their vehicle.

The SkyDock is based on a simple and familiar cradle on an arm design. That plugs directly into your vehicle's 12-volt power or cigarette lighter port.

Starting with the cradle itself, the SkyDock features adjustable arms and a trio of spacers that allow it to accommodate an iPhone or an iPod Touch, with or without a case. However, the bulkiest of cases probably still won't fit and although moderately thick hard plastic shells may actually fit between the arms, the dock connector may not reach. Your mileage will vary.

Just below where the iPhone/iPod sits is a pair of power buttons for the FM transmitter and the satellite radio receiver. Between the buttons is a blue power indicator light.

The cradle connects to its 12-volt power adapter via a rotating joint that allows the iPhone to be displayed in a portrait or landscape orientation and a flexible arm that can be positioned for optimal viewing.

The 12-volt connector is a bulky bit with integrated connections for the satellite radio antenna, an FM antenna, and an audio output. The tip of the 12-volt adapter features a rubber ring that protrudes slightly for a very snug fit that takes a good amount of force to insert or remove, so there's little chance that the SkyDock will break free during spirited driving.

However, installation of the XM SkyDock isn't as simple as just plugging it in and slapping an iPhone into the cradle.

Users must also install a magnetic satellite radio antenna--preferably outside of the vehicle, on the roof, hood, or trunk. This, of course, means routing and hiding the 10-foot antenna cable. Be sure to do this carefully so you don't damage any of your vehicle's weather seals.

Once you have your antenna installed and connected, there's the small matter of connecting the SkyDock to your vehicle's speakers. If your car stereo features a 3.5mm auxiliary input, connecting the XM SkyDock is a simple as using the included audio cable. If no auxiliary input is available, the SkyDock features a built-in FM transmitter for over-the-air commandeering of an FM frequency and an FM antenna output for use with an FM Direct Adapter (sold separately).

Finally, there's the issue of activating the XM Radio tuner on the Internet using a device code--either on a PC or using the iPhone's data connection. An XM Radio service plan is required for operations. Plans start at $9.99 per month for the most basic plan and top out at $16.99 for the most exhaustive channel package.

When you connect your iPhone to the XM SkyDock, it will begin charging the device and prompt you to download the free Sirius XM SkyDock app. Once installed, the app gives users control over the SkyDock hardware.

Using the iPhone's touch-screen interface, users can search for available channels by channel number, station name, or category. When browsing, the app displays both the station name and the currently playing song.

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