iBolt xProDock Connect review:

Dock your Android phone and drive with this NFC-powered cradle

Starting at $40

Roadshow Editors' Rating

8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

The Good The iBolt xProDock hardware holds phones securely, but gently enough to be placed and removed with just one hand. The tacky suction cup adheres to a variety of hard surfaces. The Dock'n Drive app puts contacts and car-centric apps at the driver's fingertips with minimal distraction.

The Bad The NFC chip isn't integrated into the xProDock hardware and must be affixed with double-sided tape.

The Bottom Line The iBolt xProDock Connect's strong hardware and flexible software work well together, but the NFC gimmick feels like a DIY hack.

The iBolt xProDock Connect is is a bundle that combines a strong suction cup mount for smartphones with a simple, effective Android app that fills the phone's screen with a car-friendly interface. Joining these two halves of a whole is near-field communication (NFC) technology that works well, but feels a bit like a hack.

The xProDock

The xProDock itself is a pretty nice bit of hardware. Extending from a suction cup mount, a curved arm meets the back of the cradle with a ball joint that provides 360 degrees of rotation, and about 180 degrees of left-to-right and up-and-down tilt. The ball joint holds its chosen position with a twist of its locking collar.

The cradle holds your phone at three points with three arms. The two bottom arms are mostly fixed in their positions, but can be adjusted slightly to accommodate thick handsets or phones in thick cases. The third arm is found at the top of the cradle and is spring loaded. The phone is placed into the cradle by pushing it against this third arm until the handset settles into the two lower hooks. Then the moderate pressure of the top arm holds everything in place securely.

The xProDock holds phones ranging from 2.6 to 3.7 inches wide (6.6cm to 9.4cm).

iBolt includes a 6-foot (just under 2m) Micro-USB cable (which most Android phones use for charging), but you'll need to bring your own USB power source (either built into your car or a using an USB adapter). The cable locks into place on the cradle with a pair of clips on the back side. A removable panel allows you to pass the cable through the back of the xProDock or to flip the cable if you'd rather mount your phone in a different orientation.

The xProDock ships with a USB cable and features its own built-in cable management. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The suction cup locks into place with a lever and the rubber disk itself is made of a semi-adhesive, sticky-tacky material that creates a doubly strong seal on glass. This tacky suction cup also allows the xProDock to mount to most hard surfaces (such as a hard plastic dashboard) without assistance. For soft surfaces, iBolt includes a Dash Disc that permanently attaches to the dashboard with a 3M adhesive, providing a hard surface for the xProDock's suction cup to grip.

The Dock'n Drive app

The xProDock is designed to work with a pair of free apps for the Android phones that it cradles: iBolt Dock'n Drive and iBolt Dock Mode. Both apps are found in the Google Play Store and feature no in-app ads. Additionally, there's nothing forcing you to use these apps with the iBolt xProDock, if you don't want to. So you can use your own car mode apps or even use iBolt's apps with another car cradle.

Dock'n Drive is a simplified interface that's designed to put commonly used car functions at your fingertips. The Dock'n Drive can also automatically change certain phone settings that you'll want active when in the car. For example, powering on Bluetooth, increasing the volume to full, setting the screen brightness to max, and setting the screen timeout to "always on."

Large icons with shortcuts to car-centric apps dominate the Dock'n Drive interface. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The interface displays six, large customizable shortcuts at a time that can be swiped from left to right to reveal up to five banks of buttons. The app defaults to shortcuts for Google Maps Navigation, Google Voice Search, the People app (your address book), an "It can wait" text message-blocking function, and a shortcut to the iBolt Dock Mode app.

The "It can wait" function silences notifications for incoming messages while returning a customizable canned response to the sender that lets them know you're driving and will get back to them shortly.

From there, you can populate the many blanks with shortcuts to your favorite driver apps, smartphone functions, or commonly accessed contacts.

To the right of swipeable, tappable shortcuts you'll find a digital speedometer that lets you know how fast you're currently driving using the phone's GPS receiver. Below that are buttons for settings and to quit the app.

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