Back in February, a Portland-based designer named Casey Hopkins caught more attention than he ever imagined when his Kickstarter project met its funding goal of $75,000 within eight hours of being posted. It went on to gather more than $1.4 million dollars in pledges by the end of its campaign — breaking Kickstarter’s most-funded project record in the process. The product wasn’t a wild new innovation, but rather a smart redesign of the fairly ubiquitous iPod dock. It was just what iPhone owners were waiting for, and about a month ago Elevation Lab started shipping the product to backers. Ours just came in the mail, and we finally got a chance to check it out first hand.
The box it comes in looks like what you’d expect from a product designed to work with Apple devices: a compact, symmetrical white box with a minimalist silver logo on its face — It’s even got the Myriad font on the side. The Apple-esque packaging is fitting; the “hand buffed, glass bead blasted, electro-chemically micropolished, hard anodized and sealed” dock looks like something Apple might’ve designed itself (we wish!).
While the look certainly lives up to the glamour shots we saw in Elevation Lab’s Kickstarter video, the performance isn’t quite as smooth as promised.
Ease of use is what was supposed to set this dock apart from all the others on the market. The preview promised us that docking and undocking would be effortless, regardless of whether your phone was in a case or not. Well is it? Sort of.
Docking is definitely as smooth as you’d expect. The unit’s wide port can accommodate a naked iPhone just as easily as it can accommodate one wrapped up in even the bulkiest Otterbox. That being said however, the dock isn’t roomy to a fault either. There’s no need to worry about bending the connector because there’s not enough wiggle room to make that possible. The key feature here is a removable rubber backstop that keeps your phone or iPod flush with the back of the dock.
If you’ve got a case on your phone, you’ll definitely want to remove the rubber insert. The strip creates enough friction with my run-of-the-mill Speck case to lift the heavy aluminum dock clean off my desk and remain stuck even after a few downward shakes — but that’s why it’s removable. Without the strip, there remains only a minimal level of difficulty when undocking your device.
As we saw dramatized for us in the Kickstarter video, undocking with ease is a problem that plagues most other products on the market. As most are lightweight and poorly designed, it usually takes two hands to disconnect properly. Elevation Lab’s dock was supposed to put an end to this problem, and it has certainly done a better job than any other dock out there, but the dreaded dock cling still happens with this one — albeit to a much lesser extent.
We tested it with a number of different iPhone models, and in most cases the dock still lifted off our desks a few inches before falling off. The problem wasn’t so much that the dock was too light, but rather that the angle of the connector and uneven weight distribution of the dock itself cause a clinging phenomenon if your device isn’t lifted out just right. The problem can be avoided by carefully removing your phone at the appropriate angle, or by lightly pushing down on the dock with your pinky finger as you pull your phone off — so it still lives up to the promises of one-handed undocking at the end of the day.
Overall, the sturdy, beautifully-designed dock from Casey Hopkins mostly lives up to all its Kickstarter hype, even if it isn’t quite as magically frictionless as you see in the campaign video. As early backers of the dock’s campaign, we got our hands on it for $60, but you can pre-order yours for $90 here.