Craptech: The Apple iPad Dock

by Doc Coleman - Nifty Tech Editor on January 17, 2011 · 5 comments

in Craptech, Hardware

Normally, here at The Nifty Tech Blog, we try to bring you examples of the best and most useful technology available. If it doesn’t measure up to that yardstick, we just don’t mention it. Or we wait and watch it to see if it manages to rise above the pack and ask for our notice. But sometimes we run into a product that just utterly fails to provide any kind of utility. For those products, we created the category of Craptech. These are the products that are full of so much fail that everyone had best be warned not to waste their money on them. And the first one of these products that we are going to talk about is the Apple iPad Dock.

Some of you may have noticed that in the past a number of Apple products have been featured here. While we find that Apple does make a number of useful products, we aren’t Apple fanboys. A product is one thing. The actions and policies of an entire company is something else. Apple does a lot of things we don’t approve of. And like any other company, they occasionally turn out a bad product.

The Apple iPad Dock is supposed to be a convenient stand where you can mount your iPad for use as a digital picture frame, to recharge, or even to sync to your computer. To live up to this promise, it has to be able to connect easily to your computer or power adapter, it has to hold the iPad stably, and it has to allow the user to easily connect and disconnect the iPad from the stand. And if it did all that, it might manage to justify the $29.99 price tag.

The Dock comes in a small white box, which it very nearly fills. At first glance the Dock appears to be just a small chunk of aluminum, painted white, and with an aluminum flange as a “back support” for the iPad. Closer examination shows that it isn’t a solid chunk of aluminum, although it feels like one. On the back of the Dock is a port for a the iPad connector and a stereo line out jack. On the top in front of the support flange is a male iPad connector. The bottom of the Dock is covered by a rubber base. A hard plastic “pad” runs along the top around the iPad connector to “cushion” your iPad when it is connected. So far, this doesn’t sound too bad, right?

Well, here is where things start falling apart. In order to mount your iPad on the dock you have to remove it from whatever case you may have on it, unless your case is one of the few that is either thin enough to fit the narrow tolerances between the iPad connector and the support flange, or it has a panel that opens up the case to allow the iPad to be docked. Oh, and you did want your iPad to be displayed in portrait mode, right? Because landscape isn’t an option here. So it isn’t as if you could plug it into the Dock and then watch movies on your iPad.

And here is the point where the iPad Dock fails. Let’s say you’ve docked your iPad to let it charge overnight. It’s morning now, and you’re running late. So you’ve grabbed your coffee and tucked your paper under your arm. Now you just need to grab your iPad and head to work. You reach for the iPad…

… and this happens. As heavy as it feels, the Dock is so light that it comes with the iPad when you try to pick it up. Removing the iPad from the Dock requires both hands and a good solid grip. It is actually faster and easier to disconnect a standard docking cable from your iPad than it is to free it from the limpet-like grip of the iPad Dock. It is worse than useless then. Instead of making life easier, it makes it harder. From what I have seen online, many people have managed to create better and more useful docks by fashioning them out of Legos, instead. Don’t waste your money. We certainly wish we hadn’t gotten one.

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