Apple iPhone Lightning Dock review

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Update: Apple has released new versions of the Lightning Dock to match the new iPhone 6s colors, including silver, space gray, gold, and rose gold.

It accomplishes that minor miracle by eschewing the old, grooved design of the past for new, flat one that presents only a surface and a Lightning connector. That way the width of the phone doesn't matter now, nor will it matter into the future. So we know the new dock is flexible — but is it any good?

The bottom of the new iPhone Lightning Dock is covered in the same type of non-slip material as previous generations. The front and both sides are smooth. And the back has both the plug for your existing Lightning Cable, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The non-slip material at the base does its job as well as ever, keeping your iPhone Lightning Dock in place but still letting it slide around if you put even a small amount of effort into it. The Lightning port is a requirement, and since the iPhone moved its own headphone jack to the bottom, so is the 3.5mm jack.

Because there's no form-fitting groove anymore, you really can plug in any iPhone with a Lightning connector. That includes the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus; and conceivably future Lightning-equipped iPhone generations as well.

You can, physically, put an iPad mini or even full-size iPad on the Lightning Dock as well, but it's called an iPhone Lightning Dock for a reason. It's just the connector bearing all the weight of the device, and if you overload it, you risk it snapping off. Inside your iPad. And you really, truly don't want that.

When it comes to cases, you might think the lack of a groove helps there as well. But only sometimes. Width is no longer a factor but depth still is. If there's significant bulk on the bottom of the case, it will prevent the Lightning port from properly connecting.

So, unless it's a relatively thin case, or the area around the Lightning connector is opened up (like on Apple's cases) or can be opened or removed, you might still run into problems.

There's a nice weight to the iPhone Lightning Dock, but like almost every other Lightning Dock, the connector is tight enough that you can't just pluck your phone up off of it with one hand. The dock will come with it. Depending on your angle and dexterity, you can do that squeeze move where you try to pull the iPhone off while simultaneously pushing the dock away, but it never works consistently for me.

Because Lightning is small, and the connector is angled on the dock, it sometimes takes me a moment or two to plug it in. You get the hang of it in time, or rather you learn to rotate the dock to a workable position before going in for the plug.

iPhone Lightning Dock

iPhone Lightning Dock (Image credit: iMore)

It took Apple some seven months to release a Lightning Dock that works with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. I don't know what they were waiting for, but I'm glad they didn't wait any longer. I've been using the iPhone Lightning Dock every night since it was released, and it's not just as good as Apple's previous generations — it's better.

There are many other docks on the market now, of course. They all tried to fill the gap Apple had left. That Apple has released its own dock now doesn't change anything. Apple's remains simple and essential. The barest possible bit of plastic you need to plug in. Other docks provide completely different looks and often additional functionality as well.

If all you want is the Apple aesthetic and a place to charge, however, the iPhone Lightning Dock is a solid place to do it.

Updated to include information about using the iPhone Lightning Dock with cases.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

43 Comments
  • "It's just the connector bearing all the weight of the device, and if you overload it, you risk it snapping off. Insider your iPad." - Sent from Rene's iPhone hehehe
  • It looks ridiculous. Looks, as I’ve not yet used it. To me it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Broken/worn over time docks and lightning ports……..
  • It looks like there's enough room/give at the bottoms to allow a case. Any confirmation that a case can be used on the phone with this? Or just naked? Sent from the iMore App
  • Precisely my question too :)
  • I can't believe that wasn't covered. It is compatible with any Apple case, and many third party cases, provided they aren't too thick on the bottom. YMMV
  • Added. You can use it with any case that's thin enough not to prevent the Lightning connector from plugging in.
  • It can be used with almost all cases, in fact it's main intended use is for iPhones with cases. That's pretty much the point of the little nub, although Rene didn't seem to get that. If it were designed for naked iPhones, the nub would be longer side to side and actually support the iPhone or tablet or whatever, which is kind of my biggest beef with the thing. The way it is now, the iPhone can be at an angle and if you use it without a case, you will find yourself constantly fiddling with it to get the phone level.
  • I'll jump on that question wagon, too. If I have to remove my thin case, then . . . it's not for me.
  • Ill answer the question from my perspective. If you have an otterbox commuter for your 6 Plus, it wont sit right, and wont charge it,
  • How risky does it feel if you try to use your phone when docked and poke at the screen? I'm worried about the connector. Specifically, will it survive me blindly stabbing at the screen in an sleepy attempt to snooze my alarm?
  • I don't think that will be an issue.
  • Rene, can you test the dock with a Lifeproof case? I am considering buying this, but really need to know if the depth of the Lifeproof case (and others) would prevent me using the dock.
  • I really hate to admit this, but this looks like one of the most un-Apple products I have seen for a long time. The design (if there any) is unimaginative and the function is dangerous, with far too much room for error when docking, or worse still, far too much room for snapping the connector off. A sensible compromise would have involved some kind of support at the back, which grows out of the dock to suppor the rear side of the phone, surely? This would aid with the problem mentioned above, where pressing the screen could be disastrous, and with a slightly rubberised surface on the support to support the phone a little, could take some strain from the dock connector. Add to that a tiny amount of pivot on the connector itself, you could dock, push back on the phone and now it was supported securely. I won't often be heard saying this, but the new dock looks like a fail to me. I wouldn't risk my lovely iPhone on it.
  • It's a very Apple product in that this is pretty much how they've made iPhone docks since the beginning. They're ultra simplistic and utilitarian. Like a Lightning cable or AC adapter, really.
  • So do agree Rene, it looks the part in terms of aesthetics, the style is fine. But considering it has been (3 years?) in the making, the but that I find unlike Apple of old is the fact that it seems as though someone said; "I know, let's just stick a lightning connector in the middle and let that take the weight without trying to stabilise the phone in any way." The iPhone 6 Plus for instance deserves its own dock. It could've had a cool side loading dock that it slides into to take advantage of its landscape home screen and apps. I think the product rings of uninspired updating, rather than fresh thinking. Sent from the iMore App
  • So do agree Rene, it looks the part in terms of aesthetics, the style is fine. But considering it has been (3 years?) in the making, the but that I find unlike Apple of old is the fact that it seems as though someone said; "I know, let's just stick a lightning connector in the middle and let that take the weight without trying to stabilise the phone in any way." The iPhone 6 Plus for instance deserves its own dock. It could've had a cool side loading dock that it slides into to take advantage of its landscape home screen and apps. I think the product rings of uninspired updating, rather than fresh thinking. Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple's made Lightning Docks before. There was one for the iPhone 5/5S/5c. About 7 months since launch. I just look at these like basics. Again, like a Lightning cable.
  • But it's not like a lightning cable. A lightning cable plugs into a phone while the phone is laying flat on a surface. This dock's lightning cable is fused into plastic and is supposed to hold the weight of an iPhone 6 Plus and withstand usage of the phone without any damage occurring. None of the previous Lightning docks were like this. They all had built-in support for the phone, none of them relied on the actual connection as the only support. I'm sticking with my Belkin dock for sure.
  • Agree. Seems like a kid can hit the phone on a desk or table and leave you with a snapped off connector in your phone. I'll stick to a normal lightning to USB connector. And $39 is lulzworthy for this.
  • I have the Twelve South Hi-Rise. It looks great and will fit my phone WITH a case on it. I use the Speck Candy Shell Grip on my phone and it fits fine. It has several different connectors depending which case you use or no case at all. Oh yeah, and it's cheaper.
  • And it supports the phone with something other than just the Lightning port.
  • Been using this dock at work for a week with my 6+, Apple Leather case. It's fantastic. Best dock I've owned
  • Looks like a nice dock, but wow, is it expensive. I got my 12 South aluminum Hi-Rise dock for the same price, and it works with my iPad Mini 2 also.
  • This makes me believe Apple isn't considering wireless charging anytime soon… Sent from the iMore App
  • For me the thing this dock appears to be missing is the ability to use the Apple TV remote with it like you can with the old universal dock.
  • My feelings exactly. I'm still stuck using an old 30-pin dock and a 30-pin to Lightning adapter. If they'd just add the IR port back, we'd be all set.
  • Regarding the pricing: It is $49 CAD. In the USA it is $39.
  • Yes I noticed that as well. I bought mine for $39 USD then read this, Had me confused for a minute. Sent from the iMore App
  • Whoops! Fixed.
  • Hello Rene, I will recive mine in few days, one thing I'm not sure of.. Is it safe use while the phone is on the dock? I had never had any dock before. Thanks.
  • Looks like crap for the price to be honest.
  • I don't like this at all. And $40 seems too steep for it. I would never feel comfortable not having a backing of some sort, there's just too much torque on that tiny connector for my taste.
  • I have Twelve South Hi Rise Deluxe. It can handle iPhones, iPad Mini and iPads easily because it has support on the back , not just a plug. It is very adjustable to fit any case on it and you can connect the headphone jack while it is on the dock. Oh, and also the lightning cable cable comes included. It also comes in 3 colors, silver, space grey(black) and Gold. Hi Rise is made of metal and the Apple one is made of plastic. Pricing is almost the same for the two. I am missing something? Is this suppose to be better or its just another option for people to buy? In all seriousness, nice review. It does sound like typical Apple, but I like the Twelve South better. If possible, could you compare the two of them, the Apple iPhone lightning dock to the Twelve South?
  • It's still drives me nuts that Apple hasn't included an IR receiver on these docks since switching away from 30-pin. Dammit.
  • No actual physical device support == autofail. At least the old Dock Connector dock had a cantelever support for the phone.
  • I worry that mounting and dismounting, will over a period of time, chip off the paint around the lightening connector. Sent from the iMore App
  • As stated and by others as well looks like a disaster waiting to happen, lit just by the way it looks . Sent from the iMore App
  • Just that for $40? It's not even much of a looker. The High Rise from 12 South is the way to go. Sent from the iMore App
  • I would not trust this dock to hold my iPhone 6 Plus without additional support. Failure.
  • Try to use your phone while plugged in and your connection will be destroyed in a short period of time. Your phone should have some sort of support behind it, especially if you want to use it while it's connected. Posted via the iMore App
  • This is my favorite. USAMS
    https://youtu.be/DpJp_LpxgwY
  • My favorite. USAMS
    https://youtu.be/DpJp_LpxgwY
  • https://youtu.be/DpJp_LpxgwY