I would be hard-pressed to recommend purchasing a dock that includes an iPhone or iPod adapter right now. The reason is quite simple. The next generation of the iPhone is only four months away and all indications point toward it having a new dock connector to replace the ubiquitous 30 pin connection. With such a significant change on the way it makes no sense for someone to purchase a dock that will, at a minimum, require the purchase and use of an adapter come the fall. Instead, I would encourage anyone looking for speakers to use with their mobile device to find a pair that uses a wireless solution, be it Apple’s airplay or Bluetooth. Since most music playing devices include Bluetooth these days, wireless speaker solutions will be far more universal than those requiring a physical connection. And as an added bonus, they let you keep the audio source with you as you move about the room. That’s quite convenient.
It is true that any wireless solution will likely introduce some degree of degradation into the audio being streamed. Then again, the music is coming from a mobile device it’s likely not of the highest quality to begin with.
In addition, wireless speakers don’t charge your device while you listen to the music. That’s where iLUV’s MM377 MobiAir Bluetooth stereo speaker dock for smartphones comes in. It offers the best of both worlds… so long as one of those worlds is a device with a microUSB charging port. (Read: Not an iOS device, although there IS a workaround. Read on…)
There have been very few audio docks that also charge for the smartphone market with micro-USB connections. The varying device dimensions, micro-USB locations and orientation, make it very difficult to design a charging audio dock for these smartphones. Until now. The award-winning MobiAir (iMM377) is a Bluetooth® stereo speaker dock that streams music from smartphones or other Bluetooth enabled devices and charges most micro-USB smartphones. The MobiAir comes equipped with myBot® robotic arms that easily adjust and secure any smartphone in the dock, whether in landscape or portrait mode position. The sliding micro-USB port not only cradles your smartphone but it also doubles as a charging connection. So even if you get a new smartphone, no need to worry about compatibility or charging issues. In addition, powerful amplifiers coupled with dynamic acoustic speaker chambers combine to provide enhanced clarity and performance. Watch movies or listen to music with a richer, deeper sound experience.
Bluetooth® profile lets you stream music from most smartphones or other Bluetooth-enabled device
Sliding micro-USB allows charging connection for most smartphones
myBot® robotic arms secure your smartphone in the dock
Watch YouTube videos, movies, run apps, and play games while docked
Play music from your smartphone with stereo sound
Built with dynamic acoustic speaker chambers to enhance sound clarity
Powerful amplifiers provide better efficiency and performance
This is a rather unusual device because it straddles two different mobile accessory worlds. On the one hand, it’s a charging dock that offers a microUSB charging connection. On the other hand, it’s a Bluetooth speaker that doubles as a speakerphone. As such, it makes sense to look at each of the two disparate parts first and then look at the entire package as a whole.
First, let’s look at the Bluetooth speakerphone portion of the device.
It’s a nice, unassuming rectangle with a subtle, but unique, shape. That means it can easily sit on a desk or a night table without drawing too much attention. Some might prefer something that stands out but I see the subtlety is a positive.
The speakers are hidden behind the front grill and there is nothing on either side of the dock.
The front of the dock houses the smartphone stand and charger. It rises above the top of the device and projects a bit out. I wish it could be removed when not needed but, unfortunately, that is not the case.
The back of the speaker dock has the 5V port as well as an aux in 3.5 mm jack. This makes the speaker dock truly universal since it allows you to play music without needing to connect to Bluetooth. (This is particularly good if you have a first generation iPod Touch lying around.)
The top of the unit has eight buttons and a hole for the microphone. There is a play/pause button, and volume up button, a volume down button, a Bluetooth connection/pairing button, two buttons for advancing or repeating a track, a call button, and of course the power button. Each has a white symbol indicating its function. There is also a small white microphone symbol next to the microphone hole and a small Bluetooth symbol toward the front indicating the location of the Bluetooth indicator light that shines through the front grill when activate. The design is simple and straightforward. Just what you want from a dock that may be used on a nightstand.
If this all sounds a bit like the JawBone JamBox or the BRAVEN 600 we recently put head-to-head it should. The designs share quite a bit in common from the perspective of simple, easy-to-use functionality. There are, of course, some significant differences. For example, this speaker dock is a wired solution only that requires access to an AC plug while the others are intended for mobility and, as such, are battery operated. In addition, the iLuv MobiAir is at least 50% larger in every direction that the BRAVEN 600 and the JamBox. If you need to go mobile this isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you don’t plan on carrying your Bluetooth speaker dock with you this may well be a good purchase for you, especially since it will charge many devices and has a price of under $120. (The BRAVEN 600 line starts at $149.99 and the JamBox is $199.)
As far as the sound quality goes it is pretty much what you would expect from a Bluetooth stereo speaker dock that costs under $120. In other words, it gets loud enough but won’t blow out the windows. It sounds decent but won’t be winning any audiophile awards. At the same time, I wouldn’t expect something at this price point to win awards for sound. It is more than good enough if you are sitting at your desk and want to listen to music or lying in bed listening to music as you fall asleep. It’s a decent price for what it is and then some.
iLuv did something rather ingenious with the charging dock. You see, accessory manufacturers have a problem when designing for any device other than one of Apples offerings. Apple’s offerings use exactly the same connection and, most of the time, position it in the same location on each device. As a result, manufacturers simply need to accommodate different sized devices in order to make their iOS accessory “universal” across Apple’s line. (The worst case scenario requires a simple insert.)
This is not the case when one leaves the world of iOS devices. Yes, while the microUSB connection is now standard, each device not only has a different size but also locates and orients the microUSB in a different place. For example, the HTC HD 7 has the microUSB connection on the bottom but offset a bit to the right. Another device I recently reviewed had the microUSB connection on the side while a third placed the microUSB connection on the top of the device. The connector is universal but that’s as far as it goes. That’s a problem if you’re looking to create one accessory that can be used with each and every device. It is, in fact, why we see such a limited number of “device-specific” accessories for each new Android or Windows Phone device. It is simply not cost effective.
iLuv has found a way around this by designing a charging cradle that is as close to universal as you’ll find. This is achieved through two articulating arms, one of the left and one on the right, which can accommodate devices of different sizes. You simply place the device on the base and then bring the arms down until the press against each side of it. If a device is incredibly narrow, the arms can be brought down to a vertical position, creating the narrowest cradle space possible. If a device is exceptionally large, however, the arms can extend to the parallel with the desktop. That solves the issue of accommodating phones of different sizes.
The company also found a way to accommodate microUSB ports that are offset or oriented differently from one device to the next by letting the microUSB plug slide from side to slide AND rotate a full 180°.
It is a relatively cumbersome solution but it works… well… and that is all that matter. I tried it with three different Windows Phones, two different Android devices and two different BlackBerries and it worked fine with each. I even used it to charge a Bluetooth headset. Yes, iLuv found a way to create a charging dock that is as close to universal as you’ll find.
But what if you use an iPhone or iPod Touch? At first I assumed there was no way to use this dock to charge an iOS device. Sure you could use the Bluetooth aspect of it or take advantage of the 3.5mm Aux In jack but that was where things ended. Then I realized that battery cases like the Mophie juicepack air actually convert the 30-pin connection in a microUSB port. In other words, there actually is a way to use this dock’s charging abilities with an iPhone or iPod touch. It simply requires a case like the Mophie.
The iLub MobiAir is a dock with two key aspects that each work well enough and, taken together, create something that is practical, and, dare I say, quite useful. Best of all, it is an accessory that will outlast the next few device upgrades since it does not rely on any one particular design. Is relatively small, relatively unassuming, quite easy to use, and it sounds pretty good. And it does all that for under $120. (You can get it for quite a bit less in our Amazon Affiliate Store. Click here.)
It is a great solution to have on your desk at work or use on your nightstand. If you use a Windows Phone or Android device it should be on your short list of options. And although it does not give iOS-users full functionality right out of the box, there is a way to use the dock to charge your iPhone. In other words, this product comes as close to being a universal smartphone stereo speaker dock as you’re going to find and that makes it stand out from the crowd.
You can learn more about it here on the product page. Amazon Affiliate Store link
What I Like: Universal; Bluetooth for ease of use; Good controls; Sounds decent, especially for the price
What Needs Improvement: No remote; To charge an iOS device requires an extra accessory