Refreshed internals, lower price point possible.
Belkin Debuts 'Charge Dock' With First Integrated Chargers for Apple Watch and iPhone
The new Charge Dock for Apple Watch and iPhone is the very first third-party product to incorporate a Lightning connector and a charging puck for the Apple Watch, letting both an iPhone and an Apple Watch charge through the dock without the need for user-supplied cables.
Ahead of the launch of the Charge Dock, I went hands-on with it to see how it measures up to other Apple Watch and iPhone charging solutions on the market and whether it's worth its $130 price tag.
Belkin's Charge Dock consists of an aluminum platform with a built-in Lightning connector for the iPhone and a chrome arm that houses an Apple Watch charging puck. It's a simple, unobtrusive design that fits well into any decor, but it does only come in silver, so it's not going to perfectly match all iPhones and Apple Watches.
The mix of a matte aluminum base and a shiny chrome arm may not be appealing to everyone, especially with the black accents on the base where the iPhone rests and the black detailing on the back of the Apple Watch stand.
Size wise, the Charge Dock is compact so it's not going to take up too much room on a nightstand or desk. It measures in at five inches long, three inches wide, and it's less than an inch thick. In length, it's a bit smaller than the iPhone 6s and about an inch smaller than the iPhone 6s Plus.
On the bottom, there's a grippy surface so it won't move around on a surface, but even without the rubber grip, it's heavy enough that it wouldn't shift around. Overall, the dock is well-made and has a solid build. With the exception of the integrated charger, it's all metal and feels like it could stand up to a good amount of abuse.
The biggest draw of the Charge Dock is having a compact place to charge an Apple Watch and an iPhone simultaneously without the need for multiple charging devices and multiple cables. Since all of the cables are built into the dock, it's able to charge with a single power adapter.
I appreciated only having one cable to plug in, but I do wish Belkin had put more effort into the design of the cable. It's a relatively thick black cable with a sizable power adapter at the end and it doesn't match with standard Apple cables at all. It's a minor detail and an even more minor complaint, but with a dock priced at $130, it would be nice to have a cable that fits in with the Apple aesthetic. For the record, the cable is 1.5m, so it should be long enough to reach an outlet near the ground when on a desk or table.
The iPhone sits on the base of the Charge Dock, on top of the built-in Lightning connector. Belkin made the connector adjustable using a wheel at the back of the dock so it can be lowered or raised depending on whether an iPhone is bare or in a case. It's a great feature that makes the stand compatible with a whole range of cases.
This Lightning connector also rotates backwards and forwards, allowing the position of the phone to be adjusted somewhat. It can stand upright on the Lightning connector or be angled backwards just a bit. It also angles forward, but I'm not sure why anyone would use that angle.
At the bottom where the iPhone rests on the stand, there's a rubber barrier to keep it from touching the metal of the base, and at the back, there's also a small rubber strip where the iPhone rests against the chrome arm of the Apple Watch charger. Both of these ensure the iPhone is never going to be scratched or otherwise damaged when placed on the dock.
My iPhone 6s Plus fit securely on the dock both in a case and without one. There was no danger of it coming loose or shifting when accidentally knocked. The dock is also able to be used to charge an iPad mini and an iPad Air 2, but tablets don't fit comfortably on the base and they can't be charged when an Apple Watch is in place because they overlap with the Apple Watch charger.
I had no complaints with the built-in Lighting connector for the iPhone, but the built-in Apple Watch charger was more problematic. The Apple Watch charger is a simple arm extended over the side of the dock, where the Apple Watch is held in place with just the magnetic connection between the back of the watch and the charger itself.
Anyone who has an Apple Watch knows that this isn't the strongest of connections. Several times while testing the dock, I knocked my Apple Watch out of place either by removing the iPhone from the Charge Dock or by accidentally bumping it on my desk. There are several other Apple Watch docks on the market that use this same standalone design, but the difference between those docks and this dock is the addition of the iPhone. Putting my iPhone on the dock or taking it off has the potential to jostle the Apple Watch.
I also had some trouble getting the Apple Watch to remain straight on the charger because it had a tendency to rotate around even with a simple tap. I didn't think the loose connection was a huge problem when used on a desk, but I'd use caution if this dock is going to go in a high traffic area where the Apple Watch could potentially be knocked onto the floor.
Belkin's Charge Dock works and looks best with a closed-loop band, so I folded up my Sport Band each night before putting it on the charger. It's possible to leave it open, but I did bump it more often with the open band just because there's more to get in the way.
Update: It's come to my attention that the Belkin Charge Dock ships with an additional plastic attachment for the arm to provide a stable base for heavier Apple Watch bands like the Link Bracelet. It attaches to the back of the Apple Watch charging puck to hold up close-loop bands and add stability. With the plastic attachment in place, the Belkin Charge Dock should work well with all Apple Watches, even those that are on the heavier side.
The Apple Watch sits on the Charge Dock vertically, which means it's not going to work with the new Nightstand mode introduced in watchOS 2. It does angle the Apple Watch slightly so it can be viewed on a bedside table, but it's not something I'd want to be fumbling with in the middle of the night to see the time due to that weak magnetic connection.
Belkin's Charge Dock is priced at $130, which is expensive, but understandable. I'm sure built-in Apple hardware and certification for that hardware don't come cheap. At $130, it's the equivalent of paying $65 for an Apple Watch dock and $65 for an iPhone dock - not an exorbitant price, but it may be more than most people would spend.
For that price tag, you're getting fewer cables and a compact solution for charging multiple devices at once. That's not going to be worth the price for everyone, but for people looking for an all-in-one solution, it's a reasonable price to pay for convenience.
The single biggest flaw with this dock is the connection between the Apple Watch and the charger. It's not a deal breaker, but it's something to be aware of because some caution needs to be exercised when accessing the iPhone on the charger when the Apple Watch is also in place.
- Fewer cables
- Compact design
- High quality
- Built-in chargers
- Adjustable Lightning connector
- Rubber protection for iPhone
- Apple Watch doesn't feel secure
- Cable is ugly
- Only comes in silver/chrome
How to Buy
The Belkin Charge Dock for Apple Watch and iPhone is available from the Belkin website for $129.99. It will also be available at Apple.com and at Apple's retail stores.
Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this review.