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REVIEW: iBolt xProDock for the S4, slightly customized

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So by now, many of you have seen my posts on the forums about regarding docks and my, umm, almost passion for finding the right one I will use for a long time after hearing the news that the Samsung Infuse 4G dock has met it's fate (full post | direct link to the issue regarding why it won't work). I even went so far as to modify the Infuse dock so the S4 would fit in it, but it was just too much to ask for from the Infuse dock - working on both my Skyrocket and the SIII flawlessly, but not the S4 after hardware changes preventing it from charging and going into car mode.... so where to next? Follow along with me and hopefully you won't suffer too much through my wordy review!

Enter iBolt with their xProDock, currently $39.95 + shipping on Amazon with the Y-cable, magically designed to work on older Samsung phones like the SII, SIII, Notes, and more, but more impressively, the S4 as well. I also ordered the $7.99 AMPS Adapter Plate, and you'll see why I bought that soon.



I already know what you're thinking, "the Infuse dock and other Samsung branded docks for Galaxy S series phones worked on the older phones, but not the S4, what makes this dock magically work?" Hell if I know, I'm not an electrical engineer, but it DOES:

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikaelPe

Hello everyone, with this post we can confirm that the Galaxy S4's vehicle "DockMode" works perfect with the xProDock. See image where it was checked today against AT&T's and Sprint's version. Friends from Europe have also confirmed it works fine with the International version.

Driving using the "DockMode" combined with a Bluetooth for hands-free is great as it turns your S4 into a virtual driving assistant and entertainment center, all while you stay away from texting while driving. Keeping the phone above the dashboard obviously also increases both cell phone and GPS reception. Stepping out of the car with a charged phone is another nice benefit with using a charging dock.!



Also, a quote from their website discussing this feature:

Quote:

The xProDock for Samsung will work with both the S4 and the Note II, as well as the S2 and S3. It will also start "Smartdocking" mode and you will receive our new "iBOLT Dock & Drive" app for free. Based on the dimensions published by Samsung it will also be compatible with all cases, including Otterbox Defender and Ballistic style cases.

First thing I did when I received the iBolt a day earlier than USPS estimated delivery was test it out on a 2.1A home charger to see if it would do exactly what the picture above showed, and it did - charged the S4 and sent it into Car Mode! I am not interested in their dock app though I suspect many of you will be, so I can't comment too much about how well the iBolt app works - I just need it to turn on car mode so that a custom Tasker setup will allow my phone to fire up Google Music. I use Tasker to start Google Music so that I can get in the car, turn on my music, and go - no fussing around with opening apps or connecting to Bluetooth, even though I have a dedicated Bluetooth audio stream capable in one of my cars, it just isn't as easy as using a cable if you've got one.... which brings me nicely to my next point, the integrated aux cable!

I have THREE main requirements for a dock - it holds my phone nicely without looking like junk or some hacked up mess, it charges my phone easily without having to worry about utilizing a stand-along cigarette lighter, and it has the ability to output audio somehow, Bluetooth only if absolutely necessary, but auxiliary output preferred. If you don't have to tie up Bluetooth media streaming for this every time you get in the car to drive 2 mins down the road for something, why deal with it? Just my opinion, but it's a very relevant opinion.... I use a Bluetooth headset throughout the day, especially while driving which many of you can relate to in places where it is already a requirement to have some form of hands-free talking while driving, so why use up both phone and media audio capabilities for Bluetooth? Not to mention, when a audible notification comes in, the device emits the sound from the speaker on the phone and then again through Bluetooth, attenuating the music being output from the phone slightly, whereas when you use an aux cable, it only fully mutes the music to notify you once and continues playing back music - or at least this is my experience, YMMV (especially since we're talking about cars here!).

I just want to make it clear even though I've said it before on other threads - I hate universal docks (citation). I hate them almost as much as I hate cases. I really do, other than the home docks I have for my phone and Nexus 7, phone uses the Seidio Innodock Jr that, once again, I have been able to utilize throughout multiple phone upgrades since going back to Samsung with the Skyrocket. Car docks should not be universal to the point of being so hideous that they make your car and your phone look like crap. If you drive a beater and own a flip phone, then by all means, press on with your $5.99 clamp on dock to keep your phone visible so you can read the time on it, after all, your car's stereo has never worked or received power, so that's the only way you're getting the time inside your car!

Going back to smartphones, beyond that, it's good for nothing, as those cheap-o docks ask you to obtain power through your own means, if you even opt for it at all. And if you stream Google Music or God forbid you decide to use Google Navigation in the car, you're going to be out of battery before you reach your destination, so that doesn't make any sense either. And then once you've got that awesome, shiny new phone of yours in there, you'll need to manually (read: using two hands) attach power from your worthless 1A cigarette lighter adapter you paid $0.99 with free shipping on eBay 4 years ago AND THEN you'll have to manually (again: two hands) connect your aux cable to the top of the phone to get music, and you mind as well have something as hideous as this in your car - this is a pic of a customer of mine who just loves to turn a good thing into something just awful:



Note that this is NOT a picture from any of my cars! Anyways.... back to the topic. Am I being selfish, lazy, a little arrogant regarding the amount of time spent docking your phone and connecting it to your car? ABSOLUTELY. Probably has something to do with the fact that I'm American, I don't know, #firstworldproblems hashtag this all you want, but that's how it goes, I would rather spend a little more time getting the dock setup perfectly ONCE than having to fuss with wires and a cheap-o universal dock EVERY time I get in the car, but that's understandable, isn't it? Which is why I hate universal docks.... they don't allow you to speed up the process because they aren't designed for your actual device. You have to manually connect everything, and that always requires two hands.... until now!

iBolt figured it out with the xProDock. Not only will this thing work with everything from a naked Galaxy SIII Mini up to a Note II with an Otterbox on it, your device can be installed one-handed, positioned horizontally in landscape mode or vertically in portrait mode. I used to have all my older, smaller screen phones mounted in the car in landscape but now since there's enough real estate on the screen for me to read clearly while sitting all the way back in the seat, I run them all in portrait. So imagine my surprise seeing a universal dock that can mount the phone quickly with one hand in portrait mode! It holds your phone in so tightly with that quick flip inside the arms of the dock that you can even connect the MicroUSB cable just below it with one hand as well! And the best part is that you ONLY have to connect that one cable - it utilizes dock audio via an Y-cable aux output, charges the device, AND sends it into car mode for me, all in the speed of Snapdragon 600.

So here's what I've got going on. Daily driver that I spend most of my time in is a 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5SL with upgraded everything, basically a 3.5 without the V6 motor and not as good as I would have liked gas mileage - not important, I won't be keeping this thing for long anyways, despite all the stereo and custom paint work I have done to it. I personally think ProClip / Brodit makes the best vehicle mounts, and I typically buy a new one for each vehicle I purchase, JUST the vehicle mount and not the device mount, otherwise this would be a review for them and not iBolt! What's my problem with ProClip / Brodit? Nothing really, aside from the price - the mounts are pretty stellar and I've had them with past devices, but I'll be damned if I'm going to spend $79 for the RIGHT one, the hard wired cable mount and not the cheapy cigarette lighter that probably only outputs 1A anyways. Come to think of it, maybe the hardwire one is only capable of 1A too.... but I digress, someone will have to inform me about that later, not relevant to this discussion. The point is, if I only spent $14 for the Infuse dock nearly 2 years ago when I had my Skyrocket and used it through ownership of my SIII, why in the hell would I spend $79 on a device mount specific for only one phone that I won't keep for years at a time? Besides, they took too long coming out with theirs - everyone else made cases and such so far, what's the hold up on this year's most popular Android device?

The ProClip mount I chose for my Altima goes just below and to the right of the radio so it is perfectly angled to my view. With the Infuse dock as you'll see below, instead of tearing apart the ProClip mount constantly when changing devices, I just stuck on some industrial strength 3M Velcro tape (Amazon link, they sell it in smaller lengths if you just want a little bit to try it out, but I use this all the time for applications, I buy it in as much bulk as I can!). It holds the dock in place and has NEVER come undone even in the hot Florida sun until I pulled the crap out of it like you see below when I removed it for good.



You can see how flush mounted the infuse dock got because I didn't employ any part of the suction cup arm mount, just the back of the Infuse device mount and the ProClip, that's it! I wanted to do the same thing with the xProDock, but unfortunately, it has a crazy ball-mount system on it for the average customer to use and use WELL I might add, but for me, I might have to cut and sand that whole thing down, so here's what I did, for now at least....



That's the AMPS adapter plate that is NOT included with the xProDock, but was purchased to test and see if it would work for what I wanted it to do without having to tear off the threads where the collar attaches to the ball mounted arm on the suction cup OR this extra AMPS plate. More info on what I thought about it coming soon.

The problem I anticipated with the iBolt was the clearance issues when the phone is fully seated up against the back of the mount - constant in and out of the device may start to mark up the back of it. Also, you can see just how stiff the cable is considering it can't even be clipped in right now in order to bend correctly to connect with the device!



I'm not going to complain about that part much since I believe it may become a little easier to work with over time and use, but something needed to be done about the hard plastic face of the mount. I grabbed some black alcantara "suede" I had from another project, cut it to fit, and fastened it with 3M Super 77 spray. If you've never used this before, this isn't the project to learn on, so try it out a few times with other fabric before attempting this! Once it sticks, it's not going to want to come off without removing the adhesive, and once it's cured, it will mark up the plastic, requiring another solution like Goo Gone at best or paint thinner at worst to remove the adhesive. Here's the end result of the alcantara backing:



Sorry iBolt for covering up your company name!!! You may notice from this view that the single mounting arm on the right side of the device is fixed and is always extended. The dual mounting arms on the left side are actually adjustable and are collapsed into the base at this time. The single mounting arm is a little long for my taste, and while I know its job is to grip the phone if it were wearing a case without having to extend it like you would the dual arms, it might make sense to have this a little shorter. I've already noticed it has got in the way while trying to tap on screen items that are on the right side of the screen, especially while searching for contacts using the slider to scroll up and down for the first letter of the name!

And now for the finished product, installed and with Google Music open:



Wide shot of the interior from the driver's point of view, you can see the cable and the glow from the soft mounted Escort Passport 9500ix radar detector on the dash (this is a slow car, I don't need to waste a hard mount kit on this! I just remove it and use it in the other, fast car!):



So, how do I like it so far? I think the mount is a little unsteady for my taste right now, which is to be expected from being so far away from flat base since I'm using the AMPS ball mounting plate with Velcro on it and not a flush-mounted surface. I still may end up grinding off the threads as I already said already, sanding it down smooth on the back side of the mount, and putting on the Velcro straight to that. Haven't decided if I want to "ruin" this thing right this minute or use it for some time and see if I need to go that extra step right now, but I'll let you know what I end up doing!

Another quirk I'm trying to resolve is that while dock mode does indeed launch, it doesn't launch into CAR mode specifically - the dock mode that launches on this phone is classified as a HOME dock and not the CAR dock with the steering wheel icon. So now I need to reconfigure my dock settings to get everything working properly, namely needing to figure out how to keep screen on while docked and running Google Music, since that option isn't available in Android 4.2 according to Tasker.... Navigation will keep the screen on natively, that's how the app was designed, but need to tweak a little more to get the screen to stay on with Google Music running as well.

My advice that I've been giving since I received this phone is to make sure that when you connect the USB cable to a USB port, you need to make sure it is at least 2A to get this phone charging while using GPS or streaming music. Upgrade to a 2A port and keep in mind that if you find one with two USB ports, it will most likely split power between the two.

I look forward to trying out this dock with one of the awesome ITSKINS cases they are asking forum members to test out! As awesome as those cases look because they use REAL carbon fiber, something I'm quite the connoisseur of, I'm actually really interested in testing one out, thus converting me from being an avid hater of cases to wanting one in the same way that iBolt convinced me to start liking universal docks!

IN CONCLUSION: If I haven't put you to sleep yet reading all this, or if you just skipped down to this, the iBolt came through in the end. It is an extremely sturdy universal dock, but don't call it universal with the speed and versatility that the xProDock has for the newest smartphones! It does everything the Samsung branded Infuse 4G dock did with the SIII but couldn't do with the S4 - charge the device, send it to a docking mode, and output dock audio, and does it for ALL the devices in the Galaxy phone lineup, not just the older ones SII and SIII like the Infuse did! You can use your own charging solution, and you should, considering that old 1A cigarette lighter USB port you've got won't work well with the S4, you'll need a 2A one for this job. It clamps the device well and allows for one-handed phone insertion and USB port connection, all familiar motions if you've ever used an Infuse dock in the past! I like how they give you the option to hard mount it with the AMPS Adapter Plate too, considering I'm not getting my device specific mount but rather this universal dock, I'd like to be able to hard mount it instead of make it look tacky (IMO) on the windshield. The iBolt xProDock is a good value considering I hope to be able to use this with future devices.

PLEASE NOTE - I'm not being compensated for this review, I'm just a fan of helping others with my results considering I have a lot of experience with both technology AND customizing vehicles. I am in NO way advertising for any company I have mentioned in this review, I actually bought this dock on my own, as you can see here:

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The Following 14 Users Say Thank You to KryptosXLayer2 For This Useful Post: [ View ] Gift KryptosXLayer2 Ad-Free
 
 
3rd May 2013, 09:05 PM |#2  
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4th May 2013, 02:41 AM |#3  
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Thanks Mike! I'm probably going to pick one of these up but I'm not going to be doing that much customization. The main 3 things I do with my docked phone in the car are play music, use navigation when needed, and/or video tape idiots on the road.

There's nothing like a good dash cam video of someone driving like a moron.

Nice mention of #firstworldproblems. I always like to check that out for a laugh or to remind myself how good life really is.
4th May 2013, 05:47 AM |#4  
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Haha, glad you liked it.... I'd love to be able to use my phone as a dash cam, but I hate having it so far away and / or above my head - when mounted low on the windshield, it's too far away from me like my radar detector is, and when it's above my head, I hate having to take my hand that far off the wheel to check something! No texting and driving, just changing tracks or what not....

But yeah, I'll get a vehicle one day that has a perfect location for me to mount devices that is close to the wheel or radio and has a perfect view of the windshield to tape some of the craziness I see down here in FL on a daily basis! My track car has a fixed camera mount between the two seats and that catches all the action, unfortunately it's just what you'd see inside a race track and nothing "fun" like idiot drivers on the roads....
7th May 2013, 03:05 AM |#5  
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Ha! I feel the same you do about docks. Great to see someone else with a similar passion. I'm getting the S4 later this week and I'll be ordering this dock shortly after. I was looking for a reasonable option to use with a case too. I never used a case because it always interfered with my Infuse Dock on my E4GT and then my SGS3. Guess I might be able to get a case now to get a kickstand back like my OG Evo.

I'm probably going to have to tweak my desk dock with a little Dremmel action like you did for your infuse dock. Those squared corners are causing a real problem. I have the Mugen dock that sits the phone in portrait mode on my desk. Doesn't launch dock though (never has, it's cheap). These air gestures seem like what my set up has been waiting for.

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7th May 2013, 03:41 AM |#6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmark27

Ha! I feel the same you do about docks. Great to see someone else with a similar passion. I'm getting the S4 later this week and I'll be ordering this dock shortly after. I was looking for a reasonable option to use with a case too. I never used a case because it always interfered with my Infuse Dock on my E4GT and then my SGS3. Guess I might be able to get a case now to get a kickstand back like my OG Evo.

I'm probably going to have to tweak my desk dock with a little Dremmel action like you did for your infuse dock. Those squared corners are causing a real problem. I have the Mugen dock that sits the phone in portrait mode on my desk. Doesn't launch dock though (never has, it's cheap). These air gestures seem like what my set up has been waiting for.

Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk 2

Dock + Air Gestures = Heaven on a device! Love using it in the car, it's a very fresh take on technology, for sure....

Still testing it out with the Velcro on the AMPS mount instead of tearing off the ball bearing, loving everything about this dock so far though! Just a little wiggle room due to the Velcro adjusting itself when mounting the device to the dock, and then again when plugging the cable in one handed - ONE HANDED! On a "universal" dock! That in itself is reason enough to order one of these.... haha
9th May 2013, 06:31 AM |#7  
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Were you able to get the aux audio to work? Mine doesn't seem to output to my car speakers with the dock accessory settings checked.

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9th May 2013, 06:43 AM |#8  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by corygibbons

Were you able to get the aux audio to work? Mine doesn't seem to output to my car speakers with the dock accessory settings checked.

Sent from my SGH-M919 using xda app-developers app

Strange.... mine works just fine, have you contacted iBolt about it? Maybe something is wrong with the connection inside the sliding door on the backside of the mount, slide it to unlock the cover and check to make sure they're both connected well, and then make sure your aux connection to your car's plug is firmly connected, that's about the only things I can think to check.

On another topic - one thing I wanted to mention again was the screen on while docked function.... I'm currently using Tasker to set the screen on for 24 hours when connected to the dock and turn it back to 1 minute when undocked, but for some reason, Tasker isn't the best at following ALL the rules when closing out a task! Does anyone have any suggestions for keeping the screen on while docked? I know how to keep the screen on while charging just fine, that's easy to do through the phone's settings menu, but I don't want to have the screen on while it's sitting on my desktop charger in my bedroom or once I get wireless charging for my desk, that's absurd, I just need to keep the screen on while docked ONLY. It worked perfectly in car mode on the SIII, but since this isn't car mode, again, I'm trying to get that working without having 20 apps pointing to each other saying "turn on this mode only to turn on this setting and go to the next thing." Seems a little redundant and maddening all at the same time!

Posting that in other forums to see if anyone knows the answer, will edit this if I can find some help elsewhere too
9th May 2013, 07:01 AM |#9  
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The Car Home I use on my Evo 3D supports it.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...Y2FyaG9tZTMiXQ..

There's a bunch of features like that. Plug in = power on wifi, gps, keep screen on, etc.
9th May 2013, 07:03 AM |#10  
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You may have already done this based on what you said, but it took me a minute or two to figure out, so I figured I'd mention it. You have to make sure that you have "Audio output mode - Use external speakers when device is docked" is checked under Accessory settings. If that isn't working also try the dock with some other speaker setup just to check.
9th May 2013, 07:07 AM |#11  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M3wThr33

The Car Home I use on my Evo 3D supports it.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...Y2FyaG9tZTMiXQ..

There's a bunch of features like that. Plug in = power on wifi, gps, keep screen on, etc.

Right, but I don't want a fully featured Car Home app since I just use Google Music or Navigation while driving - I really just don't need all the bells and whistles, I just want the physical interaction of plugging in the device to automatically set the phone into a docked mode that keeps the screen on, or in other words, car mode that does that inherently. It worked just fine in the past, but since 4.1.2, this whole docking situation has been screwed with unnecessarily by Google! Hmmm... I just thought of something.... brb to test just having Tasker start that Car Mode Control app and nothing else! May have figured it out here!

EDIT - IT WORKS! Okay, shouldn't be this excited, but it's nearly 2:30AM, and once again, I've spent too much time working on something related to my phone.... so here's what I've got going on, and even though I kind of hate having to jump through this many hoops to get it working the way it was before, there's an added "benefit" of doing it this way, and here's why it's in quotes:

WHAT THIS DOES - Sets the iBolt xProDock "docking mode" into "car mode," which is two different things. Docking mode does not keep the screen on while docked, which is a problem if you use your phone to access apps like Google Music and Navigation while driving (note how I wasn't talking about texting and driving for a reason!), but it does give you a cool menu bar on your pull down notification menu of recently used apps while docked, can be kind of useful if you regularly only use a few select apps while docked. Car mode keeps the screen on, but since the iBolt dock and everything else after 4.1.2 won't recognize a dock mount instantly turning on car mode, this is how you can trick it into doing so and also retain the dock mode notification menu apps list!

STEP ONE - Download Tasker or A2DP Volume (the latter is free to use in case you didn't want to pay for Tasker) and also Car Mode Control

STEP TWO - Use Tasker or A2DP Volume to manipulate the Home Dock (what iBolt is using to go into docking mode) to automatically launch Car Mode Control. How to do this depends on the app, but it's pretty simple for either one.

With Tasker, start a profile for State > Docked > Type > Desk. For the Task you'll need to perform, I first have Keyguard set to Off to turn on the screen and unlock the device, then Load App > Car Mode Control. For the Exit Task, I kill everything - Car Mode first, Music, Navigation, Maps, all with "Use Root > On" selected for some extra power to do what I want it to do. Then I have it set to turn Keyguard back On, but that doesn't hardly work for some reason. You'll want to either create another profile for State > Docked > Type > Car or use A2DP below, at the point where I have an asterisk. If you're wondering why I didn't use State > Docked > Type > Any, it's because you want the Desk dock to launch the Car dock - doing Any will just confuse Tasker for a second or two and load the Desk dock and then the Car dock, and THEN the Car dock again since you're setting it to effectively start the Car Mode Control app.

With A2DP Volume, a handy app you should have anyways regardless of whether or not you use A2DP streaming through Bluetooth, create a profile for Home Dock first, and have it ONLY Start app on connect > Car Mode Control. Then go back one, and edit the * Car Mode profile, and this is where you have it launch just one app of your choosing, mine being Google Music. You can also check Stop app on disconnect, and anything else you might find useful - like setting media volume, etc.

With either path you chose, using Tasker AND / OR A2DP Volume, you should have two icons on your notification bar, one for the Dock Mode and the other for Car Mode.... When you pull down your notification bar, you'll see the list of recent apps for Dock Mode, and an ongoing notification to click and turn off Car Mode (unfortunately, that's kind of stupid, but oh well, it's always been like that). And the best part, the point of this whole post...... the screen WILL stay on while docked!

Hope this helped someone other than just myself, man, it's quite the headache and I've got apps pointing at other apps all over the place for no damn reason, but this certainly does the job!
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