I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Elevation Dock with Lightning adapter

My wife and I have been using a pair of these in our Elevation Docks for about a week and have come to the same conclusions.

The docks (designed for the iPhone 4S) cost $59 each on Kickstarter in February but didn’t arrive until September, shortly before the release of the iPhone 5, due to significant production delays. I’m not sure how much blame falls on Elevation Lab for the delays, but they had remarkably bad luck with the timing of the Dock connector’s retirement.

The Elevation Dock with the iPhone 4S is great and a pleasure to use. To cope with the Lightning port, Elevation Lab just released a $15 adapter that replaces most of the guts in the original Dock, and they now offer an $89 “iPhone 5” Dock with the adapter preinstalled.

The adapter works: the iPhone 5 can mount in the Elevation Dock with it. The instructions are terse, vague, and printed in dark blue ink on black paper, but installation is still easy.

It’s just a metal clamp that holds an Apple Lightning cable (not included, $19.99 from Apple) securely at the required angle. This brought my total cost to $97.40 per adapted Dock. For the pre-adapted Dock and a Lightning cable from Apple, new buyers need to pay $108.99 plus shipping and tax as needed. I could justify $59 on Kickstarter, but now it’s almost twice that.

The primary appeal of the original Elevation Dock was the ease of removing your iPhone from it. Apple’s crappy little docks were so lightweight that you’d need to annoyingly hold them down while removing the phone, often requiring two hands. Elevation Lab made a great video on Kickstarter demonstrating how frustrating other docks were, and showing how easily the iPhone lifted out of their heavy base with their custom, low-friction connector.

We all saw that video and knew that frustration, and that’s why they were able to far surpass their Kickstarter goal so easily. And with the iPhone 4S, it really did work that well, once we eventually got our Elevation Docks.

But with the Lightning adapter, the Elevation Dock works like all of the other docks in that video.

Apple’s Lightning plug holds very securely, nothing like Elevation’s original low-friction connector. They subtly hint at this in the adapter’s description:

Your dock will have as much friction as your Apple cord does now, which you can test.

It’s even harder to remove the iPhone 5 from the Elevation Dock than I expected. It requires two hands almost every time, and it makes me want to throw the Dock out the window. The Lightning connector on Apple’s cables not only wasn’t designed for this use, but substantially hinders it.

I initially thought that quickly offering an “adapter” that simply mounted an Apple Lightning cable was a clever solution for Elevation Lab to offer upset Dock owners: it was much faster, simpler, and cheaper than it would have been to work with Apple and make an official Lightning accessory.

But now that I have it, I can see that it’s not a solution at all: it’s a bad hack. It doesn’t work very well, it ruins the Elevation Dock’s appeal, and the total cost is embarrassing for its actual utility.

I hope that Elevation Lab can someday work with Apple to release a dock with a real low-friction Lightning connector that restores the short-lived usefulness and elegance that the original Elevation Dock offered for the iPhone 4S, because their current solution is neither useful nor elegant.