Google Galaxy Nexus Accessories: Vehicle Dock, Desktop Dock

I upgraded from a Motorola Droid (2009) to an unlocked Google Galaxy Nexus. It's running like a peach on T-Mobile's $30 unlimited data plan. Now I put some accessories to the test.

Galaxy Nexus Vehicle Dock: Or how to squeeze the bejesus our of your Nexus smartphone.
Galaxy Nexus Vehicle Dock: Or how to squeeze the bejesus out of your Nexus smartphone.

Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus is still for sale. But that may change any day, given the patent infringement case now underway in San Jose between Samsung and Google. My advice if you’re in the midst of an upgrade dilemma: act fast, snag a Nexus direct from Google. But what about the quality of the accessories? If you’re contemplating the vehicle dock and the desktop dock read on for my thoughts.

Those that follow my Android coverage here on Stark Insider will know that I expect the days of two-year contract locks to slowly fade away.

Freedom of choice, and no early termination fees are the order of the day.

In that regard, I upgraded from a Motorola Droid (2009) to an unlocked Google Galaxy Nexus. It’s running like a peach on T-Mobile’s $30 unlimited data plan.

Beyond the hassle-free ownership that comes along with owning Google’s flagship expression of the pure Android experience, comes a smartphone that is chock full of leading edge glory. Jelly Bean (Android 4.1), of course, leads the way and I can say (like so many others) that it’s the most refined, smooth, and fast operating system yet. It blows iOS out of the water.

But enough of that preamble then, what about the vehicle dock and desktop dock… are they worth purchasing? There’s some mixed results.

Vehicle Dock

Sliding the Nexus in and out of Samsung’s Vehicle Dock is an acrobatic feat not for the feint of heart (i.e. think jaws of death).

There are two things I like about Samsung’s vehicle dock for the Galaxy Nexus (i9250). One is that the micro-USB and audio ports are built in to the base. This means I don’t need to do cable calisthenics each time I enter the Prius. It’s one step closer to being a properly wired system. The other feature that stood out to me are the — dun dun dun — pogo pins. That’s those three gold contacts on the edge of the Nexus. They provide an alternative to micro-USB for charging and syncing. Since they’re based on contact, the promise more convenience, and eliminate the hassle of fiddling with a connector.

When I finally received the unit (it was on back-order for a week or so), I was impressed with the built quality. This is one heck of a robust vehicle dock. However, beyond that the design is freakish. Here’s why: to mount your Nexus you need to press your Nexus ridiculously hard into a ridiculously tight frame. In the process, things will creak, flex. A final SNAP dramatically indicates the Nexus is in place… but not before you may need to push along the top or bottom one last time. It’s not a confidence-inspiring process. It’s also time consuming; though your passengers may enjoy your acrobatic talents. I’m returning this one.

Recommendation: Pass.

Alternative: Go for this $6 (including shipping) car dock direct from China via eBay. Yes, you’ll still need to connect the cables when you need them, but ingress/egress with this version is far easier. Plus the frame is svelte, fits perfectly, has crazy strong suction. Note: this is for the i9250/HSPA+ version of the Nexus, and won’t fit the Verizon model.

Desktop Dock

Slightly expensive at $50, but the desktop dock is convenient for charging at the office or on a nightstand.

Much better results here. You can use this at your office, bedside or maybe somewhere in the kitchen or great room where you want to easily charge your Nexus. There’s not much to this dock. You simply slide in your Nexus and charging begins. The screen will change into clock mode. You can dim the screen with a touch, or let it go to sleep mode on its own. Like the vehicle dock, you’ll find Pogo pins once again. Here they work far better. There’s no jamming, no force fitting. Instead the Nexus slides gracefully down a small chute and rests on the three gold contacts.

Recommendation: Buy it (Google direct).

Bonus Reco: Case

Keeping it simple: This gel case by Diztronic ($10) is nothing fancy, but fits like a glove, is easy to put on and take off. I found it actually makes the Nexus easier to hold, and the additional friction makes it less prone to sliding off a desk or counter-top. Note: this is the GSM version of the case.

A quick tip on cases. Keep in mind that neither accessory above will work with a case, which means you might want to eschew the idea altogether. I still have one, for those times I’m in a rugged environment, like walking the vineyards in Napa, or covering an action-packed event for SI, like SF Chefs this weekend. Okay, so my definition of “rugged” is suspect; ymmv. In those cases I take the twenty seconds to slip on one of these Diztronic high gloss, flexible TPU case. It’s under $10 and fits like a charm. I like that it makes the phone easier to hold, and when the Nexus is sitting on a slippery surface like a desk or counter-top the case adds friction, reducing the possibility of a tumble.

Recommendation: Buy it (Amazon).

So there you have it: 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

One final thought, regarding battery life of the GSM Nexus: it’s really surprising me. I loathed the endurance of the Verizon version when I tested it here for SI last December — calling it “woeful.” Possibly the absence of LTE antenna, or additional tweaks by Team Google – whatever the reason, this Nexus actually is respectable when it comes to battery life.

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  • Paul Peterson

    Hi again Clinton.
    Nice reviews. I love hearing from you and will definitely be getting my GNex ordered and the side offerings.
    Just a thought as I have been wondering about battery life on it.
    Here is a review site discussing the ins and outs of an extended battery.
    What are your thoughts to this idea?
    http://www.androidcentral.com/samsung-galaxy-nexus-extended-battery-gsm

    Thanks for all you do!
    Sincerely Paul in San Diego.

    • Thanks Paul! So far I’ve been surprised by the battery life on Gnex (not Verizon version though). It gets me through the day. I plan to get that extended battery for times when I’m away from office for extended periods. For $40 seems like a good idea to have one kicking around. Then again, knowing me I’ll probably sell my Gnex come fall for one of the rumored nextgen Nexus OEMs hitting the Google Play store!

  • MarkWallace101

    Nice review. I especially like the part about the “rugged” environment.

    I wouldn’t return the car dock just yet though. I’ve had mine for about a week and a half and it’s not nearly as difficult to hook the phone up as it was when it was brand new. Now, I just put the side with the contacts in first, press down on the middle of the left side and it clicks right in. No need to push the top and bottom in like when it was new. I think it just needs a breaking in period.

    Mark

    • Mark, thanks for update. Re break-in period, that makes sense. I haven’t returned it yet (Google has an archaic return process – I’ve submitted form, but have yet to hear back… definitely not Amazon) so I might give it some time, and try inserting phone per your suggestion. I wish some vendor out there would make some sort of built-in dock/mount/radio upgrade for the Prius, that would be the ultimate.

  • Lewis R.

    Clinton, would you happen to know where i can buy the car dock!? as i have been trying to find it on google play and it showing as coming soon…not trying to be funny but would you be willing to sell yours?! lol

    • Just keep checking Google each day a couple of times. Also, even though I submitted my email address under the “Coming Soon” notice on the Play Store, Google never informed me when they did have stock briefly. I just got lucky and stumbled upon (no pun intended) the site when it was available. Yes, I’d sell you mine but it’s already on it’s way back to big G!

      • Lewis R.

        Well thank you anyways I’ll keep checking hopefully I’ll get lucky