Apr 17 AT 3:14 PM Eric Weiss 31 Comments

Nexus One Car Dock review (photos & video)


When the car dock first made a cameo appearance in the “Nexus One: The Story – Episode 1: Concept & Design” video I knew I needed one. And when Google announced it was available for sale I was one of the first to place my order. Does it live up to the $55 price tag?

The Nexus One Car Dock comes in a gorgeous hard box very similar to the one the Nexus One comes in. Inside are the car dock, 12v cable, mounting disc, alcohol wipe, instructions and warranty information.

My first thought after playing with it on the kitchen counter for a few minutes was “Over engineered”. The thing swivels every which way. I was sure it wouldn’t have a firm grip on the phone or the windshield. I thought I had wasted my money. Boy, was I wrong.

I installed the car dock following the instructions (wiping the windshield and suction cup with the alcohol wipe, etc). It took a few times to figure out a good spot so that it was in arms reach but not in my way. There is a locking mechanism on the base that you twist and it is on until you untwist it. I haven’t had it fall off since that first day. We will see how it does after a few weeks in the Texas summer (which weakens all but the best suction cup car devices) but I think it has a good shot at surviving.

Power is supplied by using a 12v cigarette lighter adapter. The actual adapter part again feels real solid and heavy when compared to your average $5 adapter. The cable is the perfect length and part of it is coiled so it isn’t laying at your passengers feet all the time. I did not test out the mounting disc (which adheres to your dash so you can mount the card dock to the disc if having it attached to your windshield is illegal or not possible) but it feels of higher quality than others I have seen.

To snap the phone in you have to use a little bit of force. I was hesitant at first but the clasp doesn’t scratch the phone and gives a good loud click when your phone is secure. In less than a second your screen turns on and the Car Home app is launched giving you large icons to access to View Map, Navigation, Voice Search, Contacts, Search and Home. After playing with the orientation a bit I found I prefered the horizontal (sideways) positioning even though many apps and the regular home screen do not orient sideways (though the latest CyanogenMod ROM allows the home screen to rotate). The car dock does allow you to rotate the device easily without being so loose that it moves on its own.

The phone connects to the speaker in the dock via bluetooth. You can assign the speaker to act as a speaker phone and/or play music and media. This allows you to play music out the headphone jack and into your car stereo and still have the dock as your speakerphone. Very cool. The speaker in the unit is pretty good, a lot better than the speaker in the phone itself, but not so good that I’m going to stop using my car stereo. The dock also has up and down volume buttons which seem to work for some media but not others. It’s a little odd and people have complained about the buttons not working at all, so there is obviously something going on there that needs to be looked at.

The dock also has cutouts for both of the microphones so the noise cancellation works. Additionally there is a cut out for the camera lens. This allows the phone to sit flush in the unit and also allows you to have a dashcam if you wanted to record your driving.

As you would expect, the dock recharges your phone as you drive without having to plug in additional wires. I was able to to listen to the MLB At Bat app (listening to radio broadcast over 3G) and still end up with a little more battery than when I started.

All in all this is a rock solid accessory. True, the price tag is a little steep. I would have preferred that they used less elegant package design to shave a few dollars off, but the device itself is so well designed and such a perfect compliment to the phone that it is well worth it. Over the life of other phones I have had to buy three or four car docks for $12-15 that didn’t do anything but hold the phone. This one does a lot more and I think will last a lot longer. Money well spent.



Quick look video

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  • http://Website c0z

    Biggest problem I see is that I have a gel case on mine and don’t really want to take it on and off. Really doubt it will fit with it on because of power adapter/etc. :\

    • http://clarklab.net Clark Wimberly

      That’s not really a Nexus Car Dock issue though, that would be true with every other accessory.

      • http://Website c0z

        Oh, I realize that… I just wish it was a bit more adjustable because I like the look of it.

  • TornadoTexan

    Good writeup Eric! If I had a Nexus One and a working 12v outlet in my car I would definitely buy this.

  • http://creativefriday.com Chris

    It is solid and it does hold the phone well. I have 2 issues with mine:

    1. Navigating with the touch screen is not very safe. You’re supposed to use speech to get what you’re after but the speech recognition isn’t very good and then it’s a mess of touch inputs while driving.

    2. My Nexus One gets hot. Boiling hot. I don’t think it’s because it’s in the sun (although that contributes to it) but rather that the processor is chugging along at full speed for navigation or maps. The phone is too hot to touch when I take it out. Kind of scary.

    • http://www.google.com/profiles/anakin78z anakin78z

      I haven’t had mine that long, but I haven’t noticed the heat issue. I’ll be on the lookout for it though.

      • http://Website Will

        I have noticed the heat also…
        Mine seems to get very hot inside the car dock also… but never in the desktop dock…
        But I love the car dock… I use it essentially whenever I am in the car even though I have to take off the case I have on my Nexus One…
        Great review on a great device…

      • http://Website Daniel

        I noticed the heat as well. I even went so far as to write a small app that allows me to keep an eye on the battery temperature. Hottest I’ve seen so far (in the car dock with Google Maps running for about 45 minutes) was 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

        • http://Website Paladin27

          Mine gets very hot while in the dock too. Has anyone noticed the car dock charger is 2A instead of the normal 1A of the AC charger that came with the phone? I wonder if it’s charging the battery faster thereby making it really hot when docked?

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/anakin78z anakin78z

    I just got mine this weekend. A few findings:
    The mounting disk didn’t work at all. I let it cure the whole 24 hours, and it came right off. A bit of super glue and 30 seconds later I was good to go. However, I think there is more shake on the phone this way.
    It swivels every which way, but not really. I quickly found that I wasn’t able to tilt it exactly the way I wanted.
    The speaker isn’t loud enough. For a convertible, anyway. I think the problem a lot of people are experiencing when they say the volume buttons aren’t working is that you don’t get the on screen volume slider. It still adjusts the volume, but you won’t get the visual feedback. Chances are you’re trying to make it louder, and it just won’t.

    Other than that, it’s a great dock, and I’m still happy I got it.

  • Biggbrother

    I also wrote a review but it was so long that I posted it in the forums.


    And I agree, there are point where you don’t want to touch anything because all of a sudden you can get lost and need to input lots of touch inputs.

    This afternoon I went for a drive and used the dock for additional testing. In merely 10 minutes of driving on a 55 degree day, the phone was very hot when I removed it. I can’t imagine a 90-100 degree day. You live in Texas? Have a fire extinguisher handy in your car this summer :)

  • http://Website Georges

    I got the thing, and I’m not happy with it. First, of all, I would also prefer to use it horizontally, but as you’ve noted, a lot of the UI & many of the apps I care about don’t support that orientation, starting with the home screens.
    Then I need an audio jack to connect to my stereo. I’m forced to use a cable that I plug/unplug every time, which is a big let down. For that price, this seemed like a reasonable expectation.
    Audio quality is good via audio jack. No comment on the built-in speakers, barely usable for telephony.
    Placing/receiving calls is a pain, largely because the UI sucks. You got to see it to believe it, in a typical Android way.
    I still haven’t figured out how the audio routing works when you have a cable inserted. My wife (at the other end of the line) keeps complaining she can’t hear me. Maybe that’s because I’m not supposed to use the car’s stereo, but if that’s so, I’ll return the thing.
    Compared to a cheapo generic phone/gps holding device, I gained a cable that I don’t have to manipulate, but compared to my G1, that’s no gain, since there, the hated single plug allowed me to buy for $2 an adapted that held both power & audio, so I had only one cable to plug in & out, compared to… one now, after a $60 bill (taxes).
    I like the navigation home, except you can’t customize it. I need to start the same application every time (“Listen” for podcasts), and I’m forced to go to the standard home to find it each time (so each time I use the thing, I’d struggle with the horizontal orientation). Lame.
    The auto brightness feature, one of the many dramatic misses of the G1 shows how badly implemented it is. Goes from bright to dark, as shadows cover/uncover the phone, making navigation indications a random blessing. Bottom line, I used to have to curse & switch my G1 to 100% brightness before using it in the car, well now, I curse & turn off auto brightness before using my Nexus One in the car…
    After a few minutes of use, the screen goes off. To turn it on, you have to reach the power button, then unlock the phone even if you don’t have a lock pattern… How dumb is that? Why would it be a problem to just turn the screen back on unlocked when you touch it?…
    - good grip, good build
    - bad speakers
    - bad UI, limiting to vertical use
    - no audio jack
    - still haven’t figured out how to make reasonable quality phone calls while using the audio jack
    - bad brightness adjustment
    - did I mention bad UI? From an address properly recognized by voice recognition to the navigation, that’s maybe 10 presses. What’s the point of voice recognition in these conditions? Engineers gone wild….

    This comes after the desktop dock, which thankfully has an audio jack, but because these dock insist of doing everything through Bluetooth, you get the audio quality loss (don’t tell me a2dp qualify as “high quality”). For a car, it might be adequate, but when connecting your phone to hifi equipment, that’s unacceptable. No orientation issues there, since it’s vertical use only, except that you are likely to get in an unexpected horizontal position more often than you’d hope for, because the phone is likely to fall over when you use the top of the screen… I’m considering gluing a piece of something to lengthen the back to hold the phone more securely. How anyone really used this thing?

    Boy, I wish Google could hire a competent product manager. :-(

    • Biggbrother

      I didn’t have that much of a problem with the lack of an audio jack given the fact that the phone audio jack is usable. Though it would have been more convenient to have a jack obviously.

      And I didn’t mind the Android Home Screee being shown in portrait mode. That was standardized in 2.1.

      But it’s a big problem when viewing Contacts and in a phone call.

      Fortunately, contrary to Google’s assertions, users have had success pairing the phone with their Bluetooth-equipped vehicle stereos, while the phone is in the dock. But this basically relegates the dock to a $55 charger.

      • http://Website Georges

        We’re left to hope that they’ll revisit the UI and make a much larger part of it work horizontally. The majority of the problems are SW, it’s just that there is such a large number of them, that I doubt they’ll all be fixed anytime soon. Android is just not showing nearly enough attention to details, even when they pile up like that.

      • http://Website mihaelb

        I prefer to use my car stereo’s bluetooth capability to talk simply because it’s higher quality and the microphone is already wired up closer to my mouth.
        I still bought the dock to use it for nav, when needed, to see who’s calling, and to charge it. $55 is a bit high for a charger (if that’s all you see this as), but not for one that looks this good and isn’t the size of a brick (universal ones).

  • http://Website Josh

    Anyone know if the charger slot is MicroUSB or MiniUSB? Also will it also serve as a USB data port? I want to be able to connect my N1 to my head unit VIA USB with the dock and would like to know if that’s possible. Thanks.

    • http://Website Usman

      A simple review of http://www.google.com/phone will show you that it uses a microUSB plug, just like the phone itself and the desktop dock. Further, it clearly states on the website, just as with the desktop dock, that you can not plug a data cable into the dock.

  • http://Website Bill

    The Dock looks great but the phone looked very dim. I wonder if this was set low or an issue with AOLED screen. I am currently considering the Nexus or the incredible and one of uses I hope to take advantage of is the GPS not only on the dash of my car but outside in the Sun.

    • http://clarklab.net Clark Wimberly

      A lot of it has to do with the shooting conditions. Trying to capture the screen against the sky behind it was really hard. I kept taking photos and thinking the phone was off, haha.

  • http://jeffmartin.com Jeff Martin

    I miss there being an audio jack too. I use a jack that has a microphone built in so I have less of a problem than Georges does.

    Another thing that bugs me is that if you want to go from portrait to landscape (and your phone is mounted on the dash) you have to turn it 270 degrees rather than 90. This becomes a bit too much twisting (especially if you have a aux jack coming off the top.).

    • http://Website Georges

      Jeff, I’m very interested in improving my setup. What are you using? Could you point to page showing what you have?

    • http://Website Samer

      Can’t you just turn it to the left 90 degrees?

      If for any reason you cant, download CYANOGEN MOD
      Go to settings, SOUND AND DISPLAY
      and put orientation to 270 degrees :)

  • http://Website Samer

    Is it true the dock has a built in MIC itself
    to improve speaker phone calls?

  • http://Website Andy

    Could someone please measure diameter of the base (suction cup) and post it here? I am trying to see if it will fit in a certain place in my car. Thank you.

    • http://Website Andy

      It is 2.5″, in case anybody still needs it.

  • http://Website Nick

    I’ve had the dock for 5 days (including 1 week end) and I must say I am satisfied with the sound level coming out. I can hear whoever I am talking to clearly however they all complain about not being able to hear me properly.

    It appears however that there is no mike in the dock, only a small hole that ‘routes’ sound to the real phone’s mike. Now that is just pitiful and I suspect the phone will end up being just a dock + charger for me until i purchase a decent bluetooth handsfree. If anyone got recommendations I’m all ears

    Other than those issues I wonder how long the clasp will work until it gives and breaks since it essentially twists a little everytime you get the phone in and out and I’m worried my phone will eventually scratch.

    On a positive note the dock is very solid and looks good on your dashboard.

    • http://Website Andy

      Nick, could you please measure diameter of the base (suction cup)? I have a prefect spot for the dock in my car, but is a little tight, so I am trying to make sure the dock would fit before ordering it.

      Thank you in advance,

  • http://Website trident041

    Edit Interesting Side Note Regarding the Car Dock.

    The handset will still charge if you were to plug in the standard wall outlet plug into the car docks USB port.

    It makes a better desktop dock than the actual desktop dock that google sells since it stays locked in unlike the desktop dock where the slightest tap will knock the handset off the base.

    I just “Exit Car Mode” when it comes on and I turn off the bluetooth which fires up when you lock the handset into place.

    Turning the Handset on a “landscape” position while its locked into car dock into makes the homescreen turn into landscape which I thought was cool, and if you want the same screen that comes on when you set the handset on the desktop base all you have to do is simply launch the “Clock” app that comes standard with the GoNexOne.

    So even though it sucks to use it as what it was intended for ( A Car Dock ) it works much better as a desktop dock than the actual desktop dock itself. Just clamp it down on your desk, night stand, fridge, or where ever and plug it in with the wall outlet

    Not such a waste after all eh?

  • http://www.autospace.co.za Sell your Car

    Incredible post Eric!.You made fall in love with Nexus One Car Dock.

  • Jacksonwalt

    Samsung Nexus one car Dock is not just a car holder but it is a real car Dock with plenty of features.You can check more features here