Review: HiveDock – Not nearly as stupid as you’d think
Yes, truly glowing words of praise. However, I think appropriate as almost everyone who first views the HiveDock experiences the same flurry of thoughts, starting with “WTF?”, then moving on to “That seems stupid” and finally, “I wonder if it works?”. Long story short, it kinda does.
The idea behind the HiveDock is so simple it seems obvious. Do you enjoy watching movies on your iPhone but wish the screen was bigger (and you presumably can’t afford an iPad?). Well, let’s just put a big ol’ magnifying glass in front of it! Thanks to a perfectly angled Fresnel lens, the HiveDock actually DOES magnify the image on an iPhone’s screen to the point where it feels like you are watching about an 8-inch screen. And if you are tired of that somewhat tinny sound coming from your iPhone’s speakers, don’t worry, the HiveDock’s built-in audio-amplifying chamber makes the sound (slightly) louder, clearer, and bassier. Actually, I shouldn’t really belittle the difference in audio, it’s actually quite noticeable– especially if you are watching something on the HiveDock and remove the iPhone from the cradle. If the iPhone’s speakers sounded like the HiveDock’s audio by default, you’d be quite happy.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the HiveDock is that it accomplishes a fair amount without relying on electricity of any kind. the lens is just a grooved piece of plastic, and the base is just another piece of plastic with some grooves cut into it to hold your iPhone and direct the sound. It’s extremely low-tech, but it works.
Of course there are going to be some issues. First, the whole Fresnel Lens thing means that by nature, you have a somewhat limited field of vision, so viewing the screen head-on is best. In other words, don’t expect to bring this on a family vacation and expect it to take the place of a TV set for party viewing. Also, there will be a bit of “light spilling” / halo around the fringes of the image caused by those grooves on the edges catching some of the iPhone’s light. The image is still quite clear, but not quite HD, so home theater enthusiasts may be disappointed.
Controlling the iPhone once it is in the HiveDock is a bit tricky as well, as there isn’t a lot of space in between the iPhone and the lens to get in there and operate the touch screen. So in other words, playing games on “the big screen” is probably out. This is really a video-watching device.
The other issue is that it costs $35. I got mine when it first launched and it was basically “free” plus shipping, and that was a great cost. However, $35 is a bit steep except for those who TRULY intend to use it regularly, which I can’t imagine are too many of you. By far the biggest market I can see for the HiveDock are kids, as they will watch pretty much ANYTHING, no matter the quality, and to be honest, both my kids lad on the floor side-by-side and watched their cartoons on the HiveDock for over 2 hours. They would have watched longer but I stepped in.
The HiveDock is a sort of cool, low-tech, high-price way to embiggen your iPhone’s screen and sound for movie watching. Universally, everyone I showed the HiveDock to ended up raising an eyebrow and saying “Huh. Yeah, that’s kind of cool, actually”. But not too many of them could think of a time when they would use it. If you do a lot of solo, hands-free iPhone video watching (and I am not going to speculate or judge what that might be), then the HiveDock might be a great choice for you. The HiveDock will also likely be a hit with the kids (although I would get them their OWN HiveDock), for whom picture quality is far less important than watching something – ANYthing. But ultimately the $35 price tag means the HiveDock will probably only be a worthwhile purchase for a select few.
Pros: Really does a decent job of magnifying the iPhone’s screen and boosts the sound quality noticeably, does not require power.
Cons: Pricey, A bit too big to travel with, limited field of view means largely a solo-video watching experince, video can get fuzzy around extreme edges do to lens reflections