The Best Android Docks

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussion' started by Rickaren, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. Rickaren

    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

    Nov 20, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Trophy Points:
    Indiana, Logitech Revue
    The Best Docks and Speakers for Your Android Phone

    ARTICLE DATE: 04.05.11

    Jamie Lendino

    Android-based smartphones are now the nation's most popular platform, but they trail Apple's iPhone in the availability of great docks, speakers, and other ways to make them work in your home or car. Have no fear, though: we've picked out some great ways to turn your Droid, MyTouch, or other Android phone into a stereo system or alarm clock.

    Android users take pride in the Android Market's open-door policies, seamless integration with Google services, and larger, 4.3-inch displays. But one sore spot remains: the lack of a standard docking port. Remember that with the iPhone, there's only one form factor across all four generations. That's allowed speaker and dock manufacturers to address a wide variety of iPhones, as opposed to having to optimize gadgets for one Android model at a time.

    So let's fix this situation. Here's how to turn your little phone into a room-sized entertainment system:

    The Best Android Home Speakers

    An Android phone could form the centerpiece of an awesome home stereo system. Forget self-contained speaker docks, since there are few available for Android devices. Instead, go for a solid two or three-piece speaker system that connects to a standard-size 3.5-mm headphone jack (which comes standard on all Android devices).

    I'm partial to the Harman Kardon SoundSticks III ($169, 4.5 stars), because they sound amazing with a wide variety of source material. You'll get much better stereo separation with these than you would with any iPod speaker dock, since you can spread out the satellite speakers on your desk or bookshelf. And they're pretty much the coolest looking speakers you can find. But if you'd rather go the component stereo route, see if you can find a compact dock (see below) to make connections easier.

    Another tantalizing option is to stream stereo music from your Android phone via Bluetooth. Normally that's a recipe for muddy sound quality. But the Creative T12 Wireless Bluetooth Speakers ($89.99, 3.5 stars) transcend the typical stereo Bluetooth-related limitations. They sound crisp and clear, if not quite as punchy and transparent as the Soundsticks III. The best part: the speakers pair automatically with the phone whenever it's in range.

    On the video front, a few Android phones, like the HTC EVO 4G ($199.99, 4 stars), come with mini HDMI out jacks, which let you hook the phone up directly to your living room HDTV. Some televisions now have at least one HDMI port that's accessible from the side, which makes this connection a snap to perform. You won't get more than 720p (1280-by-720-pixel) video this way, but it's convenient.

    Unfortunately, most Android phones block streaming and downloadable TV and movies using apps like Bitbop, Blockbuster, Sprint TV and T-Mobile TV from being played through the HDMI port, which means you're stuck with playing unprotected video files transferred over from your PC.

    Using Your Android Phone for Music In the Car

    In the car, make sure your in-dash stereo has either an auxiliary input or stereo Bluetooth support. These are the two easiest ways to connect an Android phone to your car's speaker system.

    Additionally, some late model cars contain a USB port that works with multiple kinds of devices, not just iPods and iPhones with their proprietary cables. This makes hooking up your Android phone via USB a snap. Also, most (but not all) Android phones use microSD cards to store music. So you can probably use a USB-compatible microSD card reader, which lets you pop the card out of your Android phone and insert it into the car stereo's USB port. 16GB microSD cards from SanDisk and Kingston run about $20 from Amazon.com.

    Each of these options will sound better than the first two (aux jack and stereo Bluetooth), and will likely allow you to use the car's head unit to control your music. But if you do this, note that where you buy music suddenly becomes important. Apple's iTunes Store has been selling DRM-free AAC files for two years now, but few car stereos can play back AAC files natively—even unprotected ones. Stick with buying DRM-free MP3 files from Amazon and you'll be fine. (For whatever reason, car stereos tend to support WMA files much more often, but that doesn't help in this situation.) Playing AAC tracks will work fine if you go the aux jack or stereo Bluetooth route, however.

    The Best Android Docks

    A compact docking station lets you prop your phone up on your desk, tilt it back, and charge it while you work. This means you can position the phone for use as an alarm clock, photo viewer, movie player, or weather station. Not all handsets have docking stations available. But a quick survey of Amazon.com finds docks for more popular models, such as the Motorola Droid and Droid X, the HTC Droid Incredible, and the Samsung Captivate. You may even want more than one dock; say, one for your desk for photo viewing, one for the living room for listening to music, and one for a bedside table for watching videos.


Share This Page