More of us using our smart phones in the car for GPS navigation, or just listening to our music. The Bracketron Universal USB Power Dock ($29.95) helps: it keeps your phone or other devices right there, easily accessible, and also provides a USB and DC charging port. Unfortunately this accessory is a great idea that doesn’t deliver.
The Universal USB Power Dock plugs into your car’s DC outlet or cigarette lighter. As long as your car’s DC outlet is in a handy location, it will hold your device in a convenient, accessible spot. In my Honda Pilot it is right next to the stereo in the center console. My old Honda Odyssey van had it at floor level, so this would not work in that car.
The dock is universal because it adjusts in width. The button on the right side expands the two adjustable clamps to widen the holder. It will fit any device up to 4.5 inches wide. The two side clamps also pull apart vertically to hold taller devices. The holder has a non-skid surface that won’t scratch the back of devices like the iPhone 4. On the bottom of the holder are two flip out “feet” that will keep the device from sliding off the holder.
I used another Bracketron universal holder with the same exact design for about six months. During that time I tolerated it. In order to hold the device you have to tighten the two clamps, and that made it hard to get the device in and out of the holder quickly. The current Bracketron suffers from the same issue.
The piece that plugs into the DC outlet has an adjustable ring. Spin it to let the plug insert further or shorter to get a good connection. The problem with the feature is that it comes off the threads and just spins without serving any purpose. It isn’t really necessary.
Below the holder are two plugs: one for a USB cable and one for an AC to DC converter cable (cigarette lighter adapter). That gives you two ports for one. The holder clips onto the top of the cigarette lighter part, as you can see in the image below. The ring adjust to tighten so that the mount won’t fall off easily.
The whole system is made mostly of black plastic. It feels cheap and, as we said above, part of it broke. The chargers work fine but didn’t have enough power to charge an HTC Thunderbolt while I used it for GPS, Wi-Fi hotspot and a phone all at once. The Thunderbolt sucks juice anyway, but the Bracketron was not up to the job.
In defense of the Bracketron, I have a Griffin PowerJolt Duo DC to USB adapter and it doesn’t charge my Thunderbolt when GPS and the Hotspot feature are in use, either. And the Bracketron does charge my iPhone just fine.
The angle of the lower part is adjustable. It was a little tight to adjust without unplugging the whole thing. The holder part that fits onto the lower part also adjusts and suffers the same problem. This is good when you want to keep it at one angle, but bad if you need to adjust it on the fly. Doing the latter is not possible.
This device is complicated with too many moving parts to break. The flimsy feel of the device leads us to believe it will not last long with continual adjustments.
The device fits a lot of equipment. If you use a larger dedicated GPS or Satellite Radio it will fit. If you use an iPod Touch, iPhone or any other smart phone, they will fit. So this is one option if you need to use more than one of these devices with the holder. Sometimes you cannot find a holder that is designed for your device. This is one solution.
However, I also have a Scosche Universal Dash Mount. It doesn’t include a charging solution, but works much better than the Bracketron and is simpler and more durable. It is easy to quickly take your phone out or put it into the mount and works with any smart phone. Get a separate charging cable if you need power. That combination is a much better solution than the Bracketron Universal USB Power Dock.