Many iDevice users know the value of having an easy way to charge and access their iPhones, iPods, and iPads while at their desks, and a huge segment of the mobile accessory market is dedicated to addressing this scenario. There are lots of desktop iDevice docks and stands that charge your device; there are lots that simply hold it in a useful position; and there are some that easily accommodate iDevices housed in third party cases. The new HiRise for the iPhone 5 and iPad mini from Twelve South is a rare product that fits all three categories.
Twelve South, an Apple-only boutique accessory company founded in 2009, has a number of products with the “HiRise” moniker, including stands for MacBooks and iMacs/Displays. Their latest HiRise product targets the iPhone 5 and iPad mini (for the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to this iPhone- and iPad-specific model as simply “HiRise” for the rest of the review) and promises to provide an easy and versatile desktop docking solution that keeps devices at usable heights and powers them via a (not included) Lightning cable.
The HiRise consists of four primary components: a base, a front support piece that routes the Lightning cable and provides the primary surface on which an iDevice will rest, an adjustable rear support that partially extends up the back of a docked iDevice to keep it stable, and one of three modular clips.
The rear support and modular clips are what make the HiRise so unique. The rear support can slide back from the front support by as much as about an inch, giving iDevices housed in thick cases plenty of room. The modular clips further enhance compatibility by adjusting how high the Lightning cable sits relative to the base of the front support. These two factors enable the HiRise to work with almost any case that provides access to an iDevice’s Lightning port, no matter how narrow the opening or recessed the port.
Twelve South specifically cites compatibility with several cases from Griffin and Speck, as well as the highly protective, but notoriously bulky, Otterbox Defender, a design that very few docks and stands can accommodate. Beyond this list, the stand’s versatility means that it will work with just about any iPhone 5 or iPad mini case on the market. In addition to bare devices, we tested it with the NewerTech NuGuard KX and Brookstone Leather folio case. Devices housed in both cases docked with the HiRise easily.
Assembly is simple, and new HiRise owners will immediately notice the quality of the materials and construction. Each component is solid and sturdy, and built from aluminum that matches the color and texture of modern Macs. The base is heavy and wide to provide support to a docked device, and four hex screws hold the whole thing together. There are no cheap parts to be found; everything about the HiRise screams quality.
Twelve South provides a step-by-step assembly guide in the box, as well as a helpful video online. Users need to simply route a Lightning cable through the base and front support, snap on the correct clip, and then attach the front and rear supports to the base via the included hex screws and tools. The whole process takes only a minute or two.
Next, you’ll need to loosen the rear support screws in order to adjust its position to accommodate your case. We recommend sliding the rear support all the way back, docking your device, and then sliding the rear support forward until it’s properly situated and flush with the back of your device’s case. Then simply tighten the rear support screws, snap on the base cover, and you’re all done.
From a usage perspective, the HiRise works great with the iPhone 5. The stand holds the phone securely and keeps it at a usable height, allowing us to easily see incoming calls and text messages, check the weather, and manage our music playback. Activities such as FaceTime can also benefit from the HiRise, although your experience will vary depending on your height relative to the height of the desk. For us, it was just a bit too low. We had to back up and slouch slightly for an optimal video chatting camera angle. Something like an adjustable tilt feature would come in handy for situations like this, but it would also necessarily reduce the sturdiness of the stand, and we’re not sure that’s a worthwhile tradeoff.
Docking and undocking an iPhone works very well. The rear support guides the phone down to the Lighting connector, ensuring a proper alignment with every dock. The phone snaps down onto the connector and holds steady while in use. The base is heavy and sturdy, but not enough to provide adequate opposing force while undocking the phone; lifting only the phone up in an effort to undock will take the whole stand with you. However, just a finger or two assigned to hold the base to the desk is all that is needed to achieve a clean undock. While we ideally want a product that lets us insert and remove our phone effortlessly, the extra force required to remove a phone from the HiRise means that you (or a desk-wandering pet) won’t inadvertently knock your device off of the stand.
The HiRise supports are wide enough to hold a device steady and provide room for the Lightning cable connection, but are also narrow enough so that they don’t block the device’s speaker, microphone, or headphone jack. The usability and functionality of an iPhone is unaffected while docked.
The HiRise is an excellent companion for our iPhone 5, but the situation was a little less positive with the iPad mini. The mini docks and undocks in exactly the same manner as the iPhone, but its wider chassis means that it is far less sturdy. Don’t get us wrong, if you dock your iPad mini in the HiRise and leave it there, it will be just fine.
But if you plan to use the mini while docked, you might have some problems. The extra width simply cannot be adequately supported by the relatively narrow rear support. Tapping on the left and right edges of the screen results in some shifting and wobbling. You can make it work, but you’ll have to be gentle with your taps and gestures. In short, the HiRise coupled with the iPad mini doesn’t provide the same feeling of sturdiness that we got from the iPhone/HiRise combo.
Another issue is the lack of an included Lightning cable. All iDevices include one Lightning cable in the box, but you’ll likely want to purchase a second cable to use with the HiRise so that you don’t need to disassemble it to take your cable with you on the road. As a result, the price of a HiRise is effectively increased by $19 unless you already have a spare cable. There’s really no solution to this, however, as including a built-in cable would raise the price of the HiRise. It’s just something to remember if you’re considering a HiRise purchase.
Also note that Twelve South only promises compatibility with Apple Lightning cables. Cables from third party manufacturers, even those officially certified by Apple, may not work due to variations in the width and thickness of each cable’s connector. For example, we tried to use an official MFi-certified Lightning cable from Monoprice but found that the Lightning side of the connector was too wide to fit any of the HiRise clips. You may encounter third party cables that will work, but stick with Apple-branded Lightning cables to ensure compatibility.
Despite these minor issues, the HiRise is one of our favorite accessories for the iPhone, and as soon as this review is completed it’s entering service as our primary dock in the office. We love the look, quality, and sturdiness the HiRise provides, and its ability to accommodate almost any iDevice case is a huge bonus.
The HiRise for iPhone 5 and iPad mini is available now from Twelve South for $34.99 with free shipping. While this review focused on the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, the HiRise also works with the fifth generation iPod touch and seventh generation iPod nano.
HiRise for iPhone 5 / iPad mini
Manufacturer: Twelve South
Compatibility: iPhone 5, iPad mini, iPod touch (5th Gen), iPod nano (7th Gen)
Release Date: August 2013