XM SkyDock

To preface this review of the XM SkyDock, I should tell you that I wasn't happy with my XM unit that I had in my truck.
#1 - It was constantly falling off the dash, due to poor stickiness and the heat of Texas.
#2 - The stupid radio fell apart almost immediately, the buttons started falling off about a week after I got it.
#3 - The wires that were run for power and for the antenna were coerced through a piece of the dash that bowed the plastic and really bugged me.

So, a few months ago XM released an application for the iPhone that would allow the user to stream music from their online service, but it restricted certain talk radio stations due to copyright infringement I guess. Because of that, this wasn't an ideal solution for me because I really like talk radio and sports stations. Namely, I like listening to Baseball games while I am driving and I like catching Dave Ramsey if I am in the car. In addition to that, it requires that you have good cell phone signal to listen, and this isn't always the case where I drive.

But at the same time, they announced that they would be releasing a dock for the iPhone that would allow you to connect it to an antenna and receive all the XM stations just like you had a radio in the vehicle.

This weekend they released the SkyDock and I decided that I was going to give it a whirl.

My observations so far is that it works really well, and the interface is really good with the exception of a few features, which I will mention along with the good features.

The interface looks great and it works really well for channels that you know. I know the station numbers that I listen to for the most part. With this interface, I can just type in the station number and it goes there, and faster than any XM Radio unit I have had. Along with this it also allows you to save 20 preset favorite stations. This is handled really well because not only does it show you the station number of the station you are going to, rather than just having to remember which number each station is programmed to, but it also shows the name of the station in the little favorites box. To delete a favorite you go through the same process of deleting an application from the iPhone, tap and hold until it shakes then tap the x in the top right hand corner. It offers categories of music, which you tap and then it lists all the stations within that category, and that works great.

My one complaint about stations is that you can't just flip through stations. From time to time, I like to just skim the stations. Starting at channel eight and going up through 30. I just flip. And on this radio that isn't really possible.

The system also recognizes that it needs to mute the music when a phone call comes in. So you answer the phone and when you are done, the station you were on resumes.

Text messages are a different story. When a text message comes in, you get your notification noise, but when you go to read it the radio stops playing. After you are done reading/responding, you have to re-open the XM application to restart the music.

A few other features that are included:
- It will play from the iPod application on the iPhone, or you can plug in an iPod and play music.
- It has an audio out line, so if you have an auxiliary input, you don't have to use the FM transmitter
- It has a flexible shaft that can be mover around a little bit to position it where you want it and the cradle rotates so you can view it in landscape mode (which the application also supports).

I have one major suggestion though, and I am not sure if this is an application update or a hardware update. The application has to be open to be listening to the radio, which is why the phone works and not text messages, because the phone application doesn't really open, it runs behind the other application and resumes the other application when the phone call is finished. So here is my suggestion. The XM tuner is in the dock itself, not the phone. The phone is just how the user interface to see what you are doing. Since that is the case, couldn't the dock continue playing whether there was an iPhone connected or not? Or whether the application is open or not? If so, you would be stuck on what ever station was last chosen from the iPhone, but that would be better than having to have the application open all the time. And it wouldn't qualify as running an application in the background since the dock is really the thing playing the music. I think this would make this XM Radio/Dock/Charging Unit/Accessory one of the best all time accessories for the iPhone.

Final complaint: You can have a case on because it doesn't allow you to connect all the way with the dock connector.