March 16, 2011 | Andy Boxall
One normally tends to associate an iPhone dock with music, but that’s not the case for the Black Diamond, which is instead a far more stylish way to charge your iPhone 4 than with a simple cable laying across your desk.
The Black Diamond is a dark globe with a diamond-style pattern on the forward-facing section, an angled slot for your phone on the rear and a sturdy rubber base to stop it rolling away. Although it looks solid, the Black Diamond is actually hollow and peering in through the dock’s slot reveals a textured front surface. Turning the dock upside down reveals two small holes which correspond to the iPhone’s speakers, allowing audio to still be heard.
A USB lead plugs in to the rear of the Black Diamond and then into your iPhone’s charger. With the dock plugged in, a blue light eminates from the base to show you it’s powered up and ready to go. However, before you pop your iPhone in, head over to the App Store and download the Black Diamond app, as it’s essential to the dock’s appeal.
The app has four sections, Effects, Sleep, Wake-up and IM. We’ll come back to the others shortly, as it’s Effects that’s most interesting. The screen has six different options – Plasma, Breath, Rainbow, Lightning, Flames and Remix – all of which display a kaleadoscopic light show on the screen when you press play. Having done this, slot your iPhone into the Black Diamond and watch what happens!
The colorful display makes the Black Diamond come alive, with the front of the dock glowing and pulsating. All the effects produce different light shows, and you can move through them with a simple tap of the Black Diamond, thanks to its use of voice control. It’s actually quite difficult to catch on film or in picture form as it is quite subtle, and the image shown above is actually far brighter than the effect in real life. After all, the Black Diamond is an ‘ambient’ dock and therefore not supposed to burn your retinas out with blinding degrees of light.
This means it’s only really noticeable in a very dark room. Even on my desk with the curtains closed, the Black Diamond’s display was only just about visible. I gave it a try on my bedside table, with the intention of charging my phone and using the Black Diamond’s app as an alarm.
Using the Sleep feature, music from your iTunes library can be selected and used for a pre-determined amount of time before it shuts down. This worked well, although we’d have preferred a gradual fade of the music rather than the abrupt stop when the timer hits zero. The Wake-up option is an alarm feature, however seeing as the app kept crashing when trying to set the time and audio, I didn’t get the chance to try it out.
The final option is IM, where you can be alerted to an incoming message when your phone is inside the dock, however the only option at the moment is for MSN messages and nothing else.
So what’s the Black Diamond like? The dark, glowing alien egg look is great, and even with just the blue glowing power light it looks awesome on a desk. The effects from the app are fine, but we have the feeling some people will find them too subtle.
It’s well-built too, but to keep it looking its best it’ll need an occasional wipe-over with a cloth, as even after a day or so on the desk the piano-black finish had attracted plenty of dust. The attractive packaging deserves a special mention as well, and the box gives a hint of the Black Diamond’s party piece light show.
On the negative side, the app is unstable and not as responsive as it needs to be, and more messaging options need to be added to make that section worthwhile. Although it’s advertised, I couldn’t find any way to assign colors to my friends when they called, and the documentation supplied is minimal. For example, there is a 3.5mm socket next to the USB port on the dock, but no explanation as to what it can be used for. Also, my iPhone 4 did get hot sitting inside the dock with the app running. It didn’t seem to affect it in anyway, but you’d know it if you answered a call straight after it came out of the Black Diamond dock.
The biggest drawback with the Black Diamond is the inability to interact with the phone. I understand this is the nature of the beast, but it’s annoying not to be able to see the battery charge indicator or adjust the volume. To do anything at all with the phone, it needs to come out of the dock, plus if you use a case on your phone, that’ll have to be removed before putting it in the dock, as the slot is only big enough for a naked phone.
The Yantouch Black Diamond is a very unusual dock, which will appeal to a niche audience. If you’re forever receiving calls or messages, or doing something with your phone, it’s not ideal, but if you want the modern day equivalent of a lava lamp, then the Black Diamond could be for you!
The Black Diamond is available through Firebox.com for $112/£69.99, and is suitable for the iPhone 4, iPhone 3G/3GS and iPhone 2G.