P-Flip: An iPhone Dock With A Twist, er, Flip

Truism No 1: The more things you do on your iPhone or iPod Touch the less time you’ll have to do them.

It’s great to have a gazillion apps available at my fingertips and be constantly connected, but what would really float my boat is to have a battery in my iPhone that would let me go ten hours, doing any combination of anything the iPhone was designed to do, without recharging. Apple claims that the iPhone 3G and 3GS will give us five hours of 3G talk time. Apple doesn’t tell us how fast the battery drains using apps, however. They can’t really, each app affects the hardware differently, thus drains the battery differently. Even so I can’t seem to run a CPU intensive app on my iPhone 3G more than an hour or two before I am force to think about recharging. That’s just not good enough. To quote Roy Batty, the top rogue replicant in Blade Runner, “ I want more life &^%$%!!!”

Many have complained that the problem would have been solved if Apple allowed us to swap out the battery. I’m not convinced. The more I use my iPhone the more I need to use it for important things. If the battery runs down during an important call I don’t want to stop the call to swap batteries. Plugging the iPhone into a charger while on the call isn’t the most convenient thing to do, but it works. I just want more time before needing to recharge. Besides, when I had a RAZR I never replaced the battery.

Fortunately there are other solutions available.

Truism No. 2: If there’s a need someone will sell you something that might fill it.

A few days ago I ran across a Dexim P-Flip Foldable Power Dock. That’s a mouthful yet the name still doesn’t fully describe what this thing does.

Yes, it is a foldable iPhone dock that lets you charge and sync your iPhone when it’s plugged into your computer, just like any other dock. The folding part is nice because the dock can act as a horizontal or vertical stand. What the name doesn’t tell you is that this dock can charge your iPhone even when it’s not connected to your computer or a power plug.

The P-Flip is a portable battery charger that can give your iPhone an additional eight hours of talk time, or fifteen hours of video or game playing, or a whopping sixty hours of music playback. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Got an iPod touch? No problem. The P-Flip includes a dock adapter just for you.

The P-Flip can be charged using any powered USB port, including those designed to plug into the wall socket. When it’s connected to a computer and your iPhone is connected, the P-Flip will charge and sync your iPhone then start charging its battery once the iPhone is full. The flashing red LED means the iPhone is charging while the flashing blue LEDs mean the P-Flip is charging and they will stop flashing when the battery is full. There’s a little button on the side of the P-Flip that, when pressed, will light up the blue LEDs and indicate how much power the P-Flip has left. The fewer the blue lights you see the less of a charge is left. Pretty standard stuff, but good to be included.

Truism No. 3: There are some things better left unsaid.

How long does the P-Flip last in real life? My testing methods are hardly scientific, but I did start off with both my iPhone 3G and the P-Flip fully charged. To test the drain rate of the P-Flip I played TED videos that were streamed to my iPhone via WiFi for about five hours. During that time I interrupted the videos to make three calls, each lasting about ten minutes, and send ten text messages. Afterwards I played N.O.V.A. for an hour. (Who says I’m not dedicated to my work?) My iPhone still had a full charge and the P-Flip lit two of it three blue LEDs indicating that it still had about two thirds of a full charge left. That’s not too shabby.

What Dexim doesn’t mention is that it takes about as long to charge the P-Flip as it does to deplete it. I plugged in the P-Flip to my computer to top it off. Remember, it still had about two thirds of a full charge left after my highly scientific six hours of testing. Sure enough, about six hours later I got three steady blue lights telling me the P-Flip was fully charged. Is this a problem? Probably not. Just remember to get religious about plugging the P-Flip in well before your trip and you should be OK.

Speaking of traveling, when you’re not using the P-Flip it folds into an smallish pocketable hunk of plastic that’s more convenient to carry than, say, a pack of batteries, but not much more. Still, it’ll do just fine in briefcases and backpacks.

Truism No. 4: People who make accessories for the iPhone tend to believe they are the only ones.

Like many of you, I have a protective case on my iPhone, and as you might imagine, the P-Flip, because of its flanges that grab and hold the iPhone, won’t accommodate most cases -- especially the rubbery, lumpy kind. That means we have to either remove your case or go without more juice. I don’t think we should have to make that choice. It might require a bit more engineering, but I don’t believe it’s that hard to make a device that will hold your iPhone snuggly while its in a case. It doesn’t have to accommodate all cases, just the common ones (especially the rubbery, lumpy kind).

I should mention that Dexim does offer a polycarbonate case for either the iPhone or iPod touch that will work with the P-Flip. The Laser-Etched PC case can be purchased separately for US$15.95 or as part of a bundle that includes cases for both the iPhone and iPod Touch and the P-Flip for US$69.95.

Truism No. 5: Just because it’s free does not mean that you should want or have it.

Dexim offers basic alarm clock app for free that’s supposed to be use with the P-Flip and it’s a nice thought. By basic I mean that you shouldn’t expect any extra features like multiple time zones or multiple alarms, and such, and that’s OK. What you need is there. The clock displays in both horizontal and vertical orientations, you can change the color of the numbers, and the alarm...um, alarms when it’s suppose to.

What I like about the alarm clock app is that it shows you the countdown to the alarm time. It’s one of those convenience features that you never thought you’d use, but glad you have. The app also includes the option to pick a tune for your iTunes library instead of one of the eight built in alarms (which includes a rooster’s crow, my favorite!).

The P-Flip Alarm Clock app does have some significant problems, however. The settings are confusing. If I select a tune to play as an alarm I could find no way to unselect it and use one of the built in sounds. I also couldn’t get the other built in sounds to stay selected and play. Even though the settings show that I picked the rooster sound, for instance, the only alarm I could get to play was the AR.Rahman.JaiHo. It’s a catchy beat, but I wouldn’t want to wake to it.

The biggest problem with the app is that the alarm won’t sound if your phone is locked. Now that’s just plain silly. Wait until an update is available before downloading this app.

Truism No. 6: There’s always a bottom line.

So, in one device you get a dock that can sync your iPhone or iPod touch when you’re at home and charge either whether you’re near a power source or not. That’s pretty slick.

In my completely unscientific test the P-Flip let me use my iPhone nearly all day long playing streamed vids, making phone calls, playing games, texting and more, and I had plenty of juice left.

I’m a fan of the dock/stand thing Dexim has going on in the P-Flip though you really can’t keep it connected while you do anything in the horizontal position except watch movies or let it serve as an alarm clock. If you do use it for a nightstand sentinel make sure you don’t use Dexim’s alarm clock app. It wouldn’t be fair to ding the P-Flip for a bad app that’s loosely associated with it, so I won’t.

If you are looking for an on-the-go charger that will accommodate your current case then you might want to check out Dexim’s other product, the BluePack S8, or if you want something that charges your iPhone battery while acting as a case check out the BluePack S7.

By itself the P-Flip from Dexim works as advertised and I Highly Recommend* it. It’ll make a great traveling companion that will keep your iPhone juiced and you entertained for about as long as you need it, and that’s saying a lot.

Review ItemP-Flip
List Price
Street Price
Minimum Requirements

iPhone 3G, 3GS, or iPod Touch (all gen)

* Note: My rating system goes like this;

  • Get It Now! - Highest rating and an absolute must-have
  • Highly Recommend - Minor flaws, but a great product
  • Recommend - Flawed, but still a solid product
  • So-So - Problem product that may find a niche market
  • Avoid - Why did they bother making it? A money waster.