With the introduction of watchOS 2 and Nightstand Mode, it's preferable for an Apple Watch charging dock to work in both horizontal and vertical modes. Many early docks don't afford that capability, but the new Native Union Dock for Apple Watch does. However, it's far from perfect.
The design, in principle, is inventive. A heavy block has an aperture for a cylinder that's connected with a strong magnet. The Apple Watch fits around the cylinder, and the whole assembly can be set upright or laid on its side.
The Good Stuff
For a dock like this to work well, it has to be heavy so that it stays upright in the vertical position. The rubbery-soft rectangular base is nicely weighted so it won't tip it over on a solid surface. The plastic cylinder—called the rotating arm—rotates to present at the desired angle. The two together weigh 495 grams (17.5 ounces).
I think it looks especially nice and works better in the watch's Nightstand Mode. If you touch the display during the night, the weighted base will keep the Apple Watch from being knocked to the floor. (For more on Nightstand Mode, see: "Review of Apple’s watchOS 2: An After Action Report."
The dock is designed to work with either a 38 or 42 mm Apple Watch. The surface of the base is soft so that it won't scratch the nightstand surface, but it also tends to pick up lint and dirt easily.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
When I reviewed the Just Mobile Lounge Dock, I listed some criteria I think are important for a good charging disk. This dock fails many of those criteria.
- The Native Union dock doesn't tip over on a solid surface, but I noticed that on a softer surface (see photos), it will lean from the vertical. It spoils the look.
- This is a heavy dock, over a pound, and doesn't invite packing up for travel.
- Apple's charger disk is hard to remove for any reason. In my experience, it must be pulled out by the cord, and that's bad. Also, the cord must be wrapped around the cylinder and exits at a sharp angle. I feared for the longevity of the cord if it's connected and removed often, say, for travel
- The watch band must be fastened so that it wraps around the rotating arm. Of course, that assists in setting the desired angle.
- It doesn't stay crisp looking and clean for long, and the soft surface is hard to clean.
- Considering the design simplicity of this block and cylinder, I think many customers will find US$59.99 hard to swallow. It's difficult to perceive great value for the money.
Note the already collected lint on the base.
Packaging and Warranty
Because the rectangular base is so heavy, the packaging is very sturdy. The inside of the lid of the inner box shows how to connect everything. The warranty is one year, easy to find on the website and explained in detail.
This Native Union Dock for Apple Watch looks technically pleasing at first because it can be used in both orientations. However, with time, one finds that its weaknesses, described above, bring into question its design and price, despite its claim to a minimalism aesthetic.
My favorite Apple Watch charging stand remains the Just Mobile Lounge Dock. With care, angle adjustment and a fastened wrist band, the Apple Watch will rest on this stand horizontally as well. However, it won't be as immune to knocking over when touched in Nightstand Mode.