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Old March 21st, 2012, 05:46 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Cool Best car dock and charger for HTC Desire Z

Hi all,
I've just replaced my (excellent) HTC Desire with a used HTC Desire Z (slightly slower CPU, but oodles more RAM and also a real keyboard).

I wanted a proper car dock for this thing (like my old Desire, I can sort of jam it into my dash between the side of the gauges and the mileage-reset-pin, but I'm sure you'll agree that that sounds rather dodgy).

The thing is:
* Most "official" docks don't have a built-in power lead, you'll have to fiddle with the lead every time you (un)plug it. Daft.
* One of the few docks that does have a built-in power lead gets consistently poor reviews about that very item. I don't want to pay for a poor solution.

Over at XDA, they've been experimenting with using a dock for a Motorola Droid X with pretty good results, so I thought I'd try that. This is my documentation.

Here's the box it comes in, so you know what to look for if you want to do the same.


Only one problem: the micro-USB connector is the wrong way round, with the "narrower" front of the connector outwards. The Desire Z has its micro-USB socket with the "wider" back towards the display. So that connector needs a 180 degree turn...

First off, pull out the insert (it's intended to be used unless you've got a case around your phone) and remove the four screws from the back.


On the top, use a blade to unlock two small notches. Then, the dock should come apart quite easily. Don't worry about loose objects or projectile springs. :-)


Inside the bottom part, you can see just how easily-modifiable the connector is. Thank you, Motorola!


All you need to do is gently pull the connector out of its little cradle, twist the cable a little extra (or a little less, if you prefer), and prod it back into the cradle.



Then just snap the front cover back on, tighten the screws, reattach the insert, and you're set!

I've just confirmed the power and data connection when I uploaded these photos. The back of the dock has an exposed micro-USB socket where you plug in the 12V charger -- or a USB cable to connect to your pc. Thanks again for doing things right.

The charger is apparently overclocked -- at least, there's one of those annoying blue LEDs in it that is always lit, even when the car is off and the phone is not in the dock. All it does is illuminate a clear window with the Motorola logo etched into it. [1] Hrm. That will have to go.

Luckily, the fastener ring that holds the window in place is easily removed by jabbing a screwdriver at the indicated notch. [2] The LED is then exposed [3], so I turned it sideways and covered it with a bit of black electrical tape. After reassembly, I lightly filed the inside edge of the handle ring, not that it was really necessary. Now, I have neat grab-o-handle for unplugging the thing without yanking at the cable [4] (and providing me with a handy excuse to not trim down that excess size).



I may further update this thread when I have more on-the-road experience with it.
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Old March 21st, 2012, 05:46 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I intend to update this thread when I have some on-the-road experience with it.
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Old March 26th, 2012, 03:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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updates?
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Old March 27th, 2012, 04:32 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I haven't had much opportunity yet to drive to places I don't already know how to get to, but for the benefit of Jon3ey here's a quick report.

It works quite well.
The holder itself is sturdy with no vibration and is very easy to install and remove. The suction cup is way bigger than the one on my old Garmin, but nevertheless adheres well to the same dash-mounted metal plate. The power connection is consistent without having to fiddle with a cable so on that score alone, this hack is a win. I do concede that it's easiest to mount the phone in the holder using both hands, but it hardly takes longer than mounting my old GPS. The charger does provide "AC" power, meaning it can do GPS navigation at full screen brightness and still charge the battery (not all "1A" rated 12V plugs achieve this in practice). The phone fits snugly into the right-hand side of the holder (with just over a centimetre of harmless extra space on the left-hand side), making it very easy to match up the USB connection (amazing coincidence?). The phone can be used with the keyboard collapsed or extended, and can be operated while mounted.

That said, there are some disadvantages, too.
Unlike the old position in front of the speedometer which yielded zero reflections, this new position, well, I managed to find a tilt/swivel setting that works (just then I realised that my old Garmin had a matte screen). As I have it mounted to the right of the dashboard, the phone's microphone is pointed away from me, so for optimal call quality I'd still want to use the wired headset (or a wireless, if I had one). While we're on that subject, the audio volume rocker switch is not really accessible (I think you can turn the volume down if you have smaller fingers than mine, but not up). But, for me, this does not deduct any points because my primary use is navigation. YMMV.
Getting into the nit-picks, the charger adapter part itself has the cable coming out of the middle of it, and the rest is a translucent "M" logo with a constant blue backlight ... I'm sure it's very lovely, but it's going away sometime soon, leaving only some Dremel marks. Also, the snap clip thingumbob on the top of the holder doesn't come all the way down to meet the phone, but the phone is perfectly stable without it (unless you plan on going rallying, I guess). I might hot-glue a bit of cork or something anyway.

About Car Mode and Google Navigation
My phone, running CyanogenMod 7.1, does not automatically enter Car Mode when docked. I don't know if that's even possible given this hardware, so again no points deducted. I've put a shortcut to the Car Mode app on my desktop and that's fine.
It is evident that Google Navigation is really not meant to be operated while driving and could absolutely benefit from having a Car Mode setting with a different UI -- other vendors offer much bigger buttons and more appropriate features. Who needs Public Transport/Walking modes on a docked phone? Why is there no search-by-city "wizard"? And how do you keep the screen from dimming whenever the navigation gets bored (I still might be interested in knowing the distance to my exit)?

I wonder if any non-Google (viz. OSM) apps have proper Car Mode UIs? I found this and this, but it's not much.
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Old April 13th, 2012, 08:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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An addition to my original post: there's an annoying blue LED in the charger, but it's quite easy to remedy.
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