With Apple’s adoption of USB-C ports on laptops, the use of a hub has become common-place. But that only works for your Mac and until now any kind of external connectivity for an iOS device was limited to some USB flash drives with Lightning connectors. That all changed with the introduction of the DoBox, a portable wireless hub designed to enhance the connectivity options of your iPhone and iPad.
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DoBox – Scorecard
|Variety of connection options||Larger size makes transport|
|Built in battery adds functionality|
DoBox – Unboxing
Our DoBox came in a white cardboard box which looks like something you would find on a shelf in an Apple store. Inside was the DoBox, a very short USB-C to USB-A cord and a quick start instruction card.
The DoBox measures about 5 inches square and about 3/4-inch-high and weighs about 1 pound. The aluminum shell is very Apple-like, and it would certainly fit in on almost any desk.
There is no conventional power switch. The DoBox is turned on by using a circular motion on the outer edge of a white section of the top edge.
It’s not until you look at the rear edge of the DoBox that you start to understand what it is and what it can do.
On the rear of the DoBox are the following connection types.
- Micro SD Card
- Audio Out with a standard headphone jack
- HDMI Out
- 2 USB-A ports
DoBox – What Does It Do?
The DoBox is a portable wireless hub. It allows you to connect your iPhone, iPad and even your Mac to other devices wirelessly. This includes devices like Internet cables, USB Flash Drives, remote speakers and projectors. Perhaps what will be the most popular use is the ability to connect a conventional USB keyboard and mouse to the DoBox and use it for typing directly on your iPhone and iPad.
The DoBox creates its own wireless network, either by connecting to an existing Wi-Fi connection or by acting as its own Hot Spot to provide secure connectivity and file sharing.
Using the Micro SD Card Slot or the USB ports to connect an external hard drive or USB flash drive, you can transfer files from your iOS device and have almost unlimited storage potential. The DoBox even has its own internal storage (available in 32GB and 64GB capacity), so you always have some storage space available.
DoBox – Set-up
As is becoming more common, there is no included manual with the DoBox. The small included card directs you to http://www.dobox.com/start-here. Like the DoBox itself, there isn’t much to that page. It instructs you to fully charge the DoBox for at least 10-hours before set-up and provides a link to the free DoBox app for your iOS device.
It also provides a nice video that explains the installation process in detail.
Basically, the DoBox app has you connect your iOS device to the DoBox hot spot and then link that to your Wi-Fi network. As the video shows, it should be a straight forward process.
To charge the internal 8,000 mAh battery, you can use any standard USB charger that provides at least 1,000mA (1 amp) capacity, like the standard iPhone power cube. Using the includes USB-C to USB-A charging cable it takes about 9 – 10 hours to fully charge the unit. If you have the USB-C charger included with the MacBook and MacBook Pro and use a USB-C to USB-C charging cable, you can cut that down to about 3-hours.
We noted that even after a 10-hour charge, while the colored indicator on the top of the unit was green (indicating a full charge), the DoBox app showed the battery level at about 60%. Our suggestion is to let the DoBox charge a little longer, to ensure you are at full power.
We had to walk through the set-up process a couple of times. For some reason, once we created the hot spot, we could not get the DoBox connected to our own network. We were surprised that we had issues since we found the step-by-step instructions to be very clear and easy to follow.
In our case, the second time was the charm as we went through the entire set-up process again with no issues.
DoBox – Test Results
Everything you do with the DoBox is controlled by the app. From there you can manage the DoBox settings but also use it to store and share files, play music to connected powered speakers, play videos, etc.
When we first received our DoBox, the HDMI connection did not support audio out, so if you were doing a presentation on a big screen, you needed a separate audio connection using the audio out jack. Since then, there have been a couple of firmware updates and although we haven’t tested it yet, the Audio secion of the DoBox app now gives you a choice of using the Audio jack or HDMI.
Rather than go through all the functions of the DoBox, we suggest you check out the tutorial page on their web site. There you will find a variety of videos that show exactly how to do almost everything with your DoBox.
DoBox – Use Cases
One of the long-standing complaints of iOS devices, is the lack of a way to increase storage capacity. For that, the DoBox seems to be a perfect solution. With its ability to create a secure Hot Spot you can easily transfer photos, movies and documents from your iOS device from anywhere. While applications like Google Photos and iCloud are great for off-loading iPhone content, they are only as good as your connectivity. For avid photographers who may often find themselves in remote location, far from a strong cellular signal or Wi-Fi, the DoBox can be a real life-saver.
While most hotels today offer Wi-Fi, it generally comes at a price. Even if it is complementary, the performance is often poor as you are competing with all of the other hotel guests. Those same hotels often have an Ethernet connection in the room which is available for free. With the ability to create its own Wi-Fi network, the DoBox is a perfect travel companion.
The 8,000mAh battery in the DoBox does more than power the unit. Using the USB-A ports, you can charge your iOS devices while on the go. It’s true that there are many external battery packs that have as much or more power, but if you are already taking the DoBox along, there is no need to pack yet another piece of equipment.
The DoBox lets you use a USB keyboard and mouse on your iOS device. Currently, there aren’t any apps that really support that beyond the Notepad in the DoBox app but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have value. With the keyboard and mouse connected to the DoBox, you can open the Browser application in the DoBox app and using your iPad, use the keyboard to surf the web. When powered down, you can connect the DoBox to your Mac and use it as a wired hub.
The Bottom Line
DoBox started as a Kickstarter project in March 2016 and quickly hit its funding goal. That not only got it to market but it did so with some immediate enhancements the being a USB hub. Since its introduction, the DoBox creator, Fruitdock has continued to make improvements in both the hardware and the DoBox app.
The 32GB DoBox has an MSRP of $359.00 but is currently available on Amazon for $199.00. The 64GB version has an MSRP of $399.00 and is available for $239.00
Like any new technology, the DoBox is not perfect. Given its size, it seems awkward to carry around. It’s too big to fit in your pocket so you would need some sort of bag or backpack. Of course, that is not an issue if you keep it in one location like an office and don’t need to go too far with it.
Apparently, we aren’t the only ones that feel that way because Fruitdock recently announced the DoBox Mini. Here’s what the Kickstarter page has to say about it.
“With DoBox Mini you can now connect to more external devices like never before. DoBox Mini is a Portable Wireless Hub for iPhone and iPad. 7-in-1 Wireless Adapter with 32GB Internal Storage, USB-C, Ethernet, 2xUSB, Micro SD, Audio Out and HDMI. DoBox Mini gives you the connectivity you were missing from your Apple device.”
You can find out more about the DoBox Mini here.
The app seems to be a little buggy. Software updates report they could not be installed successfully but upon trying again, got a message that everything was up-to-date.
That said, the DoBox is off to a great start and if you used it for nothing more than the functionality built into it today, it is well worth checking it out. You can learn more about DoBox at https://dobox.com/.
We would like to thank the folks at Fruitdock for providing us with a DoBox for our testing and review.
How do you manage your iOS content when on the go? Does the DoBox sound like something you can use? Why not join the conversation and leave a comment below.
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We are working on continuously to fix the bugs and to the extend the features of our product, and we are sending out free online updates monthly. With the iOS 13 the DoBox will be more useful, and our mouse/keyboard feature will be available system-wide on iOS.