Twelve South HiRise Lightning Dock for iPhone 5 & iPad mini Review


Twelve South's obsession over elevating Apple products hasn't stopped with its adjustable HiRise stand for the iMac and MacBooks, because now the company has released a third and unlikely final version of the HiRise, and this time it's made for iOS devices. Here to put all other docks to shame with its ingenuity is Twelve South's HiRise for iPhone, the first case-friendly Lightning dock of its kind that will make perfect sense if you've got an iPhone 5 or an iPad mini. Made entirely out of aluminum and priced at $35, the HiRise is stunning stand gone dock that might be one of the best docking solutions there is. As always, you can catch our in-depth review after the break!


HiRise is a one-of-a-kind, multifaceted Lightning docking stand for iPhone, iPad mini and iPod touch

The stuff Twelve South comes up with is astonishing. I don't think there has been a single product Twelve South made that I didn't want to throw money at. And the HiRise for iPhone is no exception. What looks like a base designed to display a newly announced Apple product at one of those unveiling events Apple annually holds, the HiRise makes a grand first impression. It's simplified, clean and free of unnecessary clutter that is often found on many docking accessories including the nicer aluminum made ones. The finish of the aluminum is excellently done to match the refined smooth aluminum of an iMac as are all Twelve South products. I'm not sure why the HiRise is advertised as a brushed metal stand when it clearly isn't as I've just described.

So what is it exactly? Where docks normally tend to lay low as they partially engulf the bottom portion of your iPhone including the speaker, mid and headphone port, the HiRise focuses your attention directly at the entirety of your device as it mounts it up above ground using what you can call a Lightning probe. But really it's more of a beautifully designed plinth made to look like an Apple product. And by looking like something Apple designed, the HiRise compliments every Apple and of course Twelve South product with its clean, aluminum lines. Its aesthetically pleasing industrial design is blindingly worthy of one of Apple's aluminum-made portable things of wonder. Speaking of which, the HiRise works with other Lightning connector equipped devices such as the iPod touch and iPod nano with or without protective cases.


As if it wasn't plainly obvious, the HiRise is first and foremost a stand designed to elevate your iOS device to a much more comfortable viewing position where you can FaceTime hands-free and still be perfectly composed. Of course this also means that you have a better viewing angle of your device as the HiRise situates it at a subtle tilt, perfect for when you're sitting at your desk or waking up in the morning with it next to your sleeping pod, or bed if you're reading this in 2013.

Whether you're just docking to a quick refuel or opening up a certain app for display, the HiRise enables you to interact with your iOS device whilst it is vertically and elegantly probed on an ostentatious Lightning stake. A stand and a dock, seamlessly married to form an aristocratic docking solution which I think is important to say, works as intended. Out of the countless charging docks I have used and some that I have only known about over the years including those which Apple use to make, Twelve South's HiRise literally stands out from the pack and I even think it has grown on me to the point where it may be my favorite docking stand. It isn't perfect I'm afraid, but we'll get to that later.


The HiRise is built so well to be as sturdy as possible that it handles the much larger and heavier iPad mini just as it does the iPhone and iPod touch.


Using a Smart Cover with your iPad mini? No worries, flip it back and you can still dock it with the HiRise just like you would using a protective case.


By only making use of its narrow docking stem to mount the iPhone 5, it leaves the speaker, mic and headphone port completely accessible at all times so you can plug in and make calls using speakerphone. Because nothing blocks the speaker, sounds comes through loud and clear when docked on the HiRise as if you were holding the iPhone or iPad in your hand. This is especially true when you're using your iPhone during phone calls. HiRise will ease the pain when you have a lengthy conversation with customer support, I can attest to that. You can also plug in a pair of headphones, something so basic that very few Lightning docks offer. And when few do, it nearly always costs you more.


Another sweet feature that makes the HiRise a versatile Lightning dock is its height-adjustable Lightning connector tip which uses an interchangeable white plastic adapter clip that holds the Lightning connector at various heights in order to accommodate various protective cases with recessed cutouts or thick bottom layers. There are three adapter clips included with the HiRise which are individually numbered. You pick the clip you need depending on whether you're using a slim case, a bulky case or nothing at all.

Cases like the Speck CandyShell, Spigen Neo Hybrid, Magpul Field Case or the Urban Armor Gear UAG including many Element Case bumper cases, will call for the medium level clip - while a bulkier case such as the Otterbox Defender and Spigen Tough Armor will require the highest clip as it enables the Lightning connector to protrude farther out in order to make a connection through that deep bottom port cutout. Unfortunately, the most popular waterproof cases like the LifeProof Nuud, Fre, Seidio Obex and many more will not fit even when using the highest Lightning connector adapter setting as if that wasn't asking too much already. Even so, you can't ask for much more when nearly every protective case currently on the market works with the HiRise. Color us impressed.


Picking the first clip will place the Lightning connector flush with the rest of clip's plastic base where the bottom of your device firmly rests. The clip is then pushed into the aluminum dock piece where it fits very tightly so that undocking your device cannot pull the connector out of its place. Bottomless cases that do not cover the iPhone's Lightning connector port such as Twelve South's SurfacePad, BookBook and countless others can fit atop the HiRise using the first clip.

The large Apple pedestal-like base will require a large space compared to other docks, but that's understandable when you take into account the fact that the HiRise also needs to support an iPad mini without toppling over. And in doing so, the HiRise is a sturdy docking platform which stands planted on top of your desk even when you're using your iPad mini or iPhone whilst docked.


While we're on the subject, the base isn't heavy enough to allow you to undock your Apple device without holding it down with one hand while pulling with the other. You can, however, pull a one-hander if you're skilled with your fingers. Let your pinky finger push away the base of the HiRise while pulling up on your iPhone to eject it in style. Practice makes perfect.


Looking behind the HiRise we can see that its got an aluminum back support that nearly reaches halfway up the back of the iPhone 5, and obviously much lower when docking an iPad mini. But even so, the back support provides enough support for both devices not only for stability, but also to prevent any stress that might be put on the Lightning connector. To keep the back side of each device scratch-free, a small layer of white rubber-esque material is positioned at the top of the aluminum back support where the edge lightly pressed up against the back of a docked Apple device. It's minimally sufficient, however, I would have been much happier if Twelve South amply padded the back support with this material instead of just topping it off this way.


This aforementioned back support is actually a moving piece that you can adjust using two screws underneath the bottom of the HiRise base with a supplied tool. The back support slides forwards and backwards in order to accommodate different thicknesses of protective cases or naked Apple devices since an iPhone 5 is slightly thicker than an iPod touch. Having the ability to precisely set where you'd like the back support to reach is one of the many things that make the HiRise a versatile docking stand, and one that you can use with all types of cases without having to skimp on stern support that will also protect the longevity of your Lightning connector. Adjusting this moving piece can be tediously finicky though as there are two screws that secure this piece in place which aren't very easy to screw all the way without the piece moving out of its set position.

Also, notice how the HiRise base gradually thickness towards the back, which is one of the design aspects that make it such a stable, sturdy docking stand even when tapping on a device as wide and as tall as the iPad mini. Twelve South...they've got it all figured out.


Finally, flipping over the HiRise reveals its rubbery bottom as well as a hollowed compartment with a removable key-shaped plastic door which conveniently stores a screw tool for safe keeping. This is where you'll be making the adjustments for the back support as well as screw in the Lightning connector docking piece for the first and only time.

And this brings us to some of drawbacks you should know before you go out and get yourself this beauty of a dock. When you open the box, the HiRise will require assembly and comes in three separate pieces which you'll need to screw together using a total of 4 hexagonal screws. The assembly process isn't hard, but it'll take you about 10 minutes to get it adjusted to fit your needs until you can actually start using it out of the box. Like I said, putting together that back support will probably be the most time consuming part of it all if you plan on using a case. To add insult to injury, the HiRise isn't very practical when it comes to adjustments. If you're someone who likes using a case one day, and no case the next, then the HiRise will just be a nightmare to use. There's no on-the-fly quick back support or Lightning connector height-adjustment tweaking to speak of, and that could spell failure for some. Twelve South designs great looking, clever products, but sometimes I wish they would have put more effort into making their accessories such as the HiRise easier to work. 

Pro tip: When setting a desired thickness, place your device with its protective case onto the dock and hold the back support against the back of the case as you tighten the bottom screws into position. But make sure to leave some space because when tightening the screws, the back support tends to move closer to the Lightning connector piece.


The HiRise isn't affordable for no reason, it requires you to use your own Lightning connector cable. And not just any Lightning connector cable, you'll have to use a genuine Apple one if you want things to fit and work properly which leaves you with a permanently occupied Lightning cable unless you've got a spare. We think it's because of the price and ease of manufacturing, but Twelve South will have us know that because you're supplying your very own Lightning cable that came with your Apple device, the HiRise can make use of its height-adjustable clip feature and ensure the best possible fit all around.


If you though adjusting the back support was a nuisance, switching between these height-adjustment Lightning connector clips is bewilderingly difficult to say the least. So much so that I question Twelve South's decision making on the subject. The Lightning connector clip is so hard to pull out to replace that you'd have to resort to using a nose plier. I've found that you can avoid damaging everything if you push the insert out from within the aluminum stem, but that also requires a tool of sorts but at least this way does not cause any damage to the connector clip or to the aluminum finish. Pro tip #2: Use the included tool to push out the plastic clip from the bottom and it'll require very little effort to slide on out. *See our updated post down below.


HiRise is one of the best iPhone and iPad Lightning docks we've used

Built as a future-proof Lightning dock, the HiRise can adapt to virtually any Lightning device Apple releases so long as it isn't larger than the iPad mini that is. That means Apple's upcoming iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C devices will be compatible with the HiRise once released. Having both an adjustable back support that can custom fit various thicknesses of Apple devices including protective cases, coupled with a fluid Lightning connector that's unrestricted and can, with a bit of pulling and pushing - adjust its height to accommodate many kinds of protective cases with recessed Lightning connector cutouts. Suffice it to say, the HiRise is an accessory you'll be keeping for a long time to come. Although it may be highly compatible, the HiRise will not work with LifeProof or any waterproof case for that matter.

Twelve South's HiRise is a tough cookie to base a conclusive recommendation on, because while to some people its positives far outweigh its cons, to others it just won't be a good fit. It's without a doubt the most difficult to adjust out of all of Twelve South's accessories. But it's arguably well worth it, especially when you're paying $35 for it. As long as you aren't using multiple cases that vary in bulk which will require you to adjust the HiRise more often, then we think you'll thoroughly enjoy using the HiRise as a Lightning dock that stands taller than the rest. We really admire the HiRise for its relatively low cost, unique design and convenient functionality that does not impede on how you use your iPhone, iPad mini or iPod touch. We can highly recommend it.

If you're someone who likes switching between bulky cases and using nothing but the bare back of your device more often than not, the HiRise sadly isn't the dock for you. It's worth noting that you can get away without having to make any sort of secondary adjustments to the HiRise between using very slim protective cases or nothing at all.

Update: Twelve South has sent us another HiRise to try, and we can confirm that pulling out the Lightning connector clips is in fact possible and quite easy to do. Our initial review sample has had somewhat defective inserts that were very difficult to pull out. As a result, our rating has changed from "good" to "recommended". If you have any issues with your HiRise for iPhone, Twelve South will be more than happy to help you get things sorted out. We've been using the HiRise more than we thought we would, and for that reason it is worthy of our Editors' Choice Award.