First look: Antsy Labs' Duet Apple Watch and iPhone charging dock

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With no Apple branded Apple Watch charging dock available at launch, third-party accessory makers have stepped in to produce a sea of products ranging from integrated Watch/iPhone stands to standalone pedestals. Antsy Labs' Duet splits the difference, offering owners a solution for charging their devices devices side-by-side or separately.

After spending a few days with a prototype Duet, which as of press time has nearly reached its $25,000 Kickstarter funding goal, we came away impressed with the design's concept and, more importantly, execution.

As its name implies, Duet serves as a stand and charging station for Apple Watch and its partner iPhone. Unlike other attempts, however, Antsy's design comes with two discrete stands — one for Watch and another for iPhone — capable of attaching via magnet to form a single unit. Users can charge both devices at once, for example on a nightstand, or relocate one section for use at a desk or another area of the house.

The iPhone dock is a simple, sturdy cradle crafted from solid aluminum, affording a heft that allows for one-handed device removal. While Apple's proprietary Lightning connector is not as troublesome to disengage as the old 30-pin design, docks still need bit of weight if users want a grab-and-go solution. A generous cutout fits the latest iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and iPhone 5 series handsets, with room to spare for most protective cases.

Duet's Apple Watch pedestal is also made of aluminum, but comes in much lighter than its iPhone counterpart due in part to cable routing channels cut into the frame. The lightweight design is not a serious issue since Watch's inductive charger employs a relatively weak magnetic attachment mechanism, but there is a question of stability. Owners of stainless steel Apple Watch models should be careful when the pedestal is not paired with its accompanying iPhone dock, as the stand can become top heavy.

To minimize accidental falls, Duet comes with nano suction pads installed on the bottom of both dock sections. In our tests the sticky material held up well to small tugs, though use in areas with heavy foot traffic is not recommended as passersby can easily get tripped up in the long charging cable. As with other Watch docks, users have to supply their own Watch charger.

Duet's coupling system works as advertised, with embedded magnets directing the pedestal to mount at a specific position on the iPhone dock.

We did notice during testing that Duet's Apple Watch pedestal forces the power cable to bend at extreme angles, leaving minor dents in its rubberized sheathing. Antsy Labs informed us that production versions will come with wider diameter cable channel cutouts that should solve this issue and make for easier installation of the inductive head unit.

Assuming a successful Kickstarter campaign, Duet will cost $79 and come in silver, Space Gray or gold finishes to match Apple's hardware color schemes. Pricing tiers are also available for multi-unit and bulk purchases. Duet is expected to ship out in July.