Altec Lansing IMW725 InMotion Air Could Have Been Designed by Jony Ive’s Evil Twin [Review]



Curvy. Smooth. Uncomplicated. Think of any product One Infinite Loop has spat out over the last decade or so and you’ll almost invariably and immediately come up with a few key adjectives to describe them (and if you don’t, you’re probably not reading this right now anyway).

But The Bluetooth-equipped Altec Lansing InMotion Air ($200) is pretty much the opposite of anything and everything Jony Ive and his colleagues at Apple believe in. At least, that’s true as far as its aesthetics and ergonomics are concerned; under the hood though, it packs a punch.

The Good:

As with so many of Altec Lansing’s creations, the Air is an elongated rhomboid, but this time with a shallow oblique slice off the top forward crease where the controls sit. There’s a big, roomy handle at the back for easy portability,  and right next to it a clever slot for the unit’s clean, button-packed remote (one of the most feature-filled we’ve seen on a portable dock) to hibernate in when not being used. Then there’s the exterior finish — a strange, sexy texture that feels a little like fabric, as if the dock had been dipped in a vat of liquid satin before being boxed up.

With its jagged edges and smoky, satiny exterior, the Air’s design is anything but safe. Unlike Apple’s light, easygoing designs, this dock takes a bold, aggressive stance that probably either really appeals to — or really annoys — anyone looking at it; but either way, its designers deserve kudos for taking a chance.

There’s an auxiliary jack in the back, but the Air is built to function mainly via a Bluetooth connection. If you have an older Mac (or PC) without Bluetooth capability, Altec Lansing ships the Air with a USB Bluetooth dongle with a claimed range of a whopping 300 feet (we didn’t test this). The Air lasted a good six hours under battery power, good for its class.

Then there’s all that muscle under the hood. Bluetoothed music could stream clear across my (small) house; not even two walls and about 20 feet between my iPad and the Air could make the music stop.

Sound is very different from a lot of other docks in this range. The Air managed to reproduce really clean, crisp highs, and bass was deeper and smoother than expected for its size — even if it wasn’t very powerful. There was an odd lack of punch in the middle though; it’s a good dock for chilling at home with some lounge music — maybe a little Groove Armada — but not the best for setting outside on the patio for blasting a little Ozomatli. Still, sound was impressively well-defined for a dock this size.


The Bad:

While the Air’s aesthetics are largely a matter of taste, its other un-Apple like characteristics are not — it seems to have been built with more than its fair share of weirdness and complexity.

First there’re the controls, a line of identical silver buttons which, while very neat, aren’t exactly easy to differentiate between under normal circumstances, let alone party conditions. Some of those buttons seem superfluous — do we really need a button for the auxiliary port? And track controls on the iDevice you’re playing from and on the remote and on the dock itself? Also, the LED Source and Bluetooth indicator lights alternate blinking slowly like the lights on the bridge of the original Enterprise. Why?

That rhomboid design is cool, but isn’t the easiest shape to pack in a suitcase unless you happen to be packing a large tangram puzzle.

More seriously, there seemed to be occasional connectivity hiccup where the dock would, suddenly and for no apparent reason, drop my iPad’s connection — with the iPad inches away from the dock. I have no idea why, and I couldn’t replicate the issue between my iPad and two other Bluetooth docks.



A provocative, stylish Bluetooth speaker with good sound and excellent features that’s been saddled with more than its fair share of eccentricities.

[xrr rating=70%]

  • picky


  • muzoid

    A great article. I appreciate while it is easy to insult anything that is not a mac product, you have chosen to be objective. It is refreshing to read your perspective on the product and the aesthetic evaluation I totally agree with. Sometimes I see products such as this and I have to admit (sheepishly) to thinking “I wonder how Jonathon Ive would have approached the research, testing, analysis and design of this product.”

    Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of your articles.


  • Jason Pruitt

    “The Bluetooth-equipped Altec Lansing InMotion Air ($200) is pretty much the opposite of anything and everything Jony Ive and his colleagues at Apple believe in.”

    Holy crap you hit the nail on the head with that one. Wow.

  • likethepear

    Oh man, didn’t Don Johnson have that sitting on the brass & glass table next to his waterbed on Miami Vice? 

  • 2piworld

    Very ugly.

  • JDWages

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about.  This kind of design was all the rage back in the 1980’s.  It’s RETRO!

  • CamilloMiller

    Sincerely, there’s something unsettling in the skewness of this thing.

  • Van Ly

    oh ow. oh ow.

  • Demonstr8r

    There is not a single redeeming quality about the design of these speakers from Altec Lansing, but Walmart shoppers will love it.

  • freediverx

    Tacky design. Looks like a cheap clock radio from the 80s.

  • prof_peabody

    where do you put the cassettes in?  

  • Phil

    It’s shit.

  • nicknormal

    proof: Mac users care a LOT more about form over function.

    (but they love their cassette tape player retro iPad apps – how ironic!)

  • Jay Bergen

    I haven’t seen anything this clean and uncluttered since the Edsel.

  • Len Williams

    I have no idea how you make the logic leap from a product built by Altec Lansing to what Mac users think. Altec is not Apple, so this does not prove anything about Mac users whatsoever. You’ll find that most Apple users are very aware of and buy their products because of BOTH form and function. However, this Altec speaker is very un-Apple, just like the author says. Your comment makes no sense.

  • nicknormal

    My “logic” is based on the other commenters comments – “Tacky design”, “It’s shit”,  “There is not a single redeeming quality”, etc. – their words, not my logic. It has the engine of a Mercedes in the body of a Ford, therefore it is shite… but, but, the engine… typical Mac user hogwash. Goodbye Len.

  • Colleen Russell

    Ignoring the design, Altec Lansing does what it does best. Its speakers are just off the wall! Recommended if you can’t really afford subwoofers and huge speakers.

  • Kenneth Wad Johns

    Mac users are not the only humans with sensory systems. As a cabinetmaker, I find that ‘form with no function’ offends me. Perhaps that is the result of being indoctrinated by Shaker or Krenovian design principles. Now there is a place for functionless form, the plastic arts, eg. sculpture. The wireless dock reviewed is not good ‘sculpture’ and it is not good ‘form following function’ design. It is, to my eye, ugly. In fact, it reminds of my 1984 Sharp mini boom box. By the way, like functionless form in appliances, dismissive aggression is not a pleasing feature nicknormal. Peace be with you, Ken.

  • nicknormal

    nice one Wad!

  • elimilchman


  • Jimmy

    helpful review.  thanks.  i’m looking for a reliable, portable solution (for pool, patio, park, etc) & am thinking this because it is capable of decent sound reproduction, has speaker & remote controls, can be ac or dc powered, and does bluetooth and usb for longer distances. it could be exactly what i’m wanting. sure i would love for it to look more appealing but the truth is i don’t need it to be pretty as i’m not looking to display/showcase. so looks are not priority. in short, i’m more interested in performance than aesthetics.