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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Awesome Solution for a Smartphone Car Mount

In a recent post about iOS apps that I like, I mentioned that I use the social GPS app Waze for navigation in my car. For those that may have been wondering how I go about using an iPhone while driving, this post is for you.

When first looking for a iPhone car mount, I searched long and hard to find a good one. I frequently came back frustrated. Either the mount didn't fit the iPhone correctly, or the mount relied on the ridiculously unstable suction cup method of adhering to my windshield or dash. Some may have had luck with suction cup mounts, but in the cold winters of my home state, I’ve frequently had to lunge to grab my old GPS units as they came loose and went flying across the car. 

In the past, I used Garmin GPS units along with their excellent dashboard friction mounts and was very disappointed to see that I couldn't find another manufacturer that made a nice dashboard friction mount. My solution? I created a Frankensteinian hybrid of the three products below.

1. Garmin Friction Mount ($20): Yes the very same friction mount I’ve known and loved for years. This thing sticks rock solid to my dash and doesn't budge an inch. Also, unlike other friction mounts I saw, the sand bags on each corner of the mount are flexible and can adhere to a slightly curved dash. Finally, it allows the holder that connects to your smartphone to be removed for easy storage under you seat (if desired). Note: Always store your mount hidden away when not in use unless you want to essentially have a sign on your car that says “I may have something expensive in my car, please break my window to find out for sure.”

Arns adjusted to not depress lock switch
Arms adjusted to leave dock connector open for power
2. Arkon Slim-Grip Phone Holder ($10): It took me a couple of tries to find a holder for my iPhone that held it securely, and also fit the ball joint on my Garmin Friction mount. The Arkon isn't perfect, but it has met my needs well. The only piece I use from the package is the piece that actually holds the phone. I completely threw out the rest of the mount that suctions to the windshield. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the small arms that hold the phone are both a pro and a con. On the bright side, they are adjustable to allow you to not block ports or buttons on the phone, but the downside is that if you adjust them too far, they’ll pop off the phone (and you can image what happens to your phone). This is really only an issue when placing the phone in the holder. Once secured, nothing moves and I have a very high degree of confidence in the security of my phone on the dashboard.

Spring-loaded holder stretching to hold an iPhone 4S
3. Kensington PowerBolt Micro Car Charger ($15): This one is optional, but remember that GPS in conjunction with an always on screen, will drain your smartphone's battery faster than Count Dracula himself. This little charger really is tiny and sits flush with the power socket in your car. It even provides enough juice to charge an iPad if needed. The only thing I don’t like about this is that it really does sit so flush I need a pair of pliers to remove it.

This solution has worked well for me, but it may not be the perfect answer for all. Please feel free to chime in below if you've got alternative suggestions for the perfect smartphone car mount.