Ever get into your car and wonder where to put your phone? I’ve yet to find a car that has a good solution. It took years for the manufacturers to add cup holders, and apparently it’s taking just as long for them to add a phone cradle. While some cars have pockets for storing your phone out of sight, none offer a way to secure and position your phone for viewing.
Now, clearly, you don’t want to text or read your email while driving, but you may want to use the phone to navigate — with a GPS app such as Google Maps or Waze — or to receive and make calls if your car is not equipped with Bluetooth. Using your phone to navigate is better than most of the nav systems built into cars, and should be just as easy to see and use. Perhaps the manufacturer purposefully leaves out a cradle just to get us to buy their expensive GPS!
This need has resulted in hundreds of products being offered to hold and display your phone. Some clip onto an air conditioner vent, others use a suction cup to attach to the window or dash, while a few fit into the CD slot or power adapter. One company even makes custom holders specifically designed for nearly every make, model, and year of automobile and every device.
What works best is highly dependent on your car, but after trying out a bunch of products, some became loose, others didn’t securely hold the phone, and a few vibrated incessantly.
Some of the devices position the phone at an awkward angle, requiring you to take your eye off the road. And many fall out of place with the adhesive or suction cup failing after a few days.
The ideal solution is a sturdy holder that locates your phone at about the same distance as your instrument panel, not too far to one side, and within reach. That way you can easily glance over to the phone without moving or refocusing your eyes or losing sight of the road ahead. The phone and holder should also be firmly held in place, so neither becomes a projectile in a sudden stop or accident.
Here are the three different types.
Next Page: Holders attaching to vents.
1. Holders attaching to vents.
Holders that attach to the air conditioner vents push onto one of the slats and stay in place by friction. They’re the easiest to attach and generally the most compact, allowing you to move it from car to car. But they don’t hold well on vertical slats, or work if your vents are not conveniently located.
Your phone attaches to these air conditioner mounts in a variety of ways. The Logitech ZeroTouch ($60) and the TaoTronics Magnetic Car Cellphone Mount for Air Vent ($9) attach using a steel disk that you stick onto the back of the phone or case that attach to a magnet in the mount. The Kenu Air Frame ($19) is the best of the lot, because it has an expandable grip that captures your phone, even in a case, and avoids the metal plate.
The Logitech ZeroTouch uniquely addresses the use of the phone in the car, as it comes with a clever app that provides hands free use with a number of cool features. The app knows when the phone (Android only) is mounted and offers voice texting, music, navigation and calling functions. You can even use the app’s voice commands to notify someone where you are and when you’ll arrive. When the phone is removed from the mount, the app is automatically deactivated.
Next Page: Suction cup holders and CD slot holders.
2. Holders with a suction cup, or attaching to the CD slot.
Holders using a suction cup and flexible arm are designed to attach to the window or dash. In my case, the front window was so far in front of me, that the phone was out of reach. It’s also illegal in some states to stick anything on your windshield, other than the far right lower corner.
I found the iOttie EasyOne Touch 3 ($25) to work the best of all suction cup mounts. It uses a cup with a sticky touch and firmly adhered to the top of my rough-textured dash where no other suction cup would stick. It also has an extendable arm and adjustable pivots that positions the phone just where I wanted it, above and to the right of the instrument cluster. Its grip is adjustable for a wide range of phones.
The Mountek nGroove Universal CD Slot Mount ($25) has an adjustable cradle that slips into the CD slot. A knob tightens it in place. I found that the device interfered with my radio controls, and that the large yellow caution label could not be removed without tearing the foam, and the phone sometimes fell off it.
Next Page: The more versatile holders you can put anywhere.
3. Versatile holders that work everywhere.
The Nite Ize Steelie Car Mount Kit for Cellphones ($24) was the most compact and flexible of all mounts. It held the phone firmly in place and allowed it to be positioned pretty much anywhere. It does require the use of an adhesive disk on the back of your phone, and is thick enough to cause the phone to rock when on a table.
One of the most ingenious solutions comes from Prolip USA. You buy a clip and a holder. Clips, designed for your specific car, consist of a plastic part designed to snap onto your car’s dashboard or console with no tools or adhesive required. Holders are designed for specific devices both with and without cases. You install the clip to your car and screw the device holder to it, and you have a custom mount. Cost is about $70-$80.