It seems obvious that using your phone while driving – whether for talking, navigation or playing music – is safer when it’s attached to a decent mount. One that will not block the view, but also won’t force you to take your eyes off the road for too long. One that will allow you to charge the phone and select the apps on the screen without much trouble.
Taking into account the time you spend in the car and the safety of the driver and the passengers, it is worth considering this subject thoroughly and not to waste money on temporary solutions.
Let’s start by asking good old Uncle Google: “car phone holder / mount”. We get chaos. Thousands of search results show that our choice will in fact be rather a compromise. Appearance or functionality? Stability or quick and easy charging?
In hundreds of models available on the market and many of those that we have tested so far, the most important features are actually alternatives – we choose one advantage at the expense of another important feature.
So what are the most important criteria of phone mount choice? How to choose the perfect car holder?
Why do I need a smartphone mount in my car?
First of all – do you need it at all? If you spend more than half an hour a day in the car, then definitely yes. Placing your phone in the holder is much safer than holding it in your hand while driving, or peeking at the phone lying on the shelf near the gear lever or the passenger seat. Even if you are not speeding, the car goes dozens of meters in those few seconds when you take your eyes off the road. Hence the dangerous temptation of looking at the screen while driving disqualifies such solution. And since most smartphones cost a lot of money, you do not really want your phone to slide onto the floor whenever you slam on the brakes, do you?
Regardless of what you choose, after a few days, placing the phone in the holder will become a habit. Obviously unless you try to save and buy a car phone holder that becomes a piece of trash after those few days.
The method and place of attaching the mount in the car
It is one of the most important criteria for choosing a car phone mount – both from the point of view of safety and functionality.
The place you attach the holder in the car is crucial for safety. You do not want the phone to block the view, and neither you want to move your eyes away from the road. It is decisive also for the functionality, both when you attach the phone in the holder and later – when you use the phone’s functions while driving. The method and place of attaching the mount also affects the stability of the screen, especially on uneven roads.
Indeed there are many solutions, however the practical considerations dictate the trend:
- the holder should be attached in a central place in the car,
- it should be within the driver’s reach,
- it should be easy to attach in many places in the car, but match the model of the phone you use.
Holders mounted on the windshield
The holders mounted on the windshield of the car, in addition to the obvious advantage of possible attachment in every car model, have three major drawbacks. First of all, they more or less limit the driver’s view. This is so serious that some countries and states have prohibited the use of this type of holders. In addition, in many cars the windshield is located rather far from the driver’s reach, which means the driver needs to lean forward and reach above the dashboard every time he or she places the phone in the holder. Try this when sitting in a deep and comfortable seat. Nightmare.
What’s more – the suction cups peel off super easily, and the rubber they are made of crumbles over time under the influence of sunlight.
Air vent mounting
The phone holders mounted to the air vents in the car usually give the most opportunities for optimal and the most functional placement from the driver’s perspective, while not limiting the view. This is because car designers must provide access to the vents for adjusting them easily.
The disadvantage may be the different size and arrangement of the vent slats in different car models.
What’s more – cheaper models of this type of mounts require the use of both hands each time the phone is placed in the holder. They also have an awful tendency to break the vent slats. However, this is not really a problem with thought-out, more expensive models of premium class mounts.
The small size of this type of handles and the simplicity of their installation in the car are beneficial for users who frequently change cars, for example using the entire fleet of vehicles in the company. Typically, moving the holder from one car to another is as easy as moving the phone itself.
Holders mounted on the dashboard
This method has similar advantages and disadvantages as the one when the holder is stuck to the windshield – with exception of one thing – it can damage the dashboard. Since there is no single standard for material used to cover the dashboard and because the board-mounted holders attached to it are often – apart from the suction cup – equipped with an additional adhesive material it can easily stain the top of the dash. Especially when the car is going to stand a few days in the sun, and the glue, which in theory should not leave any marks, could vulcanize with the board. In addition – the adhesive part can be used once – after removal it does not work so well reused in a new place.
Charging the phone
Despite the powerful capabilities of modern phones, they usually share one disadvantage. With an intensive use of GPS or bluetooth, the phone battery dies in the blink of an eye.
The topic of easy charging is another criteria that should be seriously considered when choosing a car phone mount. Holders that cover the charger plug on the phone can be rejected immediately. In turn, those without permanent cable attachment can be equally troublesome – every time the charger cable needs to be fastened, it is time-consuming and, in the long run, annoying. We sit behind the steering wheel several times during the day. Each time you get in, you’ll have to put the phone in the holder, look for the cable on the floor of the car, and then plug it into the phone. Therefore, a good alternative are the solutions with the charging cable already connected to the holder.
Anyone who had a chance to try several models of phone mounts knows that those which require the use of both hands are the least convenient – usually after a few times of leaning uncomfortably, especially when you wear warmer winter clothing, you will find that it will be easier to hold the phone in a jacket’s pocket and to use the phone mount only on longer routes. Pointless.
It is worth to test it yourself – many manufacturers declare that their products have innovative systems that allow the mounting and removal of the phone with only one hand, but usually these declarations do not pass practical tests. Many patents based on springs or clamps, which the manufacturers believe would hold all types of phones, in practice do not hold any. Even if the mounting is really quite stable, placing the phone in the holder requires circus dexterity.
Stability of holding the phone
Stability of the phone in the mount is a decisive factor for many users. In practice it is enough to hit a more bumpy stretch of road to determine whether the long and flexible arm of some handles will firmly hold the heavier, plus-category smartphone. It can be generalized that the more universal the phone mount – the weaker it holds the phone.
Adaptation to different models
Some users point out that the universal use of the holder for different phone models is an important selection criteria. This is important especially for cars used by several drivers – in company or family cars. Also, phone owners with non-standard phone cases praise universal solutions.
Universal solutions have many disadvantages, too – such as difficulties with charging (various charger plugs for different phone models). Versatility also means mechanical complexity, because the handle has to adapt to different sizes. And that in turn means there are more parts which can break. However, just keep in mind that in 95% of cases the universal use is not usually so important for people who do not change phones often.
Speed of charging
This criteria is difficult to verify in the store, so it’s easy to skip it. In most solutions, charging efficiency depends not so much on the holder itself as on the electrical solutions of the car.
An unpleasant and unfortunate exception are the wireless chargers. This is a relatively new but already impressive technology. You can put the phone on the shelf in front of the gear lever, and the phone starts to charge automatically. At the moment, however, the speed of wireless charging leaves much to be desired. Often, in practice, it turns out that when you want to use additional functions of the phone, the device consumes more power than it gets. As a result, the phone can die completely after some hours of driving with GPS system.
The wireless charging works even worse in mounts which hold the phone by a magnet. Often this magnet additionally interferes with the charging process, slowing it down, or even making it impossible. All in all, wireless charging is now a good option to use at home. The position of the phone on the bedside charger for the whole night is trouble free. However, the same solution will not work in a car, where the time spent is shorter and the energy demand when using GPS or Bluetooth – bigger.
Therefore, at the present stage, the most advantageous option is still the wired charging. It may change in the coming years, but wireless charging technology is not yet sufficiently developed.
Appearance and materials
Cheap solutions scare with rough plastic and poor quality rubber that never looks good. Especially in expensive, elegant cars, the contrast between beautiful materials used in the interior, and the cheap phone mount are very apparent. The look of the phone holder and the quality of the materials it is made of are no less important choice factors as its usability.
The phone mount in the car is one of those gadgets on which you can save only seemingly – safety, functionality, presentation are as important as choosing the smartphone itself.