“Upgrade” is always a nice word to hear when traveling. And increasingly we’re seeing those upgrades on the road instead of in the air. GPS devices are being replaced by smartphone apps, ride share programs have made getting around as simple as a few finger taps, and in some places, cars are almost starting to drive themselves—with a backup driver for safety, of course.
One thing these upgrades have in common? They’ve contributed to the rise of dashmounts—the devices that keep your phone visible for hands-free use in the car. They’ve sent old GPS units to the grave, are hugely popular among Uber and Lyft drivers, and are increasingly found in the cars of commuters and road-trippers everywhere.
But when you’re in the market for a dashmount, you’ll quickly realize not all are created equal. There are plenty of options out there no matter what kind of phone you have and they each have their own benefits, depending on what you’re looking for. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering how to get the most function out of your smartphone while in the car.
How does the mount attach to my car?
- In your cup holder:
- Pros: Cup-holder mounts have less risk of falling or becoming detached and are most likely to be able to rotate your phone from landscape to portrait.
- Cons: They take up one of your precious cup holders, and they usually sit pretty low in the car, which can make it hard to see whatever’s going on in your various navigation apps. If you get one with a long, extendable arm, it might be a little shaky.
- Clipped to a vent:
- Pros: They’re up higher, making them much easier to see and reach. They also have the most flexibility when it comes to where to put them; they can sit in whichever vent is most convenient to you.
- Cons: They usually lay flat against the vent, meaning that they either block your air conditioning on hot days or overheat your phone on cold ones. This can also make it difficult to turn the phone toward you at a convenient angle. An easy way to avoid this? Invest in a vent clip with an arm that holds the phone away from the vent, like Ventev’s minipro vent dashmount or magdock 360 dashmount.
- Suctioned to a window:
- Pros: This is the most familiar to those who are fans of the old-school GPS. It’s closest to eye level, and therefore easiest to see. It keeps both your vents and your cup holders clear.
- Cons: Suction cup lifespan varies based on quality, and if they fall, they’re the most disruptive, so choose a higher quality version. In some states, these mounts can actually get you a ticket for windshield obstruction. Just make sure to look up your state’s guidelines and mount your phone accordingly.
How does the mount attach to my phone?
- Pros: These have a tangible sturdiness about them that it’s hard for magnets to copy and they don’t require any additional pieces attached to your phone.
- Cons: They might take some two-handed toggling to secure your phone, either because the cradles require some manual adjusting or because the base is stiff and needs two hands to snap your phone in and out. They’ll need some adjusting as you switch phone to phone.
- Pros: They can be used easily with one hand, which is great for convenience, and are completely versatile when it comes to type of phone. The ability to slip a magnetic disc between phone and case means that it’s easy to jump from phone to phone.
- Cons: Depending on magnet strength, they may not be able to penetrate super thick cases. Also, if you’re uncomfortable with putting a sticker on the back of your phone or don’t have a case, this may not be the choice for you.
Does the mount also charge my phone?
Most don’t, but there are other car-specific gadgets for that. While certain phone mounts make it easier to charge than others, based on whether or not they cover the charging port on your phone, some have attachments to hold your cords neatly. For the most part, dashmounts won’t charge your phone without attachments or extra cords—at least not until wireless charging becomes more mainstream. Even then, the dock would need to be wired, but you could easily snap your phone in and out without worrying about another set of cables.
Does it matter what kind of phone I have?
By and large, no. While there may be a few mounts that are built specifically for one type of phone (mounts sold by Apple, for example, wouldn’t be built specifically for your Galaxy S7), you should be able to find a combination of your preferred options that fits your current phone. Just make sure to double-check the size limits if you have one of the larger models out there (especially if you use a case) and remember that some mounts are more flexible than others. If you like to keep up with the latest gadgets, it might be a good idea to look into a mount with an adjustable cradle or a magnet that can be moved easily from device to device.
Is there anything else I should consider?
Some dashmounts come with matching apps that can help you stay hands-free while you drive. For example, certain mounts come with apps to help with navigation and voice-controlled cellular use. Our recommendation is iBOLT Dock’n Drive, which has a multitude of functions including a built-in speedometer, compass, and even the ability to turn off your text messages or auto-respond until you exit the car, to cut down on distracted driving. The most important thing to consider here is safety—make sure to buy products and applications that are going to increase it, rather than decrease it. Just remember that texting and driving is never okay, no matter how many safety features you’ve got in place.
Ready to go?
There are hundreds of dashmounts out there at varying price points—the trick is to find one that helps you get the most out of your driving experience at a reasonable cost. Equipped with these five questions, that shouldn’t be too difficult—so go grab a dashmount and hit the road!