Product Test: Smartphone cradles
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Smartphone cradles

Mobile phones are an important tool in our lives, but you absolutely must not hold them while driving, so the simplest solution is to use a cradle. James Scoltock tests the best three on the market today

Product Test - Smartphone cradles - Halfords universal windscreen mountHalfords universal windscreen mount £8.50

This is an old-school style mobile phone cradle with a suction cup to keep it planted to the windscreen and a flexible goose neck so you can get the angle of the phone just right.

The Halfords unit isn’t particularly aesthetically appealing, the plastic feels cheap and, as with all cradles like this, your phone bounces around like it’s on a spring when you hit a bump. But what the mount does offer is simplicity.

It’s easy to set up, cost-effective and will allow you to put your phone somewhere safe while you’re driving. And in a world where mobile screen sizes are becoming excessive, it fits devices up to 11cms in width, meaning that even the largest mobiles can be accommodated. The iPhone 7 we tested this with is a mere 7cm.

The Halfords offering holds your phone securely, too. Simply press the side button to extend the arms of the holder, sit your phone on the pull-out rests and close the arms tightly around it.

Getting this mount in the right position on the glass is the biggest challenge you’ll face with it, because you have to remember that the driver’s view or controls can’t be obstructed.

Most safety groups recommend that you  put them to the right of the steering wheel so it’s tucked out of the way, but the phone is still easily viewable if you’re using a navigation app, for example. However, the Halfords device is too cumbersome for that, so we put it low down on the left side, and to stop it bouncing around we rested the bottom of the cradle on the top of the dashboard so it couldn’t move.

Product Test - Smartphone cradles - Belkin car vent mountBelkin car vent mount £19.99

This cradle from Belkin uses the air vents in your dashboard as a mount, so securely holds your device with no suction or adhesive required. It’s great if you don’t want dirty ring marks on your windscreen or sticky patches on the dash.

The unit rotates 360 degrees so you can view your phone in either portrait or landscape mode, handy if you want to use different functions on your phone.

Belkin says that the mount works with most car vents and it also includes a cable holder at the rear to help control unruly wires from getting tangled up – that’s a useful element because more often than not phones end up being plugged in so they can charge while we drive.

The mount’s brackets adjust to fit most smartphones up to roughly 8.5cm wide, so there shouldn’t be any problem using popular devices from firms such as Apple, Samsung and the plethora of others.

However, we did have two issues with the mount. The first was pushing the phone into the spring-loaded grip because there’s no button to open it, so you have to use the phone to push one side apart and jam it in. That may not be great for the longevity of the mount or your phone. However, the phone does feel incredibly secure once in the mount.

The second issue arises if you use the mount with vents that sit horizontally, because the combined weight of it and phone can pull them down, so you’re left with a mobile that’s facing the floor – no good if you need to glance at the screen while driving – and a vent that’s blowing air in the wrong direction.

Product Test - Smartphone Cradles - Belkin Vent Mount

MPOW - Grip Magic Smartphone CradleMPOW Magic Grip £10.99

The smallest mount you can possibly imagine, the Grip Magic is a magnetic phone holder that can be rotated through 360 degrees. The design is simple but sturdy, and because it’s made from metal it feels extremely durable, a surprising thing when you’re paying relatively little.

The mount sticks to the dash using a 3M adhesive pad, as does the metal disc that you attach to your phone. As with most 3M products, once it’s in place there isn’t much that will remove it, which is reassuring.

After you’ve fiddled with the placement, all you then have to do is place the disc on the back of your phone onto the mount and away you go.

The magnet feels pretty strong, so there’s little wobbling or slippage while you’re driving, even on the most uneven roads, and because there are no arms holding your phone the size of device you can use is limited only by the weight the mount can take.

MPOW Magic Grip - image 2The Grip Magic also has an advantage in adaptability because you can stick it anywhere depending on what your preference is, left, right, front and centre, the choice is yours.

One warning: it uses adhesive, so you need to be sure with your positioning because once it’s stuck it will be time-consuming to move. Not only that, you need to be sure you’ve got the disc on your phone in the correct place, or it might not be in your line of sight. It might also cause issues when you change your phone and need to remove the metal disc to attach it to your new device, or buy a new one.


Product Test - Smartphone Cradles - MPOW Grip Magic

VERDICT: and the winner is…

MPOW - Grip Magic Smartphone Cradle

Using a mobile phone cradle is one of the easiest ways to make sure you aren’t distracted from your primary task of driving when you’re in the car. There’s a huge amount of choice, but for solidity, sturdiness and value for money it’s difficult to look past the MPOW Grip Magic.

Yes, the Halfords Universal Windscreen Mount is cheaper, but it feels like it won’t last the journey, snapping before you’ve reached your destination as it bounces around with the bumps in the road.

And although the Belkin Car Vent Mount is well made, it’s nearly double the price of the Grip Magic, and doesn’t offer enough flexibility in its positioning. More people are using their phones as navigation units now, and a vent mount doesn’t necessarily place your phone high enough up to do that safely, it needs to be just a quick glance away.

Having said that, the cable tidy on the Belkin is such a simple solution, we wonder why others haven’t used it in their designs.

The Grip Magic will take more time to set up than both the Halfords and Belkin mounts, but once it’s in place it offers greater security for your phone and a better range of placements on the dashboard, so you can put it where is most comfortable for you.

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Product Test - Smartphone Cradles - MPOW Grip Magic