Finding a spot to nestle your smartphone or iPod in your vehicle usually isn’t hard. A cup holder or even the passenger seat can do just fine, but sometimes you need the screen to be visible, be it for a navigation app or to skip music tracks. These three mounts and cradles can do that, but they’re also distinct in how they do it.
Parrot MiniKit Smart
- Available at: Future Shop, ParrotShopping.com, BlueGear Wireless, Expansys.ca, Independent 12V retailers
Of this trio, the MiniKit Smart is easily the most durable and elegant, thanks to a stylish finish and solid materials that should keep it viable for years. It plays a dual role as a mount and Bluetooth speakerphone, and can sync and update all your contacts after pairing.
What’s neat is that it recognizes contacts’ names, so making a call only requires that you press the green button and speak the person’s name. This works even with phones that don’t necessarily have any type of voice assistance built-in.
This comes in especially handy for navigation instructions, and two-way communication is surprisingly crisp for a speakerphone. The microphone on the side does pop off and can be routed to the visor or another part of the vehicle. USB ports on the side also give you a chance to charge both the mount and your phone. The one drawback is that the unit is heavy, so you may worry about it falling at any time.
Griffin RoadTrip HandsFree
- Available at: Future Shop, Best Buy, Apple Store
Griffin considers this a “total solution” for the car because it offers music playback from an iPhone or iPod through an FM transmitter, as well as Bluetooth speakerphone capabilities. It also charges your device while docked, too.
That feature combination can certainly prove useful, but unfortunately, this mount is flawed in some key respects. The RoadTrip HandsFree is powered by the 12V socket, which is fine, except that the plug can only hold for a certain period of time. Hit some bumps on the road, and it loosens enough to have it tumble over.
Bluetooth capabilities aren’t bad, though you can expect the FM transmitter to be hit or miss. The unit is designed to find the best clear station to play the audio through, but its choices sometimes make no sense. Compatibility with the various iPods seems fine, and even the iPhone 4 works, but the iPhone 4S isn’t officially supported, so you aren’t guaranteed a smooth experience that way, either.
Bracketron Universal USB Power Dock
- Available at: Future Shop, Best Buy, Wireless Wave, Tiger Direct
Like Griffin’s RoadTrip, Bracketron’s dock uses the 12V socket, but differs in that it’s meant to work with pretty much any mobile device you can mount on it. It’s also adjustable enough to manage phones with cases.
It’s also a nice touch to have an extra 12V socket under the mount, so you can still use another gizmo inside, if need be. Next to that is a USB port for charging whatever device you’ve got mounted. The arm moves up and down, and you can swivel the wheel between the ports and the mount to orient it however you like.
The dock’s effectiveness really depends on where the socket is in the car. If it’s too close to the gearshift, they may bump into each other. If it’s too low, then it won’t make sense, either. But if you have the space, and like the idea of not mounting anything on your windshield or dash, this could offer a decent alternative.