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A Weird but Effective iPhone Car Mount

For many of us, our iPhones are now constant companions, even while driving. That has its drawbacks — many drivers end up paying more attention to the iPhone than the road. (Apple hopes to correct that with the upcoming Do Not Disturb While Driving feature — see “iOS 11 Gets Smarter in Small Ways,” 5 June 2017). However, the iPhone is invaluable in the car for GPS navigation, music, and podcasts.

For safe usage, you need a place to mount the iPhone so it’s easy to see and doesn’t slide around. I’ve used a few different mounts over the years, but I never loved any of them.

When I bought a “new” truck recently, I decided to put a phone mount in it but wasn’t sure which to get. I usually turn to the Wirecutter for such things, since they generally do a comprehensive job of evaluating all the options. But I was a bit skeptical of their choice for smartphone car mount, the TechMatte MagGrip CD Slot, which currently costs about $11 at Amazon.

Read on for the details, or you can watch my video overview of the TechMatte MagGrip CD Slot.

TechMatte MagGrip CD Slot -- Put bluntly, the TechMatte MagGrip CD Slot is one weird smartphone car mount. Many car mounts use a suction cup to attach to the windshield or dashboard, and others clip into an air vent. TechMatte even makes an air vent version of the MagGrip. However, the MagGrip CD Slot, as its name indicates, mounts inside the CD slot of your car stereo, assuming you have one. You slide the MagGrip CD Slot’s bracket into the slot and tighten a knob to secure it in place. Should you wish to play a CD, just loosen the knob and pull the MagGrip out.


The other thing that’s unusual about the MagGrip is how your iPhone attaches to it. Instead of a cradle, the MagGrip relies on a strong magnet. It ships with two small metal plates that you can either stick to the back of your phone or, preferably, slip between your iPhone and case. I put one inside my iPhone’s case and gave the other to my wife.


To be clear, the MagGrip doesn’t require you to attach a magnet to your iPhone. The magnet is embedded in the car mount itself, and you put a piece of metal on your iPhone or case so it will attach to the magnet. I’ve noticed no ill effects from having a magnet so close to the iPhone, although there are suggestions online that it could affect the compass, NFC communications, or optical image stabilization. If you notice any problems, see if you can recreate them without the MagGrip’s metal plate.

By relying on the CD slot for mounting, the MagGrip positions the iPhone screen in an optimal location — easy to see, but not too distracting.


Despite its unusual approach, the MagGrip has worked surprisingly well. In addition to the knob that secures the mount in the CD slot, another knob helps hold the magnet in place. You can keep it looser if you regularly want to adjust your iPhone’s screen angle or tighten it up if you’re like me and drive on rough roads with bad shocks.

In fact, I’ve become spoiled by the magnetic mounting approach. You just slap your iPhone on it and go. Fumbling with the cradle in my Toyota just irritates me now. I see more MagGrip purchases in my future.

Downsides -- Unfortunately, if your car doesn’t include a CD player with an accessible slot, the MagGrip is a no go. And CD players had a relatively short life in the automotive world: from the mid-1990s through a few years ago, when they were replaced by auxiliary inputs and Bluetooth connectivity.

TechMatte does offer the TechMatte MagGrip Air Vent, which I haven’t used. However, I usually don’t recommend vent mounts. They block a precious air vent, and in the winter, unless you can shut the vent off, you’ll have hot air blowing directly on your iPhone’s battery, which could shorten its life or lead to overheating.

And if you don’t use a case with your iPhone, I’m not sure I’d recommend a magnetic mount at all. I have no problem slipping a metal plate into my iPhone case, but I’d be much less enthusiastic about slapping a metal sticker on the back, especially since I lease my phone from Apple through the iPhone Upgrade Program.

Finally, there is one potentially significant drawback mentioned by Amazon reviewers and acknowledged by TechMatte: on scorching hot days, the plastic could melt inside your CD slot. However, it gets pretty hot down here in Tennessee, and I haven’t experienced that problem. Later in the summer, I may remove it while I’m not using it just to be safe.

But I’m willing to chance it because I love this weird little car mount. Doubt that a magnet will hold your iPhone in place? Watch me drive down a gravel road and decide for yourself.

 

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Comments about A Weird but Effective iPhone Car Mount
(Comments are closed.)

Frederick Mills  2017-06-24 13:39
Bungajungle (https://www.bungajungle.com) makes magnetic mounts specifically for iPhones. The come with small magnets with an adhesive backing that you position in your car (or anywhere you want, really), and a small metal piece that attaches to the back of your phone and shields the phone from the magnet. They have a whole line of different permutations and I have been very happy with their products.
Have you had any issues with the strong magnet interfering with your iphones GPS or Gyro Sensor? My last iPhone 6 I tried to use a magnetic car mount on after time it permently damaged the phone. If you take a strong magnet and clip it to a piece of metal for an extended period of time, the metal itself will have a small amount of magnetism to it.

I wish I could trust magnetic mounts as they are the best option to mount your phone on the go.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-06-24 20:03
No, none.
David Weintraub  2017-06-25 17:17
The only mount I ever liked was the Kenu Airframe. It's very simple and works better than anything else I've tried. Yes, it blocks a vent, but you can shut the vent off to prevent your phone being blasted with hot or cold air. However, my newest car has AirPlay, so I just put my iPhone in the storage compartment next to the AirPlay USB plug. No connector needed.

In a few years, these phone mounts will be as popular as GPS units.
Michael Paine  2017-06-27 04:57
I have been using a Belkin iPhone mount with lightning dock for a few years. It saves plugging and unplugging a cable. But it doesnt seem to be listed on the Belkin website anymore. I just found it here
https://www.amazon.com/Belkin-Charge-Navigation-Mount-iPhone/dp/B00KNMMY04
Eric Wells  2017-06-27 06:30
I bought my wife the TechMatte mount based on the same article from Wirecutter. Overall, she loves it, but the one drawback to it that I've noticed (and that no one seems to complain about) is the fact that placing the magnet inside the case creates a very slight bulge on the back of the phone case, which results in the phone not laying flat on its backside anymore. This makes it much easier for the phone to slip off a flat surface than before adding the magnet. This is the main reason why I don't want to get this mount for my own iPhone.
Frans Moquette  2017-06-27 17:39
A strong magnet so close to the phone will definitely influence the compass. Even the metal plate on the back probably has an influence. The earth magnetic field is very weak and easily distorted by metals and magnets.
If you need to rely on the compass I would not use a magnetic mount.
Mark Waldon  2017-06-28 18:02
What happens if it gets near a credit card? or electric car keys?
Dennis B. Swaney  2017-07-01 11:27
This CD slot mount would not work for me as it would require I always look down to see the phone. I use ProClip mounts and have the mounts that position high on the air vents. These are perfect as I can direct cold A/C air on the phone to keep it from overheating in the sun. I have 2 enclosed cars and a convertible.
Hamilton Richards  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-07-01 13:48
My 2015 VW Golf has a CD player, but it's in the glove compartment. I stick my iPhone to the dash using Velcro—a small piece of stiff Velcro on the dash, and a somewhat larger piece of soft Velcro on the back of the phone.