Hands-on with the Une Bobine charging stand for iPhone

This coiled, flexible sync cable/stand promises to hold your iPhone at any angle, but sometimes it falls down on the job.

The Une Bobine can hold your iPhone in positions like this one -- but it takes some work to keep it from falling over.
The Une Bobine can hold your iPhone in positions like this one -- but it takes some work to keep it from falling over. Fuse Chicken

When the Une Bobine made its Kickstarter debut about a year ago, I had the same reaction as a lot of people: What the heck does "Une Bobine" mean?

One look at the product and I definitely wanted to find out. Alas, I've forgotten too much of my high-school French (sorry, Mrs. Herman), but Google knows all: Bobine means "coil," and that's exactly what this thing is: a coiled, goose-neck sync/charge cable for the iPhone. (There's also a microUSB version for Android and other phones.)

What does a coil get you that a standard sync cable doesn't? In this case, a flexible metal arm that can bend, twist, and, well, coil in nearly any position you want. Thus, it can hold your iPhone upright next to your PC for, say, clock or slideshow duty; hold it sideways for easier video viewing; or even raise it to eye level in your car for GPS navigation. The possibilities are fairly endless.

Neat, right? Unfortunately, the Une Bobine doesn't quite live up to its promises, because the 24-inch arm just isn't strong enough to handle an iPhone's weight, at least in some configurations. (Point of clarification: I tested it with my iPhone 4S. An included adapter lets you use it with an iPhone 5, but you have to wrap your Apple sync cable around it for a decidedly kludgy workaround.)

For example, after plugging the coil into a USB port, I tried to get my iPhone to stand more or less upright. It promptly fell over. After coiling up a base of sorts, I had better luck, but still had to position the phone "just so" to keep it from toppling.

Likewise, it's difficult to manhandle the arm for a landscape viewing position, especially if it's not plugged in and using the USB port for added support. What's more, the extra pressure the Bobine puts on that port made me a little nervous. Unless you're careful with your bending, you could weaken both the plug and connector.

Once you do get everything positioned to your liking, the slightest nudge (like from typing on your laptop) causes the iPhone to wobble. Speaking of which, the Une Bobine is all but unusable in a car, and for exactly that reason: way too much wobble. If you can find something to wrap it around, like your rear-view mirror's base, you might have better luck. But if you're hoping to pair it with an in-dash USB port, you probably won't be able to raise it to eye level for GPS duty -- not without some added support.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of the Une Bobine depends on your expectations. With a little practice, you can get your iPhone positioned in some nifty ways -- just not always the ways you want.

The Une Bobine sells for $30; there's also a 12-inch Petite Bobine for $25. I didn't try that one, but it seems like it would have even worse iPhone-balancing problems because you've got less coil available to make a base. If you've tried one yourself, hit the comments and let me know if I'm right. And if you have an old goose-neck lamp lying around, find out how you can build a DIY Une Bobine .

 

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