If you're driving a car, you shouldn't be using your phone. There, I said it. Unfortunately, almost no one heeds this advice, myself included. Because maps must be viewed, podcasts must be played, text messages must be glanced at (but never responded to, unless it's by voice) and so on.
But let's face it: that's insanely dangerous.
It's really hard to not use your phone while driving. But it's not hard to be a little smarter about it, which starts with mounting your phone on your dashboard or windshield.
And let me just say there are a zillion options. Below I've rounded up a handful of them, with the pros and cons for each kind.
Universal windshield and dashboard mounts
You've almost certainly seen these: suction-cup and/or adhesive mounts with cradles that hold your phone in place. My advice: steer clear of the windshield variety, as those suction cups usually don't stay put forever -- and the last thing you want is for your phone to crash onto the dash when you make a sharp turn or hit a bump.
In addition, windshield mounts with long gooseneck arms tend to wobble a lot, especially with larger phones. That's another reason to look for a dashboard mount. (If you need one more: Some states have laws prohibiting windshield-mounted anything.)
One good option: this Mpow universal dashboard mount, currently $10.99 at Amazon. It relies on a strong, sticky suction cup that can secure to your dashboard, and features a telescoping arm in case you have a really deep dash.
Its spring-loaded cradle can hold phones of just about any size, and there's a quick-release button that makes for easy extraction.
Remember CDs? Those things you once used for listening to music? If your car has a CD player that mostly sits dormant, you can put that slot to good use by turning it into a mounting point.
However, depending on where your CD player is located, this might not be a good solution. If it's low, for example, your phone won't be mounted high enough for practical use. Plus, there's a good chance your phone will block access to your radio's controls, or possibly other important dashboard stuff. (And if you still listen to CDs, 'nuff said.)
The upside is that it won't get blasted by hot or cold air like with a vent mount (see below), and it's much less likely to come loose like a suction-cup mount.
If you think a CD-mount solution is the way to go, you have two options: cradle and magnet. This Ipow mount, for example, relies on a spring-loaded cradle that can pivot on a ball joint to just about any viewing angle. Interestingly, it promises that CDs will still play even when the mount is installed -- though obviously you wouldn't be able to insert or remove discs without removing the mount. Ipow's product currently sells for $12.89.
TechMatte makes a similar CD-slot mount, one that uses a magnet in place of a cradle and costs just $9.79. Read on to learn more about these kinds of mounts.
If your phone lives inside a case, consider slipping a thin metal plate inside, or even sticking one to the rear. That would allow it to hitch magnetically to any number of mounts -- arguably the fastest and easiest way to dock and undock your phone every time you enter and exit your car.
For example, WizGear makes a variety of magnetic mounts, like this $8 one that clips to an air vent:
I don't especially like air-vent mounts, primarily because they block what the vent was designed to do: heat or cool the car. And if you can't close off the airflow for that vent, now your phone is going to get blasted with hot or cold air. (The latter is fine, but your phone definitely doesn't need more heat.)
Another potential issue with magnets: Although they won't harm your data or interfere with GPS navigation, the metal plate you have to stick inside your case (or to the back of the phone) could interfere with wireless charging. (On my iPhone X ($900 at Boost Mobile), I was able to work around this putting the plate down low, instead of near the center.)
All that being said, this was my preferred choice for my 2008 Mustang and my iPhone. The Ford has a perfect front-facing empty space between two vents. I stuck the WizGear magnet there, added the metal plate to the outside of my case, and presto: a perfect mounting solution. (See the photo up top.)
Every car is a little different, and I suspect everyone has different preferences when it comes to mounting their phone. The good news is you don't have to spend a lot to make it happen, even if you have to try a couple different products before landing on the one you like best.
If you've already found it, hit the comments and share the details!
Editors' note: This post was originally published on October 11, 2016, and has since been updated with new information.
: Your guide to the touchscreens, connectivity options and other infotainment tech features.
: The Owl dual cameras look like a pretty darn good dashcam.