A smartphone, with its navigation and audio, makes for a useful driving companion, but keeping it safely accessible while you're underway requires a good car mount. Infernal Innovations' Universal Magnetic Phone Mount comes into this crowded space with a magnetic phone holder and a compact design.
This mount measures about 3 inches long, with a round suction cup base. Rising up from the base, a pillar supports a ball joint with a circular magnetic phone holder attached. Most of the mount is made of black plastic.
A lever on the mount's base pulls in the suction cup, maximizing adhesion. In addition, Infernal Innovations made the suction cup out of an adhesive rubber, which helps it stick to surfaces. The ball joint lets the magnetic mount swivel and pivot over a range of about 50 degrees. The short pillar and pivot range limits the flexibility of the mount, which might make it difficult to fit in some cars and still make the phone visible. However, the pillar actually comes away from the base and can be reattached so the mount is facing the opposite direction, adding some versatility.
A smartphone won't stick to the mount's magnet on its own, so Infernal Innovations includes a metal plate with an adhesive disc. Not wanting to mar the look of my iPhone 5S with this plate, I merely slid it, and my phone, into a plastic case. One advantage of the magnet and plate system is that the mount can hold phones of almost any size. I wouldn't recommend attaching a tablet, as it would likely prove too heavy.
For a road test, I attached the mount's base to the dashboard of CNET's test car. The smooth plastic in the top center of the dashboard proved not only a solid attachment point for suction cup and adhesive, but also put the phone in a position that was visible and in reach.
My phone, with its case and metal plate, easily snapped onto the mount's magnet and let me adjust it afterwards for a good viewing angle. While driving over rough roads and bumps, the magnet held my phone firmly in place, with no slippage.
Not wanting to distract myself by using the phone's touchscreen, I relied on Siri voice commands to look for destinations, place phone calls and play music. I was most impressed that I could push the iPhone's main button, and even hold it down to activate Siri, without knocking the phone off the magnet. Using the Google Maps app for navigation, I was also pleased to find it has an integrated voice option for destination search, easily touchable without pushing the phone off the mount.
I also tried the mount on the lower left corner of the windshield, a better surface for the suction cup mount, and found it equally serviceable for using the phone's voice command functions.
The magnet's main advantage, beyond accommodating a variety of different phone sizes, was how easily I could put my phone in place and remove it after I had parked. Being a fairly powerful magnet, I would not expect the mount to lose its efficacy anytime soon, either, and would likely last you over a phone upgrade or two.
At $20 on Amazon, the price is right. The mount is compact enough to keep it unobtrusive, but that may also limit how well you can see your phone, depending on the type of car. And you will have to come to terms with how to attach the metal plate to your device.