Pricey Ultima smartphone holder lacks flexibility

This solidly constructed aluminum smartphone holder has a nice finish, but a short mounting arm means difficult in-car positioning.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
3 min read
Ultima In-Car Universal Smartphone Holder
The Ultima smartphone mount can orient a phone in portrait or landscape views. Josh Miller/CNET

Watches range from Casio to Rolex, but the set of smartphone mounts available for the car has tended toward the lower end. Now, Australian company NKMOS is offering a smartphone mount for those with money to burn. Call it the Rolex of mounts.

The Ultima In-Car Universal Smartphone Holder is a finely crafted piece of gear designed to hold a smartphone to your dashboard or windshield.

The mount consists of a plastic suction cup with a clever twisting lever to create a vacuum, a short aluminum arm, and a spring-loaded aluminum clamp.

The Ultima smartphone holder looks good and feels solid. Josh Miller/CNET

The example I looked at was finished in a nice matte black. NKMOS also offers one in silver.

The aluminum construction gives the mount a high-tech heft, and the sense of solid construction was reinforced with nickel-finished rivets holding the clamp to the arm. For the clamp, rubber pads protect the smartphones placed in its care. The clamp employs a ratchet, making it easy to compress on a smartphone. A plastic button releases the clamp, letting it open on its spring.

One obvious drawback of the Ultima smartphone holder is its lack of adjustability. The arm between suction cup and clamp is only 1.5 inches long and has no hinged joints. It is fixed at a permanent 45 degrees from the plane of the suction cup. In cars with wide dashboards, a central mounting position on the windshield would be too far away for accessibility.

The clamp pivots on a ball joint at the end of the arm, running through a 45-degree arc in any direction. For the example I received, the ball joint was very stiff, requiring some effort to move it. However, that also meant it would stay firmly in place when used in a car.

This clamp opens wide enough for a Samsung Galaxy S4. Josh Miller/CNET

The clamp opens to a maximum of 3.38 inches, and closes to a minimum of 1.88 inches. That's enough to hold either an iPhone 5S or a Samsung Galaxy S4.

When the Ultima was mounted on a car's windshield, I found it easy to hold the phone and compress the clamp around it with one hand. Likewise, it was easy to tap the button to open the clamp and grab the phone with one hand, making for quick entry and exit.

But as mentioned, the short arm made finding a suitable mounting position difficult. I ended up putting it near the left A pillar for a test drive. Engaging the suction cup required enough effort that I would not want to remove it and put it back on repeatedly. This is the kind of thing you attach once and leave in place.

During a test drive down a very curvy road, the mount showed no inclination to let go of the windshield or my iPhone. I didn't feel 100 percent confident in the way the clamp held onto the phone, as it seemed a little loose. However, there was no indication while driving that the phone was in danger of falling out.

It may seem extravagant to spend $100 on a smartphone mount for a car, but some people prefer a Rolex over a Casio. The Ultima smartphone holder looks good and its construction feels solid, but it suffers some limitations in how it can be positioned. This mount seems most appropriate as a gift for someone with a nice car who doesn't want a cheap-looking plastic mount marring the cabin.