3 ways to dashboard-mount your smartphone

Safety first! Keep your phone close to eye level and at arm's reach with one of these smart products.

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.

magnetic-car-mount.jpg

If your dashboard has room, a simple stick-on magnet mount can be ideal for keeping your phone up near eye level.

Rick Broida/CNET

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

Mpow

You've 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.

What's more, windshield mounts with long gooseneck arms tend to shake a lot, especially with larger phones. That's another reason to look for a dashboard mount.

One good option: the Anker AK-A7142011 dashboard cell-phone mount, currently $16.99 at Amazon. It relies on an extra-strong suction cup that can secure to your dashboard or windshield, and features an extendable 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. I particularly like the 18-month warranty.

A similar model from Mpow, shown here, sells for $13.99 (but was out of stock at press time).

CD-slot mounts

A CD-slot smartphone mount, like this one from Ipow, might be a good alternative to a dash mount -- but only if your CD slot is near the very top of your dash.

Ipow

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). 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 sells for $13.49.

TechMatte makes a similar CD-slot mount, one that uses a magnet in place of a cradle and costs just $8.79. Read on to learn more about these kinds of mounts.

Magnet mounts

If your phone lives inside a case, consider slipping a razor-thin metal plate inside. 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 $6 one that clips to an air vent:

wizgear-magnetic-mount.jpg

A small, magnetic mount like this one can clip to an air vent or stick to a dashboard.

Wizgear

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.

All that being said, this was my preferred choice for my 2008 Mustang and iPhone 6 Plus (£32.49 at uSwitch). The Ford has a perfect front-facing empty space between two vents. I stuck the Wizgear magnet there, added the metal plate to the inside of my case, and presto: a perfect mounting solution.

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!

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