Today we’re looking at a GRAB BAG of gadgets for your smartphone while in your car.
This is a random collection of gadgets that you might not have thought of before. They each have a unique take on a more traditional idea. Read on...
The Clip-N-Clamp by Clip-N-Clamp
Smartphone and small electronics mounting solutions are endless it seems. The reason there are so many options is because nobody has gotten things just right. There isn't really a completely versatile, affordable, good looking, and above all else secure design out there that does everything at once. Clip-n-Clamp is a great attempt. The device is made from three components. An actual clamp that is the same kind you'd get at home depot in a multi-pack for home use. Next is a flexible plastic spine made up of ball joints, the whole thing is covered in a nylon sleeve to avoid pinched fingers. Finally, the clip where you'll mount one of a few available mounting accessories.
The Phone Clip – a universal pressure mount for just about any smartphone and some GPS units. The largest phone it will accommodate is the Galaxy S3 so you large phone owners are out of luck, luckily there are other mounts that will work in the package. The two arms of the smartphone holder are padded in foam to protect from slips and scratches. The pressure is maintained with an internal silicone o-ring. The whole piece is very small and won't cover your phone's camera or speaker if you don't want it to.
The Disk Clip – this could more fittingly be called the velcro clip. It offers a clip with a 1.5” circle of velcro hook and comes with two adhesive velcro loop pads to place on any device. Phones that won't fit in the phone clip are perfect candidates for the disk clip. You will have to live with a velcro pad that's semi permanently attached to your phone. A nice alternative is to get a cheap silicone case for whatever phone or device you want to use so that you aren't applying adhesive directly to your electronics. As an added bonus, you can use any industrial velcro for if you want to equip additional devices for the system.
The Camera Clip – this is a clip with a standard tripod mount on it. Ideal for small point and shoots and video from something like a GoPro. If the arm isn't fully extended you can even support a DSLR or more traditional handheld camcorder. The universal clamp means you can mount cameras on trees, park benches, fences, etc. for some unique shots.
Each clip has a standard 3-prong clip like you'd find on a backpack strap. The Clip-N-Clamp itself has a female clip end so switching between accessories is that simple.
iOauto Pro by iOmounts and ProClip
I don't want to brag, but I'm probably personally responsible for this awesome gadget. The piece is a collaboration from two companies that I've previously reviewed on the site, iOmounts and ProClip. This is the best kind of collaboration there is, It's not one company licensing a name or piece of art and attaching it to something that already exists hoping to boost sales. This is each company taking the best part of it's individual product and smashing them together to make one awesome MEGA-product. The end result is the iOauto series from iOmounts and ProClip.
iomounts makes magnetic mounting solutions, to date they've released two iO stands in different heights and the iOwall mount which actually cradles my own phone everynight at bedtime. The idea is very simple, an ultra powered magnetic disk attached to a steel ball. You attach an adhesive metal disk which the company calls iOadapts to the back of any device or case and it stays there indefinitely. In the end it's one of the best universal mounting solutions that I've ever seen on the site. Since the magnet attaches to a circle, you can rotate your device in almost any direction.
ProClip has plenty to offer on their end as well. Rather than the universal approach of iOmounts, ProClip designed ultra specific mounts for individual devices and specific vehicles down to the year, make, and model. They design off of your car's existing trim to give you mounts that look like they were designed and installed at the factory. ProClip looks at your center console, air vents, and other points where a phone could live and molds it's pressure mounted plastic mounting arms to exactly the curve of your car. There are small adhesive strips for extra security, but the mount is held in place securely by the pressure of the perfect fit alone. Not only do they offer options for most every car on the market, they offer multiple mounts for each vehicle. My own Honda Civic Hybrid has 3 different mounts on offer. The mount has a plate with holes in it instead of a phone cradle. The idea is that you by a custom fitted cradle for your exact phone and attach it to the mount. When you get a new phone, you'll buy a new cradle and keep the existing mount.
Together you'll get to select the correct ProClip mount for your car and then select a “cradle” from iOmounts to attach. The iOauto Pro is a half dome same ultra high powered magnet on the end and a proclip mounting plate on the back. They just cut the original dome in half so you get the same functionality with a more limited range. In the end this truly completes the thought that iOmounts started. You can have an iOwall by your bedside, and iOstand at work on your desk, and and iOauto pro in your car. The same iOadapt disk on your smartphone is all you need and you have a truly universal solution that will outlast all of your devices. BUY WITH CONFIDENCE.
SiriusXM app for Android by SiriusXM
If you remember back long ago to 2007, there was Sirius radio and there was XM radio and never the twain shall meet. A year later the two merged in what some called a monopoly but the FCC ultimately called a fair deal as satilite has to compete with terrestrial radio, online streams, mp3 players and tablets. You'd probably be surprised to hear that each company originally began around 1990 before most any of had seen our first AOL free trial CD. The American Mobile Radio Corporation (XM) and Sattelite CD radio (sirius) started out niche and built slowly towards the mainstream. When sattelite radios became part of the collective conscious, consumers ultimately seemed to have trouble with the idea of paying for radio, a luxury we'd come to expect as a right over the years. Even after the eventual merger of the two companies, SiriusXM still struggled to turn a profit. Flash forward a bit and podcasts, pandora, and iPods have all but strangled the final breath from terrestrial radio as it's now called. SiriusXM has turned a profit for the first time and at least for now huge draws like Howard Stern help to maintain dedicated listeners. So is the latest version of SiriusXM something that needs your attention?
This is a differnet experience than I remember. Companion apps and internet listening make this a much fuller experience than the original that I'd encountered. Howard Stern, a large range of comedy stations, and play by play for most every major sports team are very attractive features. Above all else, the simplicity makes a difference. I remember needing to buy separate radio hardware, antennas, upgrades when purchasing a new car; it all added up to money that I didn't want to spend. Tech caught up with the idea and now SiriusXM is simiply another great source of content. It costs more than some of the other “custom radio” apps like spotify and pandora, but those options don't have Howard Stern, news and sports on Demand, and other ultra specific programming options. The music becomes an added bonus at the end of the day. Of course there are genre stations for any style you can imagine, but the more specific stations for your favorite artists are a huge draw. Springstein, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffet, B.B. King, and Pearl Jam to name a few. You'll get the songs you love, the bands that inspired the artist, and even interviews and Q&As to break things up.
So the content and delivery aren't an issue. You can download an app for any major mobile OS and you can also bring up a player in any internet browser on any PC or Mac. The final question is the same one that initially popped up; what's the price? Subscriptions start at $14.49/mo for the Select package. Of course that option doesn't have any of the good stuff. No Howard Stern, no NFL, no Nascar (people listen to nascar on the radio?) and no internet radio unless you'd like to pay an extra 3.50 a month bringing the total to $17.99 a month. The next package, the Premier, is $17.99 itself. You get to add on Howard Stern, NFL, and Nascar for that price as well as an additional 10 music channels. You still don't get any internet radio unless you'd like to pay that surcharge bringing the monthly rate to $20.99. DON'T DO THAT. If you want everyting in one package, the All Access is everything you can get from the service for $18.99 a month. Whichever package you select, you'll end up with applicable fees and charges on top of the whole thing which will add up so be careful. For an example, the All Access package adds $1.60 a month plus whatever your local taxes are. Most likely it will add up to an extra $20 to $40 per year on the whole.
As far as criticisms, the website feels a bit cluttered for my taste. It's not so easy to get the information that you want all the time. From the home page I should easily be able to access a quick and clear breakdown of pricing, programming, and login info if I'm already subscribed. I can do two of those easily enough, but it's not simple to see pricing and that is always an upsetting tactic. As far as the apps or internet streaming, a lot will depend on your connection speeds but even at it's best the apps lag a bit, especially within the mobile app. It can take about 10 seconds to switch between channels. Once I begin listening to a channel though, the signal is clear and consistent. Navigation is just clunky to the point that you will notice it. I can't say whether the app is at fault or it's the service in general but the experience is much smoother while streaming through the internet. The Android app specifically could use an overhaul. It feels about 5 years behind in terms of design and it just isn't intuitive enough when held up to the competition. One very bright note is the new MySXM feature. To more closely match the functionality of Spotify and Pandora you can now narrow down each channel to play more of what you want. You're given a page with sliders for different aspects of the station. Things like sound (less hard or harder), familiarity (depth or familiar), and region (euro or american) to name a few. The options are different depending on the content of the station and it's a great idea. I do see a clear draw to the experience and things like MySXM are moving in the right direction, the whole process just needs a little polishing and hopefully that's in the works.
Stay tuned to my coverage because SiriusXM should have some exciting product announcements towards the holidays that I'll detail here on the site when the time comes.
Thank you again to the companies above for supplying their product for this review.
ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!