Ultimate Car Dock for Android Phones: Part One

Ultimate Car Dock for Android Phones: Part One

Every day, more and more people are switching to smartphones and with every new smartphone they are becoming more powerful and more useful. I have been on a somewhat Quixotic quest to integrate the use of my phone into the use and operation of my car. This quest started out with with me attempting to add Bluetooth to my ‘04 Mazda RX-8 and recently lead me to experimenting with NFC tags with disappointing results. My continuing quest has resulted in what I believe to be a pretty remarkable phone dock.

For those of you who notice that there’s some incongruity in my car posts: I recently traded in the RX-8, so the photos are all of my “new” car, a ‘02 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Please do not be alarmed.

Phone Mount Hardware

Because phones come in so many different shapes and sizes there are almost an infinite amount of choices when it comes to picking out hardware to mount your phone in your car. As long as you are pragmatic in the selection of your phone hardware it is pretty easy to pick the right option for you. In my years of owning Android phones, I have tried or researched a number of different styles of mounts.

  • Binder Clip Phone Mount: Until recently, this was by far my favorite phone mount. Firstly, it was dirt cheap, we only had to rummage around in my office supplies and through my wife’s hair accessories in order to build it. Secondly, it worked really well and it worked for a number of different phones over the years.

  • Windshield Suction Mounts: I have never been a fan of these kinds of mounts because of the obstruction that they are. I like having the entire windshield clear and unobstructed. But, on the plus side they are pretty easy to install.

  • Gooseneck Cigarette-lighter Adapter: When I bought a mount of this style, I was originally pretty excited. However, what I found out was that when the phone was mounted it put an amount of weight on the end of that device and turned into a pendulum of sorts. When I was driving and using this mount it was not uncommon for the entire mount to rotate 90 degrees and have the phone either come out of the dock or land in the passenger seat. I am not sure if this is a common problem with this style of mount, or if I just had a low-quality model.

  • CD Groove Mount: I found these during my most recent round of phone mount research. Unfortunately, it would not work for me, since I have an aftermarket head unit where the display flips down to expose the CD player. However, I found the concept intriguing.

  • ProClipUSA: For my Galaxy S3, this is what I decided to go ahead and buy. They sell mounts specific to both the model of your car and the model of your phone. They have phone-mount options that include a 12-Volt adapter that you can hard wire into your vehicle’s electrical system to provide power.

Over the years, I have learned a few things about buying Car Mounts:

  1. Avoid anything “Universal” like the plague. I have yet to own a “universal” car mount that worked well universally. Sure, it may have held my phone, but never particularly well (especially if your phone was not close to iPhone dimensions), and the mounts are always entirely too bulky.

  2. Find your comfort level for installation. Do not buy the mount that requires taking apart your dashboard in order to install it if you don’t feel comfortable doing that work. And on the flipside, try not to buy the phone mount that installs the quickest if you are inclined to do a more complex installation. In the event that you buy a universal mount try and research to find other users with your same model phone to see how well it has been received.

  3. If at all possible, do your shopping in person. The quality of the materials used and the assembly are much easier to determine when shopping in person. This is one of those cases where you benefit from going out and holding it in your own hands before you buy it. If you are an online shopper, then find a model that you like, note it down and shop online.

  4. Read reviews, scour forums, etc. This is how I found my mount from ProClipUSA. I bounced around a few phone forums and a few car forums. This mount seemed to be the one that people recommended most frequently.

Installing the ProClip car mount hardware was pretty painless. What we wound up doing was splicing into one of the cigarette lighter sockets wiring to power the phone mount. We ran the wires for the ProClip AC adapter into and out of the glove box. I picked the glove box in the hope that, if another phone required a different AC adapter, I could avoid taking apart the car’s center console again. But even if I had to, it would not be a tremendous amount of effort.

Coming up Next

In this particular case, the really neat and fun part of the Ultimate Car Dock for Android Phones all lies within the software on the phone. In the next article, we’ll tackle using a few different Android apps and complete the ultimate Android Car Dock.