By Tony Barthel
I would never advocate someone looking at their phone while driving. But I will fully admit that, when a notice comes in, the urge to look is compelling, to say the least. While lots of folks might fault me for this temptation, I’m not alone.
So I can do one of three things. Put the phone somewhere completely out of reach, which is the wise and prudent thing to do; put the phone out of sight like in a compartment or pocket and tell myself that I’m not going to look at it; or put it somewhere where I can quickly glance at it and put my attention back on the road.
Don’t semi-hide the phone
While I’m no safety expert and I admit the attraction of a text message or other alert, I think the most dangerous option is the one where you semi hide the phone or leave it in a pocket. Then you tell yourself that you’re not going to look at it. But when a text comes in, the urge is overwhelming. Then you’re fighting to unlock the dumb thing and also see what you got.
So the smartest thing is putting it in the trunk or whatever. But that eliminates using it as a navigational aid. Also, if you’re like me, you listen almost exclusively to podcasts. That means the phone has to be within range of wherever the Bluetooth receiver is in the vehicle.
So I’ve spent who-knows-how-much money on various phone holders trying to put the phone where I can use it for navigation so I can see it without it being a distraction. And several of those phone holders ultimately cheesed me off and got tossed in a box in the back of my passenger car. It now looks like a museum of terrible phone holders that don’t survive in the environment in which they’re intended to be used.
Does this phone mount actually work?
When I got the press release about the Steelie Squeeze phone holder I just sort of glanced over it and recognized the company that made it, Nite Ize, as being the same one that makes those nifty gear ties I use all the time. Since they make one thing I really like, I figured I’d try out another of their products.
The company ultimately sent me two vehicle phone holders, the Steelie 360° Windshield Mount Kit Plus and the Steelie 360° Magnetic Mount.
First of all, the Windshield Plus kit comes with a long metal arm with a metal ball at the end of it. The system is made up of this metallic ball and a magnet, which could keep a Hatfield stuck to a McCoy. You can stick this magnet on the back of your phone with its included adhesive backing. But the whole system is sort of a component system so there is also the “Squeeze” phone holder which also has said magnet on the back of it.
While the windshield mounts in the back of my car that had been thrown there over time all seemed questionable even at first, this product had a really solid feel to the suction cup mount. A positive click and it was on. I suspect it will stay on as the materials used seem to be of automotive-grade plastic and metal rather than something cheap that will not last long inside a hot car.
There’s a magnetic ball mount
There’s also a magnetic ball mount. I stuck that to the top of the dash in my pickup truck on the shiniest piece of plastic I could find. As we all know, even the most magical sticky stuff doesn’t do well on plastics with a surface that is supposed to look like leather.
The nifty thing is that either of these phone mounts can place the phone where it’s useful as a navigational aid and where it will unlock just by looking at my face but not block vehicle instrumentation nor other things.
The magnet that I attached to my phone sticks to the ball well and yet the phone can rotate and move but doesn’t wiggle driving down the road. The magnet attachment that is the heart of this system is sort of a donut with a rubber center which, I suspect, helps keep the phone in place. I didn’t have to attach the magnet to the phone. I could have used the “Squeeze” holder which also has a magnet on the back and still can, but wanted to give the phone magnet a try.
This phone mount is a high-quality product
Based on the build quality of these I am going to predict that they’re not going to end up in the back seat of the car chased there by a string of profanity when they’ve failed for the umpteenth time, usually in the worst possible place along the road.
The design and build quality of these Steelie phone holders are probably as good as the materials used in the vehicle itself, which means they won’t be a distraction when they fail since they likely won’t.
The one thing I didn’t think through was putting the magnetic mount on the back of my phone case because now I can’t use my induction charger. Ooops. But that was my own stupidity.
I don’t advocate fiddling with your phone on the road
I would never advocate touching your phone or fiddling with it on the road as I know of more than a few cases where this has ended very, very badly. When we’re driving, especially those of us driving any RV including trucks with trailers, we should be driving.
But, let’s face it. Momentary glances at your instrument panel for speed or vehicle condition are a part of driving. A momentary glance at the phone when it’s your navigation system I don’t think is bad, although not ideal, to be sure.
So by reducing the risk of the phone falling off the instrument panel and landing in the foot well or otherwise causing a distraction that requires immediate and full attention is a safety feature, to me. That’s why I liked these Nite Ize Steelie phone holders. They just do what they’re supposed to and do it easily and effectively.