Belkin Car Holder
Phone as a satnav: how to get about safely – without breaking the law
Google Maps is the perfect car navigation system for older vehicles and rental cars. But not all holders designed for expensive smartphones are stable. And according to Swiss law, you’re only allowed to attach it to certain places.
«Turn left,» says the voice from my mobile phone. I put on my indicator to turn into the side street. I’ve got no idea if I’m going the right way. But I don’t even ask myself that any more, Google knows. Its system skilfully avoids traffic jams and congestion. The app even takes opening hours into account and warns me if I try to leave too early.
An up-to-date smartphone is superior to almost any integrated car system. With Google Maps or Apple Maps, you get a first-class navigator for free. It’s no wonder then that so many drivers connect their phone to the car’s system via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and use their familiar apps directly via the in-car screen.
Unfortunately, this elegant solution isn’t an option with older vehicles (such as my 2015 Skoda) or basic rental cars. In order to use your phone as a satnav, it has to be securely affixed in the right place. This isn’t easy, as the most obvious method isn’t always legal in Switzerland.
Suction cup doom
Combining an adhesive surface with a vacuum is a sure formula for stably attaching your phone via a suction cup. If you stick a holder like this to your windshield, it’ll last forever. And the screen will be right where you can see it easily.
However, once the holder or smartphone obscures your vision, it’s illegal in Switzerland. You can find the exact rules here in this PDF from Thurgau’s cantonal police (in German). Incidentally, these rules also apply to scented trees on your inside mirror as well as decorations on the dashboard.
In short, depending on the design of your interior, there are only two legal ways to attach a suction cup holder to the windscreen or even the dashboard. Either to the left of the steering wheel. Or in the middle but down low so that the holder doesn’t protrude into your field of vision.
There’s a simple test to help you decide what works and what doesn’t. Sit behind the steering wheel and look at the smartphone in the holder. If you see the dashboard or the bonnet to the left or right of the holder, then everything’s fine. On the other hand, if you see the road instead, then it could be illegal to have it there.
You can use police guidelines (in German) to test out if the holder is suitable for your vehicle. For example, if your car provides exemplary forward visibility and you can still see an object within a twelve-metre radius.
Vicseed Cell phone holder
T'nB Smartphone holder with suction cup
The perfect companion goes on the air vents
The right mounting system depends very much on the model of your car. Personally, I use a Xiaomi holder, which I pin into a slat on the air vents. This holds best when the vent has a fixed cross strut.
Unfortunately, my Skoda only has movable slats. That’s why the bracket hangs a bit but is supported by the dashboard. This makes the construction stable enough so that nothing wobbles. And my expensive smartphone doesn’t fall when I rumble over cobblestones.
Its additional features make the Mi Wireless Car Charger an almost perfect companion for me. The proximity sensor opens the holder automatically as soon as I move the phone in its direction. I place the phone down, the gripper arms grab it and immediately hold the device firmly and securely.
To open the holder again, I just press a touch button on the side. This is cleverly done, as it lets me grip the phone with my thumb and index finger and open the mechanism at the same time.
Of course, all of this only works with electricity. That’s why the Xiaomi holder is always plugged in via USB-C – in my case, using the cigarette lighter. The disadvantage of this is the clearly visible cable. On the other hand, the holder has the advantage of being a Qi charger that can wirelessly charge phones up to 20 W. This works in your favour whether you use an iPhone or Android device.
Flexible thanks to magnets
You can get hundreds of different holders in our online shop, starting at about 15 francs. As they’re not all comparably stable, it’s worth reading the community reviews.
Mounts that clamp the smartphone are an ideal universal solution. But there are also more elegant options. If you’re the owner of a new iPhone, you can use MagSafe. This magnetic connection has been built into every Apple phone from the iPhone 12 upwards.
Your iPhone docks quickly and easily using a magnet. When buying, you’ll want to make sure that the mount has strong enough counter magnets and that it can hold the device securely. A big advantage of the MagSafe holders is that they’re usually more compact and look more elegant than the versions with gripper arms.
OtterBox Car Vent Mount for MagSafe
Belkin Magnetic Wireless Car Charger with MagSafe
Baseus MagSafe Magnetic Car Mount
For additional outlay, you can also get magnetic mounts that work with Android phones. You’ll need a magnetic cover for them. Or you can stick a magnetic patch on the cover, on the back of the phone or put it between the cover and the device.
If you don’t trust magnets, manufacturers such as Quad Lock offer mechanical closure systems. You’ll also need special cases for this or glued-on connectors, which you can then only use for this system. It’s a trusty and stable way to hold your phone. However, there’s still the risk that you won’t be able to get the right accessories the next time you change your phone.
Baseus Small Ears Series
Hama Magnet Aluminium
Quad Lock Car Mount V5
Lighter, CD player, cup holder – anything’s a dock
If mounting your phone to the windshield, dashboard or air vent is out of the question, you don’t have a lot of other options. While holders that go into the cup holder are very stable, the phone’s screen usually ends up being way too low. That’s particularly dangerous when you’re using the satnav.
The CD player is often better situated than the cup holder. There’s also a small range of holders for this, which you simply insert into the slot. Obviously, that’ll mean you can’t play CDs. In the worst-case scenario, the holder and mobile phone also cover the whole screen in the centre console of the car.
Last but not least, the cigarette lighter can serve as a docking point. The big advantage here being that there’s no need for a separate cable, as power comes directly through the lighter. Unfortunately, this is usually positioned as badly as the cup holder for what we need.
Manufacturers try to compensate for this disadvantage with a bendable gooseneck. But if it’s long, the whole thing looks unstable. Short connectors, on the other hand, often aren’t sufficient.
That’s why the slat clamp or suction cup remain the first choice for most drivers. And the next time you buy a car, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay will be a definite must.
Belkin Mount for Kfz-drinkholder
iOttie Ventilation grille/CD slot holder
Callstel Flexible car mount for smartphones