2nd July 2013
£63.99 inc VAT for holder
£15.69 inc VAT for mount
Ever since Apple introduced the iPhone third party manufacturers have been making protective cases for them. This is all well and good, but when trying to use the phone in a car it has been virtually impossible to find a mount that will provide both a secure fitting and provide power. That has all changed now with the introduction of the Brodit iPhone 5 holders. These holders can accommodate a range of case sizes from 59mm wide and 6mm thick through to 77mm wide and 13mm thick.
Brodit have four different versions of these holders: Passive, Active with accessory plug, Active for fixed installation, and Active for cable attachment. The passive holder simply provides a holder for the iPhone 5 whereas the active holders also provide a means of powering the iPhone as well. The holders with an accessory plug provide power by using a USB to Lightning cable combined with a cigar lighter power adapter. The holders for fixed installation come with a cable with just bare wires for permanent connection to the car, and the holders for cable attachment are designed to fit the standard Apple cables which you have to provide yourself.
The Brodit Holder and Mount
It would be nigh on impossible to test the full combination of holders and devices with cases so I settled for one of the more common ones: Brodit 521504: Active Holder with fig-plug. This holder is for the largest of iPhone cases, but spans a good size range of 62-77mm in width and 9-13mm thick. Bearing in mind that a naked iPhone 5 is 7.6mm 'thin' and 58.7mm wide even this holder can cater for most sizes of case. Indeed my wife uses it without a case and although it is a little wobbly it still works OK, but more of that later.
The holder is adjusted for width by slackening off the two screws and opening the holder to the correct width then tightening them again. This means that the holder has to be set for the maximum width that will be used in the car and cannot easily be reset without tools. The setting is a simple process I just opened up the arms to the maximum, inserted my iPhone in the holder (making sure the lightning connector was seated correctly), then pressing the arms in gently until the phone was fitted snugly. Once I had the correct width set I simply removed the iPhone carefully and tightened up the adjusting screws.
The holder I tested has a cable with the iPhone 5 Lightning connector in the holder a good length of cord terminated in a USB plug. The power is provided by a quality Belkin car accessory adapter with an output rating of 5v at 2.1 Amps suitable for fast charging and also for an iPad. This high power is an important consideration, particularly if you want to run some of the high powered navigation applications. These can actually drain the battery when under charge with the standard 1 amp charger, not so with this one.
The final part of the holder is a tilt-swivel adapter to connect to a mount. This allows the holder to be adjusted through quite a large degree to provide the perfect angle for viewing in the car. The ball and socket adjustment can be tightened to an extent that the holder can be moved on the friction system, or clamped down fully in position to prevent any movement.
The mounting system is a two part story, you need the holder, as I have just described, but you also need something to mount it on. You could, of course screw it directly to a convenient part of the dash board. This however is not always ideal or desirable, in which case you need to attach the holder to a mount designed for your car.
A number of companies make mounting solutions, and of course any suitable mount can be used, Brodit though have a reputation for creating mounting systems designed for a wide range of cars both left and right hand drive. The Brodit ProClip range has been designed from the start to be installed without having to dismantle any part of the car, and in a manner that prevents any damage whatsoever to the trim. This means that the mounts are press fitted exploiting the gaps between various parts of the dashboard or trim. Unfortunately this does mean that on some vehicles the mount is not positioned in the optimum location for use when on the road.
This is true in the case of my current car, the Mercedes CLS. The Brodit ProClip mount for this car fits on the centre console down by the gear lever. Mercedes make their cars to well with few gaps in the trim to take advantage of.
Fitting the mount was quite interesting. The fit between the gear lever surround and the console is very tight and in recognition of this Brodit provide a simple little tool that they call a gap opener. This does exactly what its name implies, simply slipping the tool between the trim and the console opens up a gap which allows the mount to be inserted. This is repeated at the side of the console and the mount is now installed securely. The Brodit mount actually has some double sided tape to make the installation even more secure, but I opted not to use this. The mount was more than solid enough without having to use it.
With the mount on the car and the holder correctly aligned for my phone all that was required was to connect the two together. The tilt swivel part of the holder has 4 screw holes (arranged in the AMPS standard) but the mount was supplied blank. Not only that, but there was no access to the holes from the holder side. This is not a great problem as the holder can be taken apart. Simply unscrewing the bolt in the centre of the holder splits it into two parts allowing the AMPS plate to be screwed into the mount. I drilled 4 guide holes in the mount before trying to screw the holder on, the self tapping screws provided then aligned perfectly.
Brodit have obviously thought through the design of the tilt swivel mechanism as the nut on the friction ball was held in place making it easy to screw the holder back together. The tilt swivel is a lot more advanced than the previous incarnation and now operates using rubberised components.
With the holder and the mount all fitted securely all that remained was to route the wiring to the power source. Here Mercedes were not as clever as they usually are. On the CLS the power socket is hidden behind a spring loaded panel to a storage compartment, this all looks very nice when it is closed, but when the power socket is in use the panel cannot be shut. This means to power the mount the storage compartment must be open... The alternate option in the rear is in a similar situation, so no neat solution is available without modifying the car electrics. Bad design Mercedes. It would not have been difficult for the power socket to be mounted further back or at right angles.
The Mount and Holder In Use
In use the mounting system worked really well, as we have come to expect from Brodit over the years. The only slight issue was the location of the mount being near the gear lever making it very low from the normal driving line of sight. This could be viewed as a benefit meaning that you are not distracted whilst driving. Of course I have the Mercedes Bluetooth car integration system installed so any calls coming in can be answered using the controls on the steering wheel, and the name or number of the caller is displayed in the speedo info panel.
My iPhone 5 is protected by an Otterbox Prefix case. This is a rubberised case measuring 14.75mm by 65.9mm. I was a little concerned about the rubber 'sticking' as it was inserted and removed, but this proved not to be an issue. The fit was good and every insertion made a good contact with the lightning connector, though it did need to be slipped in the holder until it stopped then pushed to make the connection. In the driving I have done since the installation it has never jumped out or lost connection even when driving over rough roads.
My wife has a white iPhone 5 and is of the opinion that buying a nicely designed item you should not cover it up and hide it. She therefore uses no case for her iPhone. It fits in the holder but does not touch any of the sides or the back. The only part of the iPhone in contact with the holder is the actual lightning connector. Although this actually seems to work, it is obviously not a good idea to use this a lot as there is no support for the weight of the phone and at some time the stresses of the continual vibration will have an adverse effect on either the holder connection or, worse, the phone.
My son (who is not allowed to drive the Mercedes) has an iPhone 5 with bumper style protection, this allows the phone to sit in the holder with partial support. I can adjust the holder to fit his phone better if we were to use it on a more permanent basis, but for the occasional times that he wants to have his phone in there it is OK.
At £63.99 for the holder and a further £15.69 for the mount, a total of £79.68, this is not a cheap solution for securing your iPhone in the car. However the quality and fit of the holder and mount are unsurpassed. When getting in my car previously, I have always been irritated (not to mention my wife) by fiddling around for some time fitting the phone into the holder, then finding and fiddling around with the cable. All that has gone now with a single smart solution.
My sole criticism of the system is the location for the mount in my car, but this is unavoidable and is determined by the availability of locations for the individual car. However as you should not be using the phone whilst driving this is a small downside, though I do like to have the screen just off my line of sight whilst using it for CamerAlert or Navigation.
Brodit Mounts are distributed in the UK by Nemesis Technology and are available in many outlets including DSL Developments and in the USA by ProClip USA Inc.