If you’re in the habit of using your phone as a makeshift GPS navigation unit or music manager in your car, you want a reliable place to stick it. Here are the best docks available.
There are, quite literally, thousands of choices for universal car docks, and having used them myself for the better part of a decade, I’m prioritizing stability and ease of use over most other factors. A dock isn’t much good if it doesn’t hold on to your phone reliably, in a place where you can easily access it without taking your hand off the wheel, and preferably one that enables you to quickly insert and remove your phone.
With that in mind, the picks below represent the best general, low-cost dock, the best premium dock if you want an upgrade, and the best options for users who prefer magnetic docks and wireless charging.
The Best Basic Car Dock: Spigen Kuel AP12T ($19)
This Spigen design features a couple of elements that let it rise above the rest of the pack, and even compete with a few models that are a bit more expensive. The biggest benefit is the button-and-clamp mechanism: when you push the back of your phone down on the button on the main platform, the two retention arms automatically snap into place, firmly holding even the largest phones with less than a second of setup. When you take your phone out, press down on the spring arms and it returns to its open position, ready for another quick insertion.
The ball mount is plastic and the telescoping arm only uses a bar hinge, so it’s not as flexible or rock-solid as it might be, but this design is more than serviceable for most users. The dock can be used in vertical or horizontal orientations, and its combination suction cup and adhesive should stick to your car’s windshield even on the hottest of days. For under twenty bucks, you can’t go wrong. This one-touch design is also available with a CD slot mount if you prefer to keep your phone away from the dash area.
The Best Premium Dock: RAM Mounts X-Grip With Suction Cup Mount ($55)
If you’re ready to step up to something a little more heavy duty, this RAM Mounts combination pack is the way to go. The company’s patented grip system is appealing on its own, with crossed steel arms and big, knobbly rubber grippers that can adapt to even the largest phones with ease. The system allows you to get your phone in and out quickly without blocking access to any screens or buttons. For more vigorous users, like off-road enthusiasts or anyone who has to drive on bad roads, an included bungie tether will give you an extra layer of protection.
What’s really appealing about this setup, though, is the double-ball joint for the primary arm: with two points of full articulation, the design allows for the suction cup to be placed in a much wider range of locations for maximum road visibility. The extended arm doubles as a clamp on both joints: tighten it down to lock it into position or loosen it just a little to re-adjust. It’s an impressively simple, efficient setup, and the full rubber joints allow for a much tighter and more reliable hold than plastic ring fasteners. For anyone tired of wobbly windshield mounts, this is the upgrade you’re looking for. A lifetime warranty from the manufacturer doesn’t hurt, either.
The Best Wireless Charging Dock: iOttie Easy One Touch Qi ($50)
Car docks with integrated wireless charging are surprisingly hard to find from the more established manufacturers, perhaps because they’re still working out some of the engineering issues of packing the wireless coils into a small plastic housing.
The Easy One Touch Qi from iOttie isn’t the sleekest or prettiest option out there, but it’s the most reliable thanks to the same push-and-grab setup as the Spigen model above. A telescoping arm and single ball joint are reasonably flexible, but an especially thoughtful addition is the bottom bracket that can be adjusted up or down. This allows the dock to accommodate different models of phones with different placement of their Qi charging receiver coils. A pass-through USB port on the included charger for your passenger’s gadget is a nice touch. The package includes an adapter pad for mounting to the dashboard instead of the windshield, and there’s also a CD tray version of this design available.
The Best Magnetic Dock: Spigen Kuel QS11 ($10)
There’s not a lot going on with these magnetic docks: get a bunch of super-strong magnets and a metal phone housing together, and you’re good to go. But this Spigen vent-clamp design combines a surprisingly good-looking magnetic pad with some necessary extras.
It comes with circular and rectangular metal inserts and matching plastic protectors, all for just ten bucks. If you use your phone with a case you can slip the inserts in between and get the fastest, most hassle-free docking connection possible. The minimalist design works best with a vent clamp, but CD mounts and more conventional windshield mounts are also available.