Navigation by smartphone is great but how to mount it in the car?

infiniti fx35 navigation screen

My car, an Infiniti FX35, has a navigation system and it’s pretty good but there are two big problems with it: First, it needs updating and, second, the update will cost a ridiculous $209 plus tax.

infiniti fx35 navigation screen

I knew that the map data was out of date so when, about a year ago, I received a letter via both snail mail and email offering me an update I was interested. The update, provided by Navteq, was claimed to have:

Added or updated in the last year: More than 1 million miles of roads / More than 450,000 points of interest, such as hotels and ATMs / More than 7.5 million other data points, including speed limits, street names and addresses

OK, sounds interesting but how much?

Update for $99* by 6/30 to save $50 (Regularly $149)

Hummm. The update could be purchased online or by phone but the asterisk was to note:

After receiving your map activation code, please contact your local Infiniti retailer to schedule a service appointment so they can complete the update for you. Additional service fees for installation will apply. Pricing will vary depending upon retailer.

I called my local Infiniti dealer to find out what the price for this service might be. I was, as they say, gob-smacked; the service fee to update my nav system would be $110 bringing the entire update to a total cost of $209 plus tax! Literally highway robbery.

I wonder how many people get suckered into offers like this because given the free mapping services offered by the likes of Apple and Google on smartphones which also include far more functionality including real-time traffic data (this is also available from Infiniti for yet more extortionate cost) it makes no economic sense. 

So, thumbing my nose at Infiniti, the question was how to mount my iPhone in the car. You want it to be in your line of sight but how and where to attach it?

I tried a couple of devices that were affixed to the windscreen but they were too flimsy and the vibration from the road made it far too hard to see the map (and getting the glue off the windscreen was a complete pain). Other mounting systems that attach to the console either required that the console material is smooth (my car’s is textured so that wasn’t an option) or that you glue the bracket to the surface (a non-starter for me). 

Mountek nGroove Snap Multi-Use Car Mount

The Mountek nGroove Snap Multi-Use Car Mount

I then tried the Mountek nGroove Snap Multi-Use Car Mount ($24.95). This is a clever design that can hold devices as heavy as tablets. It fits into the car’s CD slot and provides a solid, reliable mounting but requires you to attach adhesive steel plates to the devices you plan to use so that they can be attached to the clamp’s magnetic platform. This isn’t a problem as long as you don’t use a case on your device or the case material allows the adhesive to bond. In my car there was an additional problem; the CD is in the middle of the console and so the Mountek bracket holds devices so they obscure the audio and climate controls.

Bracketon Universal USB Power Dock Pro Flex

The Bracketon Universal USB Power Dock Pro Flex

Next, I tried the Bracketon Universal USB Power Dock Pro Flex ($34.95) which plugs into the cigarette lighter socket. It has a flexible neck with a positionable bracket to hold your phone at one end and the plug in end include a 5V, 1.5A, USB socket so you can keep your smartphone or whatever device you’re using charged up. This product worked great except it placed my iPhone way out of my line of sight.

The Grab-It! Universal Mount

Today I tried the Grab-It! Universal Mount. This gadget is very good and does exactly what I wanted; it holds my iPhone just where I want it (at the bottom of the windscreen), isn’t glued to the glass, can be adjusted to set my iPhone at just the right angle, and doesn’t vibrate when I’m on bad road surfaces.

 Grab-It! Universal Mount

The Grab-It! has these clever suction cups at either end which require that you simply place them on a smooth surface and press down on the knurled ring on the top of the cup. This pushes the air out and voila! Your device is attached to the Grab-It! and the Grab-it! is attached to whatever surface is to support your device.

So far the Grab-It! seems more reliable, less fussy, and easier to use than any of the other products I’ve tried and it doesn't damage any of the surfaces. The manufacturer, Viatek, seems a little conflicted over what they call it at present; on one Web site it’s the StrongArm Universal Mount while on another it’s the Grab-It! Universal Mount and the price on the former is $19.99 for one while, on the latter, it’s priced at $14.99 for two.

Be that as it may, if you’ve been looking for a car mount for you smartphone this may be the bracket your Droid (or iPhone) is looking for. 

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