Of course you should never type a text or email while you are driving, but an iPhone is still useful in a car for many reasons: navigation, listening to music, listening to podcasts, making hands-free phone calls, etc. In some states, such as California as of January 1, 2017, it is illegal for a driver to hold and operate a phone. Instead, you need to have a phone mounted, with easy access for an occasional tap or swipe. Even for those of us who do not live in California, safe iPhone use in a car is essential, and convenient access to an iPhone is useful. If you are going to mount an iPhone in your car, you want to have a good mount. I've recently been trying out a really nice mount made by Pearl called the Pearl Phone Mount. The company sent me a free sample of its car mount because it comes included with the Pearl RearVision rearview camera (which I will be reviewing in the future). You can also buy this phone mount on its own for just $40. If you are thinking of getting an iPhone mount for your car, this device is really nice and is reasonably priced, so I can recommend it.
It has actually been a while since I used a car mount. Back in 2010, I started using a Kensington Bluetooth device which also acted as a car mount, but it required a 30-pin connector so I haven't used it as a mount since I started using an iPhone 5 with a Lightning connector in 2012. Using a mount again for the last few weeks, I realize how nice it is to have my iPhone always in a location that I can see it while driving. A mount also makes it easy to quickly access on-screen controls, such as tap a button to skip a song. And even during those times when it isn't really essential to see my iPhone screen, such as when listening to a song or podcast, it is nice to be able to glance and see album or podcast art and other on-screen indications, such as the bar at the top of the Overcast app giving a graphical representation of how much time is left in a podcast. If you haven't used a car mount for your iPhone in a while, you are missing out.
The Pearl mount itself consists of a magnetic rubbery plate attached to a carbon steel round gimbal. To connect to your phone, the Pearl Phone Mount comes with two very thin metal plates, both of which have adhesive on the back which you expose by removing a cover (but as noted below, you may not need to expose the adhesive). The small metal plate is for attaching directly to the back of your iPhone if you don't plan to use a case. The larger plate is for attaching to the back of your iPhone if you do use a case — it is bigger and just slightly thicker so that there can still be a magnetic connection through the material on the back of your case.
I wasn't thrilled about the idea of attaching a metal plate to the back of my iPhone. First, I don't like the idea of feeling, or other folks seeing, a metal plate on the back of my iPhone when I am using it. Second, I was curious if it would leave any damage if I remove it. The Pearl website suggests that this won't occur; the website says that the plate can be removed with dental floss or a plastic spudger, and says that any adhesive residue can be removed with a cloth.
Fortunately, I found two solutions that let you use this holder without sticking anything to the back of your iPhone. First, if you use a snug case for the iPhone, you can just place the larger metal plate between the back of your iPhone and the case without using the adhesive at all. Pearl says on its website: "Depending on the fit of your phone case, you may be able to place the larger plate in between your phone and case without using the adhesive." I tried that with my Apple leather iPhone case, and it has worked really well. Whenever I remove my case, I need to be careful that the metal plate doesn't fall away and get lost, but that hasn't been a problem so far. When the case is on my iPhone, the larger metal plate seems to stay in place, even if my car bounces because I drive over a bump or pothole.
A second solution is to attach the smaller metal plate to the back of a case instead of the iPhone itself. Again, I wasn't thrilled about a metal plate on the back of a case that I use every day, and indeed, I'm not even sure that the metal plate would stick to my Apple leather case. But there was an easy alternative — just get another case to use in the car and attach the metal plate to that case. I found an inexpensive $2.99 clear gel case on Amazon and attached the small plate to that case. That way, I could keep that case in my car and slip the iPhone inside of it when I wanted to mount it in the car, and then remove it when I am done and the metal plate wouldn't be anywhere near my iPhone. This solution has also worked well for me. The adhesive on the small metal plate seems to be doing a great job of staying attached to that inexpensive, simple case.
I'm not sure which of these two solutions I will decide to continue to use going forward. I'm leaning towards just keeping the large metal plate inside of my Apple leather case because that solution has worked well and it saves a tiny bit of time to not have to put a different case on when I am in the car. But I'm glad that there are two different solutions, neither of which requires me to put adhesive on the back of my iPhone 7.
I can see why Pearl decided to use the magnet-and-plate approach for the Pearl Phone Mount. It works incredibly well as a way to mount the phone. The phone (with a metal plate) attaches easily to the mount, and doesn't fall off even if the car bumps around while you are driving. At the same time, it is very easy to remove the iPhone from the mount. And just as importantly, it is easy to rotate the iPhone if you want to switch from portrait to landscape orientation.
The only downside I have found to the metal plate is that it does seem to mess with the iPhone's built-in compass. Note that this is different from GPS, which works fine, but if you use the Compass app to figure out which way is North, it doesn't seem to be accurate with a metal plate on the back of the iPhone. (Since my metal plate isn't attached, I can just remove the plate, force-quit the Compass app and start it again, and then the built-in compass recalibrates and works again.)
The mount itself has a round gimbal, which lets you adjust the viewing angle 140º to put your iPhone in whatever position works best for you in your car. Once you find an angle that works best for you, you'll probably never need to adjust it again, but it is nice that you can if you want to do so.
You can attach the mount to your car two different ways because two bases are included. First, there is a clip that attaches to the vent in your car. It just snaps on easily, and stays in place well. Second, there is an anchor with a 3M adhesive on the bottom that you can attach to your car's dash. I figured that I would start with the clip and then move on to the anchor with adhesive if necessary, but the clip has worked great for me so I haven't tried the anchor. It seems a little weird that a plastic vent in my Honda Accord is strong enough to hold up an iPhone, but it works really well.
And it looks good too. When your iPhone isn't attached, you just see the black end of the base. When your iPhone is attached, you don't see the base at all and you just see the iPhone.
I'm a fan of this product. It works really well, it looks nice and it is reasonably priced. I really love having a car mount to hold my iPhone when I'm driving. I don't think that I will want to attach the metal plate to my iPhone or my primary case, but fortunately there are ways around that so it is not a big issue. If you in the market for a car mount, I can recommend this one. And if you haven't been using a car mount or a while, or maybe have never even thought about using one, I encourage you to consider a product like this.