Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO)
Compatible: iPod touch, iPhone
DLO VentMounts for iPod touch + iPhone/3G
Inexpensive, technically iPod- or iPhone-ready car mounts are fairly common: Radio Shack and other stores have traditionally sold generic mobile phone mounts that also happen to hold these devices, and in recent years, companies such as Kensington and Nyko have made versions with bottom holes for Apple's Dock Connector and easy access to headphone ports or other features. Today, we're looking at the most recent iPod touch- and iPhone-specific options from DLO and Griffin -- DLO's VentMounts and Griffin's WindowSeat. Each takes a slightly different approach to the same challenge of mounting these devices in your car.
Sold in separate versions, DLO’s new VentMount for iPod touch ($25) and VentMount for iPhone ($25) each consist of the same four parts: a combination belt clip and holster, two detachable clips, and a mounting bracket that attaches to the holster and clips before being placed in your car. Like other vent mounting solutions we’ve seen, these VentMounts are designed to attach to the air conditioning vents in your car, keeping your iPod touch or iPhone closer to eye level while you drive. These can be rotated horizontally or vertically, then detached and worn on your belt when you’re not in your vehicle. Hard plastic is used for all of the parts; the holster also has a rubber anti-scuff pad inside.
The VentMounts had the same general positives and negatives as generic vent-mounted solutions we’ve tried. Putting aside a frequently voiced but not as yet actually problematic concern over whether using a mount such as this leads to condensation buildup on your iPod or iPhone, the clips DLO relies upon to connect with your car’s air vent may or may not fit the vent of your choice in your vehicle: in our test car, the clips fit certain vents but not others. They’re also tricky to remove once installed, and when you start trying to detach them, they seem perpetually at risk of falling inside your car’s ventilation system. Nyko’s since-discontinued Universal Car Mount had nicer clips. Having said that, though, you’ll find the VentMounts to be stable enough to use without problems in most air vents, and the clips won’t fall off when the car is shaking.
What’s new in this design is the concept that the iPod or iPhone can be detached along with its holster and carried around at waist level when you’re not using it in the car; you can also rotate the mount on the clips to provide your choice of either vertical or horizontal mounting in the car. While we’re not big fans of holsters or belt clip solutions, and these are far from the most protective we’ve seen, DLO’s holster designs hold both the iPod and iPhone firmly while providing complete access to their ports and controls. You’ll have to decide whether this carrying style matches your own; if it does, the VentMounts are a better option than the generics we’ve previously tested.
Overall, the choice between a VentMount, WindowSeat, an iPod-specific competitor or a generic device will really come down to your personal needs more than any other factor—they all sell in the $30 and under category, and differ in one or two specifics that certain users might prefer. We wouldn’t put any of these options in the same category as a more expensive ProClip vehicle-specific mount, and frequent iPod- or iPhone-flippers may prefer a solution that’s not so device-specific, such as Kensington’s Car Mount for iPod, but if you plan to keep your original iPhone or iPod touch in your car for a while, either of these solutions will do a good job of mounting it.
Updated October 17, 2008: In October 2008, DLO released VentMount for iPhone 3G, which preserves the same functionality as its predecessor but with a mount that’s made to fit the curves of the newer device. Our rating remains unchanged for this modestly updated new version.