Review: Griffin WindowSeat In-Car Mount for iPhone, iPhone 3G + iPod touch
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.
Griffin’s WindowSeat ($30) struck us as an interesting mounting option, though it’s not without issues. Unlike VentMount, WindowSeat is designed to attach to your windshield glass via suction, or a flat surface on your car’s dashboard with included adhesive. We’ve seen a number of these mounts in generic and modestly iPod-tailored forms in the past, sometimes with flexible gooseneck piping; WindowSeat is initially unique in that it includes specific mounts for both the iPhone and the iPod touch, each designed to firmly hold the device while providing complete port and control access. An auxiliary input cable is also included for use with newer car stereos.
Another novelty here is WindowSeat’s system of multiple ball joints, which have their own individual tightening clamps to help you lock your iPod or iPhone in a position of your choice, and the related inclusion of an optional extender. With the extender in place, WindowSeat stretches to become 8.5” long; it loses roughly 2.5” if the extender isn’t attached.
We’ve never seen an arm system quite like this before, and we found that Griffin’s suction cup system for attaching to car glass was especially effective, using a screw-based tightening system rather than the lever-style systems we’ve seen used with various results in competing window mounts. As a result, you can expect the unit to stay firmly on your windshield or window while you’re driving, assuming that the surface was clean when you attached WindowSeat and hasn’t developed any suction-impeding grime or condensation since then.
The only major issue with WindowSeat is a legal one. Windshield and window mounts have been banned or limited in some states, with others limiting driver-viewable video screens. While Griffin has nicely designed the mount to permit you to choose whatever viewing angle and rotation you prefer for the iPod touch or iPhone, you’ll need to be sure that you’re not violating your local jurisdiction’s rules on device mounting—and you’ll almost certainly be pulled over at some point if you are, thanks to how conspicuous the devices look hanging off of a car windshield. Griffin includes a large plastic disk with double-sided tape to attach to your dashboard in windshield-barred jurisdictions, letting you suction the WindowSeat arm to the disk rather than trying to grip notoriously difficult curved and textured dashboard surfaces. Your results will vary with the shape and material of your dashboard, but it’s nice that Griffin thought about a good solution to a common mounting problem.
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 Sept. 16, 2008: Griffin has updated WindowSeat with a new version that adds iPhone 3G compatibility via a third included cradle. Photos are above. Note that the included audio cable is susceptible to fairly substantial TDMA interference from the iPhone.