Review: Ozaki iCarry S, M, L, and Unicon In-Car Power Mount for iPhone 3G/3GS
Efficiency is the result of both experience and a desire to improve a process or product, so it's not entirely surprising that Ozaki's new iCarry car mounts -- its first car mounting solutions for the iPhone 3G and 3GS -- attempt to tackle a known issue in an inefficient way. Rather than developing a single one-size-fits-all mount, the company has instead released four different versions: iCarry S ($50), iCarry M ($60), iCarry L ($70), and iCarry Unicon ($65), each with a different type of mounting arm in the center. Each version of iCarry includes the same integrated, cable-based car charger, and a cradle with passive amplification and voice-gathering features for the iPhone 3G/3GS's integrated speaker and microphone.
The extent to which three of the four versions of iCarry are similar is almost comical: iCarry M and L, for instance, extend to maximum distances of 6.5 or 8.5 inches from their suction cup-based window attachments, shrinking to 5” or 7” minimums, while the Unicon version leaves out the extending arm and remains stuck at a 7” length. They’re otherwise virtually identical. Thus, the only reason to consider iCarry Unicon is if you don’t want the added versatility of iCarry L, and the only reason to consider iCarry M is if you really need to fall short of L’s length by an extra couple of inches. Had Ozaki wanted to merely release iCarry L and iCarry S—the version with only 3 inches of extension—it could easily have done so.
All of the iCarry arms have the same ball joint-based cradle mounts, permitting device rotation, angling, and tilting, and use multiple screw-based tighteners to secure themselves in your choice of positions. Both the small iCarry S and the largest iCarry L had no problem staying firmly in place on our car windshields—the pressurized suction cup clamp worked well—though none of the units absorb the force of the vibration that comes from the iPhone 3G or 3GS when it’s connected to a power source; instead, the vibration transmits through the arm to your windshield, and sounds louder than it normally would be.
Ozaki uses the same charging bulb for all of the units, a black plastic circle that sits neatly inside any car power outlet, has a light to indicate power, and a long cord that gently flexes at the bulb side to accommodate tight spaces. Surprisingly, the charger can actually be detached from the cradle if you want to use either piece separately; the only complaint some users will have about it is the length of the cable, which is nearly 8 feet long—unnecessarily so—and comes twist-tied into a circle that dangles around your car stereo. A shorter length and coiling cable probably would have been more efficient here.
That brings us to the iPhone cradle piece itself, which is identical in the iCarry S, M, and L models, but a little curvier in the Unicon version. Some bad news up front: the cradles aren’t case-compatible, and though they do have the passive amplification tunnels at the bottom, they don’t do a very good job of amplifying the speaker output of the iPhone 3G or 3GS. Due as much to distance and road noise as anything else, we found all but the extended L model difficult to hear in a car; even then, the audio was only marginally better than a hand-held iPhone on speakerphone mode. Microphone enhancement was minor and in certain iCarry units added a little static to the audio, but also improved intelligibility somewhat while preserving the iPhone 3G/3GS noise cancellation functionality.
Overall, iCarry S, M, L, and Unicon strike us as fair rather than good or great early car mount efforts from Ozaki. There needn’t be four separate models to achieve functionality that could easily by handled by two—or one with a redesigned, user-assembled arm—plus, the charger’s cable length and cradle amplification could both use some work, and the pricing strikes us as a little too high given what’s really being offered here. Thus, it’s hard for us to recommend any of these versions as they are, though the current S and L models have more obvious appeal depending on whether you need a short or a long mount. That having been said, all of the versions provide a sturdy frame, a fine charger, and at least modest audio amplification that may appeal to some users. We’d be willing to bet that Ozaki will do better with a future iteration, learning from some of the mistakes made here.