Review: Wahoo Protkt Bike Mount for iPhone 5
Over the years, a handful of companies have released bike-mountable iPhone cases, approaching the same idea in different ways. Some, such as Annex Products' Quad Lock Mounting System Bike Kit, provide a case that's practical for daily use but can easily switch to bike mode. Others, including Luxa2's H10 Bike Mount, are conversion kits that physically block some of the iPhone's features. Wahoo's Protkt for iPhone 5 ($70) falls into the second category. Along with the highly-protective case comes a plastic mounting system consisting of a rubber insert, a bracket that fits on the back of the case, and four zip ties. Those last accessories are used to semi-permanently attach the mount to your bike.
The core of the Protkt set is the heavy duty plastic case. It’s truly unlike any design we’ve seen before, which is saying something considering the thousands of cases that have come through our offices. Thicker than the average case, it includes padding along the back to help protect the handset. The added bulk also provides space for the bike mounting system. To insert the iPhone, you must remove the top cap, which is certainly not intuitive; we started to hunt for instructions soon after opening the box, finding a small insert guiding us to Wahoo’s web site for assistance. As it turns out, the top cap is held in place by rubber bands connected to the case on either side, and fits tightly in place. We found it easiest to push up from the divot around the camera and flash; although it takes some force, the cap will lift up, and then dangle by the bands.
Although it doesn’t make any specific claims as to the protection it offers, Wahoo says Protkt is “crash and element tested.” The case feels like it would stand up to some pretty significant falls, and splashes, but not submersion in water. The plastic body is augmented by the rubber bands, as well as additional strips along the bottom, and the back of the top cap. It completely blocks access to the side switch, volume buttons, and Lightning port; there’s no way to get to them while using Protkt.
A rubber stopper over the headphone port provides access when needed. However, the hole is quite small, so you’ll only be able to use headphones with plugs sized like the one on Apple’s EarPods. Opening the stopper also significantly enhances the speaker volume, which is rather muffled through the case. Between the speaker and microphone openings, the Home Button is protected by a convex rubber disc. It takes more force to activate the button than we can recall from any recent case, and it’s easy to miss a press. The same can be said for the Sleep/Wake button, which on our review unit was tilted down to the left.
In between the buttons, the screen is protected by a sheet of glass that’s built into the case. For the most part, it shares the positive qualities we’ve seen in similar standalone protectors. It’s crystal clear, and hides fingerprints rather well. While it’s as responsive as we’d expect over most of the surface, however, it loses some sensitivity towards the bottom. It takes a firmer press to launch the items in the dock, for example, than it does to open apps even a row up. We wouldn’t describe the protector as bad, but it’s inconsistent. Another piece of glass protects the front-facing camera and sensor. A partial cutout means that there’s a thinner layer of glass over the earpiece, but it’s not totally exposed, which degrades the quality of incoming calls. On the other end, voice quality was described as harsher, with increased treble, some sibilance, and less bass.
Once you’ve installed the mount on your handlebars using the zip ties, it’s easy to connect and disconnect the case. First, you must attach the mounting bracket to the back, which just involves snapping it into place. Then, you fit the bracket over the mount, and turn one quarter rotation to lock it into place. The installation is totally secure, as it should be.
As a bike mount, particularly if used in conjunction with the Wahoo Fitness App for Cycling, Protkt does the job it’s supposed to do. You can easily mount it, and your iPhone will be all protected without the display being obscured. That said, for use as an everyday case, it’s not a good choice—too bulky, and access to controls is far too limited. We’d recommend Annex Products’ mount at the same price, because it’s much more practical for daily use, while Protkt earns a limited recommendation. It may be an acceptable option for users who don’t mind having to trade off swapping cases for superior protection, but it’s far from great.