We tend to exercise greater caution these days in issuing recommendations for certain sorts of products – ones from companies we’ve never heard of before, particularly ones located overseas, and ones that produce uber-nichey accessories that might or might not really satisfy our readers. So when we received something called Flightstrap — more specifically, Flightstrap PMP Seat Hanger (£25) — from a company also called Flightstrap, we initially paused on covering it. It was a little odd and not entirely well thought out, and came from a company that apparently sells nothing else. If you’re going to read on past this point, consider yourself warned.
The reason we ultimately decided to cover the PMP Seat Hanger was that we actually tested it on a series of international flights last month and found it to be legitimately useful, albeit with some additional caveats that are worth noting. What Flightstrap has done is to assemble a ballistic nylon carrying case with several components—arguably unnecessary sleep mask and ear plugs, plus an elastic band that wraps around the seat in front of you, a Velcro alternative band, and a clamping mount that holds your iPod or iPhone in either vertical or horizontal orientation, with or without a case.
To be clear, we weren’t initially impressed by any of these parts: we’d have sooner preferred a lower asking price, no blindfold or plugs, and just a working mount. Moreover, we were justifiably concerned about the very idea of trying to wrap a rubber strap around someone else’s seat, or otherwise find some way to attach the secondary strap’s small plastic hooks or Velcro arms, which seemed potentially better suited to in-car use than in-flight use. Finally, Flightstrap’s plastic device mount seemed safe enough to clamp onto an iPhone or iPod—it has soft foam pads inside, and a rear screw to secure the device’s position—but looked nearly as janky and about as device-inspecific as such a thing could come these days.
Then we took a two-week trip to Japan, which started and ended with 13-hour flights to and from Tokyo. One of the Philips video screen accessories we brought along had a completely dead battery on takeoff of the first flight, and our backup unit would only last five hours at best. We quickly whipped out the Flightstrap kit we’d brought along and figured out how to attach it—with the elastic belt—to the seat in front of us. On our particular flights, the seats were constructed with head padding that was separate from the chairs, so attaching the belt would not, thankfully, have any impact whatsoever on a person sitting in that seat.
We can’t speak for other planes and other seats, but in this particular situation, Flightstrap worked: it clamped iPhones and iPod touches alike without any problem, hung them at a reasonable viewing angle, and easily folded back into the carrying case when we were done. Flying back, we used it again without issues, and came to the conclusion that it mightn’t be a sexy accessory, or at exactly the right price point for U.S. customers, but it worked. In these situations. Some users may also find that the Velcro and hook strap works to dangle an iPod or iPhone behind the headrest of their cars; the too-small hooks didn’t work in our test vehicles, and due to differences between cars, say nothing of the potential challenges of returning the PMP Seat Hanger in the event that it doesn’t work in your car, we’d consider it a somewhat risky purchase for this purpose unless you’re willing to use the elastic strap. We probably wouldn’t.
Though we’re unwilling to issue our general recommendation to the Flightstrap PMP Seat Hanger, we also don’t want to penalize it with a limited recommendation or lower rating solely because its developer is small and located outside the United States. Thus, we’re not issuing a rating; the candor of our comments above should speak for themselves, and help you decide whether to take the risk and pay the price for what it offers. Our feeling is that it’s a little too expensive, and its utility may depend on the plane or car that you’re in and your tolerance for mounting a 3.5” or smaller screen however far from your face the seat in front of you may be, but it does work, and the build quality is pretty good across the board. At least during our flights, the PMP Seat Hanger gave us hours of additional viewing time that we wouldn’t have had when the Philips unit failed; perhaps it will have the same sort of value one day to you, too.
Company and Price
Model: PMP Seat Hanger
Compatible: iPhone 3G/3GS