DIY Smartphone Holder

Summary

This is a how-to on making an inexpenive smartphone (Motorola Droid X in this example) cradle to hold your phone on a mount. In this particular case, I'm attaching the cradle to RAM mount, but in the near future, I'll try to make a DYI mount as well. The cradle is not waterproof for obvious reasons.

INTRO

For the last few years, I needed to have my phone mounted on my motorcycle with ability to use it as a GPS. One of the ways it can be accomplished is by using a tankbag, such as Firstgear Monza, which is a fantastic bag. The problem with this placement is that on a hot summer day (which, not surprisingly, when most of my pleasure riding takes place) the phone can get very hot, especially, if it is plugged into a charger. Having it plugged into a charger is a necessity, as using the phone as GPS requires the screen to be lit up and eats up the battery in no time.

There are plenty of different mounts available, but a chance led me to having to create a DIY mount, which turned out fairly decent, and VERY inexpensive. I've recently purchased RAM mount for Motorola X phone with AQ2U waterproof "aquabox". The timing worked out in such a way that I was about to go for a big group ride, which I was to lead, and I desperately needed to have my phone mounted. In accordance with Mr. Moore's law, when I received the mount, I realized that: a) the aquabox was only big enough to fit the phone, and there was no way to have power connected to it (and it's impossible to drill a hole, as this particular phone's micro-usb connectior aligns wtih the hinges or the lock of the box; and b) the Flex Lens (the flexible and replaceable  "window" of the box did not work well with Droid's capacitive screen (admittedly, the website mentions that Flex Lens does not work with iPhones, but my Droid works well with protective screen of my Monza bag and afterall, who knows - Apple always likes to make things different, maybe their screen was unique too ;-) ). This left me in a situation where I didnt have time to order a different cradle ( as overnighting it would skyrocket the total cost of the mount into three-digit numbers), and couldn't modify the existing one in any meaningful way where it would work for me. So, off to the closest hardware store I went, looking for inspiration. Yes, Home Depot is where I found it - sad, I know.

Materials

 3 x 7 Tie Plate (Simpson StrongTie TP37) - $1.11

 2 3/4 x 5 x 1/4 Foam - ???

 Plasti-Dip Spray/Paint - $5.98 (optional)

 Micro-usb Car Charger - $12.00 (optional)

 Zip-ties (optional)

 Bolts, nuts (quantity, size depends on the mount)

 Minimum Total Cost: just about $1.50 (if you already have a can of Plasti-Dip, foam, charger, and zip-ties and hardware to attach the holder to a mount)

 My Cost: $19.00 (I already had foam and zip-ties)

 Time Required: 6 hours (because of multiple coats of Plasti-Dip)

TOOLS

 Vice

 Rubber Mallet

 Metal File

 Drill

 Metal Rod with 3/8 x 3/8 (may be different if this is a holder for different device dimensions) - used for shaping the tie to the shape needed

PROCESS

The idea is to make a C-shape holder for the phone so that the phone is held by two (shorter) edges.

 

Step one is to bend the plate to the form needed - using a vice in this step is essential, the metal used in these ties is 12 gauge and requires some effort, but on the other hand, this also means that it will not bend  easily and relax the "grip" on the phone while you are riding. Theoretically, you should be using Angle Iron to bend, I, however, did not have access to one, nor did I have time to find it, so, I simply set the tie directly in the vice, using a rubber mallet to "convince" the tie to bend exactly where I need it (otherwise it has a tendency to bend along the axis of holes). Use 3/8 x 3/8 rod or something similar as a spacer when bending the inner edges.

Step two is to file off all the sharp edges and corners - the phone has a lot of plastic on its surfaces, and as it is, the edges of the tie plate will shave off that plastic. Additionally, it is easy to scratch your own fingers, or, worst of all, that tank!

Step three is to drill holes to fix the cradle onto the mount. In my case, I widened one existing hole in the plate and drilled two new ones to attach the plate to RAM 2.5 round base with 1" ball.

Step four is to either paint the plate or Plasti-Dip it. This is optional, if you don't mind riding around with a shiny galvanized phone mount, which looks like it came from... well, Home Depot. I did not have time to put any kind of primer, or sand it, as this article suggests, so I went ahead with spraying Plasti-Dip on it.

 

Step five is to put it all together. First, I bolted the cradle to the RAM round base. Next, I used zipties to attach the charger wire to the plate. Then, I cut a piece of foam from the pieces that came with the AquaBox and attached it (this foam was self-adhesive, but you can simply glue it).

The view of the back:

The result:

 

conclusion

Here is an inexpensive holder for a smart phone, made of what's readily available. I've been using it for a month now, including a long group ride where I was using my GPS program on my phone, and the holder has held up really well. I used to think I may need to add some restraints to prevent the phone from sliding sideways, but it is held by the foam and the rubberized surface really well.

 

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