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Handheld Devices

Gear We Love: A car mount and charger that fit in your pocket

There's a lot of gear out there for your Apple devices, but how do you know which are worth your time and what's not worth your money? In our Gear We Love column, Macworld's editors tell you about the products we're personally using--and loving.

When I'm in the car, my iPhone gets a lot of use. Not because I'm texting while driving, but because I use it constantly for music and other audio, as well as for GPS navigation when I'm out of my geographic comfort zone. Which means that I need a way to mount my phone in a visible position, and I need to keep it charged so it's ready to go once I reach my destination.

This is easy when I'm in my own car--I've got a great, sturdy car mount and multiple chargers. But what about when I'm traveling? That's when I'm most likely to need navigational help, but few rental cars provide chargers and mounts, and my usual car accessories are too bulky to pack. After testing plenty of options, I've settled on the ad hoc car kit you see here:

I've done quite a bit of traveling over the past few weeks, including a family vacation, which has given me some great opportunities to put this trio of accessories to the test. It's worked exceptionally well, and all three items, together, can fit in a pocket. Here's what I'm using.

Kenu Airframe

The first item is Kenu's $25 Airframe Portable Car Mount. Like many car mounts, this one attaches to any AC/heater vent slat. But unlike most of the vent mounts I've tested, this one attaches securely to both the vent and your iPhone, and it's both light (just 24 grams) and tiny, making it perfect for slipping into your pocket or bag.

The Airframe accomplishes this feat by using a rubber-lined cradle with a spring-loaded, expandable arm that's strong enough to grab the sides of your phone firmly, even if that phone is in a case. The vent clip itself uses grippy rubber and has openings for both thick and thin slats, and the clip rotates 360 degrees to fit on any vent, at any angle.

(The company also advertises the Airframe as a portable desktop stand: Just slip a credit card or ID into the vent clip and it props up your iPhone in landscape or portrait orientation for hands-free viewing.)

The Airframe is a lot sturdier than I expected, it's tiny and light, and it works great. It's earned a permanent place in my bag.

Scosche StrikeLine Pro

I first covered Scosche's $25 StrikeLine Pro Retractable Charge & Sync Cable in January's article on great gear you may have missed. It provides a three-foot cable with a Lightning Connector plug on one end and a USB plug on the other; a quick tug collapses the cable into a sturdy spool. The accessory is available in black or white, and it's perfect for travel: It's long enough to reach from the car's power port to any mounting location near the driver, but it's compact and cable-clutter free when not in use.

I've tried a few other retractable USB-to-Lightning cables, but many use thinner, cheaper-feeling cables, and some have eventually stopped retracting properly. I've been using the StrikeLine Pro daily for over six months, and it's still going strong.

Scosche ReVolt 12W + 12W Dual USB Car Charger

Speaking of power, when choosing a car charger for your iPhone--and especially if you occasionally charge an iPad in the car, as well--the first requirement is finding an accessory that offers enough juice for full-speed charging. A nice bonus is the capability to charge two devices simultaneously.

I've tested a good number of dual-port car chargers. Many can't provide full-speed charging to both devices; others can't even power an iPad. Scosche's $25 ReVolt 12W + 12W Dual USB Car Charger does both: It provides a full 12 Watts (2.4A) to each of its two USB ports, letting you fast-charge two iPads at once. Yet its compact design barely protrudes from your car's power port--which also means it takes minimal space in your bag.

Bonus: Skiva two-in-one cable

Since I've got an extra USB port for charging, it's handy to have an extra cable. I could use a second StrikeLine Pro, but I instead toss Skiva's $50 ($19 on Amazon.com) 2-in1 Lightning + Micro USB Charge and Sync Cable in my bag. The one-meter, USB-to-Lightning cable is sturdy, but what makes it especially useful is that the Lightning connector pops off to reveal a Micro-USB plug, so I can charge my Bluetooth headset, my portable Bluetooth speakers, or my Kindle. The removable Lightning connector (simply a Micro-USB-to-Lightning adapter) is permanently attached to the cable by a plastic "leash," so it won't get lost.

I generally use the Skiva cable once I get to my destination--I'll have more on travel chargers in a future "Gear We Love" column--but it's handy in the car, as well, just in case I or my travel companions need to charge another device on the road.

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