Accessory review: Clingo universal car phone mount
Clingo makes products based around a sticky material that can hold mobile devices without a traditional mounting system. No residue, no magnets, no plastic holders – just a sticky pad that will cling(o) to your device. Sounds almost too good to be true, so I got one to try out.
In the box
The car mount comes with only the bare essentials. There’s the mount itself, and a plastic disc with adhesive tape on the back so you can use the suction cup end in places where it otherwise wouldn’t work, like your dash. That’s it. What I’m missing the most is a cover for the sticky pad, one that would let it sit without anything on it or be brought in a travel bag without going completely Katamari on everything.
The basic part of the mount is just like any other cheap mount, emphasis on the cheap part. There’s a suction cup with a lock/release lever, going into a wing nut-tightened pivoting arm, going into a ball joint that holds the sticky pad.
Aside from there being a sticky pad instead of a plastic holder of some sort on the end, it’s fairly standard. Too standard, perhaps. I’ve seen higher quality plastic on $5 generic car mounts, not to mention that the ball joint is just horrible. I have a cheap generic mount that has a metal ball capable of complete hemispheric movement, as well as being locked down to a specific angle so that nothing can move it.
The Clingo, on the other hand, seems to have adopted action figure technology. A plastic ball goes into a plastic receiver, which is only held together with a metal lock ring. Not even a nut to screw the thing tight! as a result, even light shakes can shake the thing out of position, especially on heavier devices. The sticky pad bit also comes completely off in all sorts of situations, like when you’re trying to remove the device form the sticky pad.
Put it simply, the mount itself is garbage. Don’t get me wrong, it works: The suction cup sticks, the adjustable arm adjusts, and so on. It’s just that the quality of the parts hints at a $5 product, not a $35 product.
That leaves us with the bit that’s actually unique: The sticky pad. It’s a flat surface that’s narrower in the middle, and has two plastic handles to help you pull your device off the thing.
So, does it work? Yes, it does. That sticky pad is sticky, I can tell you that. It sticks to a decent amount of materials, though not the case I use on my Galaxy S II. The naked back of my Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, however, sticks to the pad like duct tape. I slapped the Tab on the pad and put the mount on a dinner plate, then put the entire contraption on my bed (for fall protection to test it out). Both times it lasted about 4 hours before it fell off.
Wait, it fell off, you say? Yes, yes it did. Clingo might claim that the pad holds your device securely, but that’s only half the truth. Part of the problem is the lack of any specs for what it’s designed to hold. A 7-inch 350 gram tablet doesn’t really fall in the “phone” category, but then again it kinda falls in the “mobile media device” category. The claim “Securely holds ANY phone or mobile media device you own” is therefore a bit optimistic if you ask me. I haven’t even tried to put my iPad 2 on the thing, because I know the ball joint would buckle, and I frankly consider that a mobile media device as well. There’s a reason why companies list compatibility in quantitative measurements like grams and millimeters, not whatever looks best on paper.
Still, I didn’t buy this thinking the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus would be fully compatible with something like that. As such, I’m positively surprised at how well it sticks to it, even if I wouldn’t trust it to sit there unsupervised. I don’t actually have a car, and I bought the Clingo for train rides and other uses. I’ve already had a chance to try it out on the train, where I used the suction cup on a window and slapped the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus on the sticky end. It didn’t fall off no matter how much the ancient train was shaking, though I did make sure it was secure a few times during the trip. Right now, as I’m writing this, it’s holding my Tab (showing Netflix) next to my laptop, the suction cup sticking to the table itself.
The effectiveness of the sticky pad also depends on how clean it is. It’s designed to be washed or cleaned in order to regain its stickiness, theoretically making it as good as new. This is where that protective cover would come in handy, limiting the amount of dust and other garbage the sticky pad gathers when not holding a device.
The Clingo works for what I wanted it for, but those are situations where I have some control over how secure the device is. Between my phone’s case not sticking at all and the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus falling off after a few hours, I would never trust this with a device without being able to re-secure it every now and then. If you do 20 minute car trips to and from the office, it’s great. If you’re a professional driver, stay very far away from this thing. It’s impressive, it’s convenient, it’s sticky, but it isn’t as secure as traditional mounts. When the sticky pad then seems to make up $30 of the 35 price (judging by the quality of the other parts), you have to really consider whether it’s worth it.