Phone mounts for boats and marine applications is a topic I thought would be appropriate now that the warm months have arrived here in New Jersey. The idea for this article came from a friend that was telling me the story of how he had an iPhone stuck in his shirt pocket and bent over the side of the boat to bring in a fish and you can guess what happened next. That’s right, his iPhone is now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. He admitted to me that was one of the dumbest things he has ever done and frankly, I can’t argue with him. He told me he actually thought about jumping in after it. I’m glad he didn’t do that.
So when it comes to phone mounts for boats, we need to look at a few unique characteristics that aren’t necessary on your everyday car mounts. Namely the ability to endure exposure to outdoors so no bare metal. Additionally, these mounts need to withstand a potentially rugged environment. Much more so than a car.
Used to be that mounts included a custom cradle for your phone. That was easy when there were only a handful of models that were in the mainstream. Today, there are thousands of different model cell phones so no more custom cradles. Add to the mix the fact that almost everyone has a case or skin. The only was to go is with a universal expandable cradle. So measure the width of your phone with the case or skin attached. Be sure to select a cradle that’s large enough to hold your phone. Extra thick cases like an Otterbox Defender or LifeProof case adds significant bulk to a phone. Enough depth so that some basic cradles will not open wide enough. For example, my Apple iPhone 6s Plus with the Otterbox Defender is 3.25 inches wide. Some cradles only open to 3 inches. So be sure to measure before selecting your mount.
There are a few ways to attach phone mounts for boats and a few ways not to attach phone mounts for boats. Avoid suction cups. Avoid adhesive mounts. Neither will stand up to the unique elements of marine use nor the constant jarring of a boat hitting the waves. Do use a mount that will either bolt down or clamp around a rail or handlebar.
So let’s look at a few recommendations for phone mounts for boats.
The most basic of phone mounts for boats is one that bolts to a flat surface. The RAM Flat Surface Mount with Universal X-Grip Cell Phone Cradle is made of marine grade powder coated aluminum. That’s the one in the photo that accompanies this article. The included expandable X-Grip cradle opens to 3.25 inches and that’s large enough for most phones. There’s a 3 inch arm with adjustment points at the base and another at the cradle. Your phone can rotate into portrait or landscape mode. Nice for using your phone with a marine applications. I recommend use of the included safety tether for added security. The safety tether is normally used on motorcycles, but I think it’s a good idea to use it on a boat as well. For larger phones, consider the RAM Flat Surface Mount with Large X-Grip Cell Phone Cradle which is the same mount but with a cradle that opens to 4.5 inches. That’s the one I use with my Apple iPhone 6s Plus with a big thick Otterbox Defender case. The manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty on these mounts.
The next mount to consider is one that can clamp onto an outdoor rail. The RAM Tough-Claw Mount with Universal X-Grip Phone Cradle includes the Tough-Claw base that opens to 1.5 inches. The included X-Grip holder is similar to the other mount we just recommended in that it opens to 3.25 inches. This also has a ball and socket design so your phone can rotate into landscape or portrait. This also comes with a safety tether which we suggest using. The manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty on this mount. We wrote a detailed review on the RAM Tough-Claw Handlebar and Rail Base awhile back that can be referenced for more information on how the base works. It’s easy to install and remove.
The last mount to recommend is one that can attach to a boat helm. It’s somewhat shielded from the elements. Ironically a boat helm is about the same size as a motorcycle handlebar so the the Arkon Bike Smartphone Handlebar Mount will work well. This mount includes a safety strap for added security along with a good quality mount that fits up to 1.25 inch diameter bars. The included holder opens to 3.4 inches which is large enough for almost all phones with or without a case or skin. The mount includes a rubber strip that will enable the mount to be used for smaller diameter bars and will prevent marring of the surface. This mount comes with a 2-year warranty.
Any of the mounts described will work well on a boat. All of these have been available for some time and have been proven to work in rugged environments.