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Hands-on: SwitchLok Sports Phone Case & Mount System

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It’s funny how I’m always on the lookout for a good bike phone mount system, despite rarely using a phone as a head unit on my road bike. Instead, I’m more practical in my phone and bike relationship: It’s primarily on my city bike. Yet at the same time, every time I go out on a road/mountain bike I’ve got my phone in my back pocket. It’s always there.

And in many ways, that relationship is mirrored while running. I almost never run with my phone on my arm, but when I do (usually for some data-related test), I’m always impressed with how crappy the experience is. Most phone running armbands require you slide the phone into an ill-fitting case with a crappy front plastic thingy that makes it even more difficult to use your phone – especially on a rainy day or with gloves.

With that context, rewind to about a year ago when the founder of SwitchLok met me at CES to hand over a handful of garage made prototypes with a new phone case and mounting system that’s made for sports. Armed with a pile of prototypes I immediately went out and…well, it didn’t go well.  But he kept cookin’ forward and I met him again, this time at CES 2019 in early January and got the final near-production variants. And I’ve been using it since without issue.

As both myself and The Girl are ardent users of the Quad Lock system, I was skeptical of another quick-release case mount style system designed for athletes. But this one actually impressed me. Will I switch over to it though? Well, let’s dig into the nuances.

(Preemptive usual stuff: These are media loaner units, they’ll go back just like the earlier prototypes did already. I don’t take any money/etc from any companies I review/preview/handle/mishandle/massage/etc…)

The Pieces:

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SwitchLok is basically a four part system:

1) The phone case
2) A bike mount
3) A running armband
4) A car dashboard mount

Starting off with the phone case, they’re doing their Kickstarter based on iPhones initially (iPhone 7, 8, X, XS, or XR), since that’s where they get the most traction in terms of the number of molds they have to make. They know they’ll get some hate for that, and are looking to see if they can support some major options like the most recent Samsung devices, but even that’s tricky because by the time people get this mount the latest Samsung phones, expected a few weeks from now, will long be out.

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Surprisingly, the case can indeed charge wirelessly, should you have that with you (I didn’t end up bringing a wireless charging mat with me on my recent travels unfortunately).

The case has a gigantic magnet built into the back. In fact, it’s been somewhat funny in that the co-working space I’ve been working at the last few weeks has metal tables. And the first few times I laid my phone down it snapped to the table.  Ahh yes, that’s how magnets work.  In fact, here’s it holding my phone by only half of the magnets and even then, only slim bits of metal inside the holey artsy coffee table:

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Next, there’s the car mount, which snaps into your air vents. It’s got a pivot point as well to allow you to adjust it slightly left/right/up/down:

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Then there’s the armband. It has stretchy fabric with little non-stick dots on it, so that it doesn’t slide around your arm any. It’s got quite the length of strap on it, such that you could probably wrap it around your thigh if you wanted to.

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Finally, the bike mount. This uses a hex screw which you rotate to tighten the whole thing onto your bike. You can place it on either the handlebars or your bike stem. Heck, you could even put it on your upper top-tube if you wanted (for example, some mountain bikes may not have a good stem location for it).

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All three mounts have magnets in them as well, which ensures that they make strong contact with the phone case. The magnets are molded within the plastic.

Testing:

I think before we get to the hardcore testing, the less hardcore bits is just whether or not I manage to break my phone in day to day droppage. I mean, it’s not like I set out to drop my phone daily – but it does seem to happen every once in a ‘while’. And by ‘while’, I mean oddly frequently.  During the last few weeks it’s happened more than one hands worth, all on hard surfaces (concrete, wood floors, and stone tile), and none of them resulted in me having to visit the Apple Store (of which there is none in Cape Town as I’ve discovered).

Also, both my 1-year-old and 2-year-old daughters have pick-pocketed my phone and dropped it a bit without any issue. So there’s that too.

Next, I suppose an easy one – the car mount. This just works. We’ve done some high-speed bumps, including some off-road stuff, and the phone just stayed there:

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Ok, next, moving up the list – running. Using the armband for intervals on pavement hasn’t resulted in any loss of the unit.

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You can also orient it sideways on your arm, in the event that’s somehow your thing:

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I did try to dislodge it through impacts. So I jumped off the top of a park bench. Not exactly parkour, but good enough to prove the point:

Next – stepping it up – road cycling. No issues road cycling with it on my road bike. I’ve placed it on the stem as that’s my preferred location and even with the occasional pot-holes of Cape Town I haven’t lost it yet.

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As noted elsewhere, it’s definitely pretty bulky when a phone isn’t attached compared to other mounts. But realistically once you attach the phone it’s no different from a top-down perspective than the Quad Lock situation (wider of course):

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However, I actually kinda like it more as an indoor trainer mount than anything else:

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The one thing that’s handy about the bike mount is that I can position the phone both horizontal and vertical:

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Next up – mountain biking. In this case I used it yesterday for a pile of testing I was doing on some other products repeating the same track over and over and over again at faster and faster paces including a few drops.

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Note that with this specific mountain bike the stem was short enough that I couldn’t mount it there. So I had to mount it on the handlebars. I did a few drops and smallish jumps as well without issue. But I’m hardly an expert when it comes to off-road cycling. In general my goal in mountain biking is to avoid crashes, so bodily endeavors that put that goal at risk are usually avoided. Including all types of acrobatics – intentional or otherwise.

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So – what are some of the downsides?

Well, just really one: It’s a beast of a bike mount:

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Seriously, it’s huge. For me personally, it’s just too big to live on my road bike when I want it there for casual use.  Whereas I do sometimes leave the Quad Lock mount on my road bike for large stretches of time because it’s relatively small.

Now during this past month or so I’ve almost extensively been on the road travelling, so I was only home in Amsterdam a few days.  And ironically, it’s those bikes back home in Amsterdam that I’d prefer it be on.  For this bike and my around-town bike, I’d likely choose the SwitchLok system because I’m frequently wanting to remove my phone quickly to jump into a shop or even just grab it to take photos mid-ride.  While the Quad Lock is fine on my commuter bike, on the cargo bike the rotation actually clunks into the gear indicator as well as the main built-in display. So it’s kinda wonky and thus the SwitchLok would definitely be better there.  Maybe I’ll switch when I get back in a few weeks.

Wrap-Up:

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The latest SwitchLok pre-production units I used are pretty solid. I’ve had zero mount issues and zero case issues, and from an overall case usability standpoint – zero issues there either. It all just works. Right now in travelling for the past month it’s been useful having the car mount for my phone – though normally we don’t have a car in Amsterdam and thus I don’t have much use for that mount the rest of the year.  Still, the fact I can basically use one mount connection point across all devices is appreciated.

Of course, these mounts/cases are somewhat expensive at $93-$105 for the case + two mounts. And SwitchLok knows that too – they see it as a premium collection that is designed to take a beating.  And I suppose that’s fair. There are plenty of cheaper bike, car, and armband solutions out there – but none of them that I’ve poked at (except Quad Lock) seem to match this level of durability.  Of course, that durability in the case of the bike mount makes it a wee bit clunkier, though that actually raises it basically the same height as the Quad Lock.

As always, it is a Kickstarter project – though I see this as a super low-risk one. Still, Kickstarter is not a store, and the timelines are often more Jello-like than concrete. Of course the benefit is that you typically get reduced pricing on Kickstarter to offset the risk of crowd-funded projects.

With that – thanks for reading!

Note: Their Kickstarter runs another 30 days, but early-bird pricing ends tomorrow.

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65 Comments

  1. Robert Cuadro

    The fact the phone case is flat is great! The one complaint I have about my Quad Lock… the bike mount, I don’t know if I can get over the enormousness of the mount.

    Heck, I have never taken the Quad Lock mount off my bike since the day I put it on. It is small enough where it doesn’t bother me. I would say it is more aesthetically pleasing.

    • I’m a former Quad Lock owner as well and the flat back of the case was definitely a design requirement.

      Regarding the size, it is bigger than your typical Garmin mount. Height-wise, I wanted it to be able to clear your typical stem cap even if you had a spacer or two.

    • Robert Cuadro

      I can see what you mean now that you mention being able to clear the stem. I guess I only look at items that affect me personally.

      I assume the base has to be that wide to ensure sufficient surface area to allow the magnet to hold the phone securely.

      I really do like the phone case being flat and, with a magnet, I can take the phone off the mount with one hand. If the holder had a smaller footprint I think it would be a winner. Something that LOOKED like the Quad Lock bike mount but with the large plate on top for the magnet to lock on to.

    • Thanks for the feedback Robert. Sometimes physical dimensions can be less important than how things appear.

      The plate is wide because there is no magnet in the middle–there is an array of widely spaced magnets–which is what allows the Qi wireless charging to function.

    • Gary

      $0.78 solution to the Quad Lock mount not being quite flush:

      link to fasttech.com

      Stick one at each corner. Kinda surprised Quad Lock doesn’t mold in something similar (and a little more discreet) into the covers so you can use your phone one-handed while it’s sitting on a table or desk without it wobbling.

  2. Zoltan Hubai

    I own this bike phone mount: link to getfinn.com
    I tried other before but this one works best for me.

  3. Carlton

    I’m assuming the magnets in the case interfere with wireless charging. Wireless charging is a firm requirement for me.

  4. Hi, I’m Marc, the founder who met Ray with the piles of prototypes at CES and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have here.

    • Pavel

      Hi Marc,
      is there a plan to make a car mount with wireless charging?

    • This is certainly a possibility.

    • sean mclean

      Quadlock just came out with this, I would consider it a high-priority item for you.

    • Michael Fiola

      Hi Mark. I love the concept but your car clip-on system will not work with my Jeep Wrangler. The vets on the Wrangler work outstanding as vents (in fact I’ve wondered why all car manufacturers don’t use similar vents) but they can not take clip-on mounts.

      It would be great, however, if I could disconnect your plate from the clip and attach it to the ball-type mount I have up on my dash. What do you think?

    • Thanks Mark! The car mount has an adapter for a 17 mm ball which is standard for most car mounts. If you wanted, you could remove it from the vent mount and put it on any other 17 mm ball mount.

    • Michael Fiola

      Outstanding! Thanks

  5. Mark J.

    Credit cards/hotel door “keys”/parking garage tickets/anything else with a magnetic strip just don’t react well with magnets. I once had a phone case with “sleep” cover that had a magnet in it and I ruined numerous hotel key cards and a parking garage ticket just because the phone came in contact with them in my pocket.

    • Hi Mark, parking garage tickets and magnetic hotel keys are certainly prone to issues with stronger magnets. Credit cards wont have any problem–they are magnetized in a more permanent fashion. You can have them right up against the case and they’ll be just fine.

      Personally, I have always kept my phone in one pocket and wallet in the other.

  6. fiatlux

    Only shipping to US or Canada as far as I can tell…

    • Correct, I can only offer shipping to limited countries. International shipping for small players like me is incredibly difficult and expensive. Between the costs and the customs issues, I didn’t want to offer something that I wasn’t sure I could metaphorically and literally deliver.

  7. Erin

    I pretty much don’t go anywhere without my phone and my MacBook. Normally in 1 hand. How much testing has been done with regards to the magnet and causing issues with a MacBook hard drive? Normally hard drives and magnets is a bad idea but realistically I cycle part time and work full time. I won’t use a different case based on what I’m doing. Also I’ve been using the quad lock system since 2014 without issue minus the car mount suction being a bit iffy

    • Hi Erin, If your MacBook has a SSD (non-spinning hard drive) you will have nothing to worry about. Those types of disks are not susceptible to magnetic interference. Every phone uses this type of storage and pretty much every laptop sold in the last few years, with the exception of some budget models, uses SSD’s.

  8. Chris Capoccia

    My bike mount is the Finn. very simple, portable, doesn’t require any special mounting hardware or handle bar or anything https://getfinn.com

  9. Pavel

    Good thing: back of the phone case is flat (unlike Quadlock back)
    Bad thing: no wireless charging on a car unit

  10. Tom

    I prefer Rokform bike cases to Quadlock.

  11. JB

    I am always concerned about these mag mounts when you factor in mechanical watches.

    Do you think the magnet is strong enough to throw the hairspring of a mechanical watch out of whack?

    • Not sure about spring interference as I have a Vivoactive 3. From what I am aware of, certain very high end watches (Rolex) come with warnings about magnets but I havent seen anyone riding or running with one of those. Also keep in mind that magnetic fields diminish exponentially as the distance increases from the source (they drop off real quick).

      Searching for a smartwatch is actually what led me to find DCR years ago so I find it funny that I’m here thinking about mechanical watches!

    • Jose Beitia

      haha

      Well, yes… I rarely see anyone with a mechanical watch while riding.
      However, the phone case also has a magnet. That’s really what my main concern would be.
      That magnet is much more likely to get close to a watch.

  12. David W

    I would never use this case. My problem is with the magnets in the case. I usually carry my phone in my pants pocket along with my wallet. I don’t want to have the magnets demagnetize my credit cards. Could I use a different pocket? Sure. But I am used to this and don’t want to have to worry about putting my phone in the wrong pocket by accident. I much prefer the Scosche mount where the magnet is in the mount and the case just has a metal plate in it.

    • I totally understand your concerns David and your decision. SwitchLok isn’t for everyone.

      Just as a ‘FYI’, you should check out this article by K&J Magnetics: link to kjmagnetics.com. They tested credit cards, hotel keys and parking lot tickets after exposing them to rare earth magnets,

  13. Paul Wakeford

    Nice idea, my main concern is phone support – current release is set for August 2019 and Apple’s iPhone release cadence would suggest a new version somewhere between September and December. And who knows if the new iPhone will tweak the design so this case doesn’t fit any more?

  14. Jason

    Your bench dismount was absolutely horrible. Yes, it made the intended point, but still. This is a high profile destination site that caters to type-A’s. Gotta stick those landings.

  15. Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: link to mjvande.info . It’s dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don’t have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else — ON FOOT! Why isn’t that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking….

    A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it’s not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see link to mjvande.info ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

    Mountain bikers also love to build new trails – legally or illegally. Of course, trail-building destroys wildlife habitat – not just in the trail bed, but in a wide swath to both sides of the trail! E.g. grizzlies can hear a human from one mile away, and smell us from 5 miles away. Thus, a 10-mile trail represents 100 square miles of destroyed or degraded habitat, that animals are inhibited from using. Mountain biking, trail building, and trail maintenance all increase the number of people in the park, thereby preventing the animals’ full use of their habitat. See link to mjvande.info for details.

    Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it’s NOT!). What’s good about THAT?

    To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video: link to vimeo.com.

    In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: link to mjvande.info .

    For more information: link to mjvande.info .

    The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users — hikers and equestrians — who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

    The parks aren’t gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

    Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won’t understand what I am talking about — an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

  16. sean mclean

    Ray – could you post a picture (if you have it with you) of the quad lock case next to this case? Like you, I love Quad Lock but the cases are fairly thick right in the middle which can make wireless charging tricky at times. This appears to be a thinner overall profile, but can’t quite tell.

    • Hi Sean, I can only speak for the SwitchLok case, but it works with every Qi wireless charger I have been able to find. I designed it from the ground up to work with Qi charging.

    • Here’s the first of two comparison pics. Both iPhone X, with the one to the left/back in the Quad Lock case.

    • sean mclean

      Cool, thanks Ray! Much appreciated. Does look a bit thinner, which is nice. I still think their price point is borderline delusional (the Kickstarter pricing, not even the ‘full retail’. Best of luck to them.

    • Hi Sean, this is Marc, the creator or SwitchLok. What do you think is a reasonable price point?

    • sean mclean

      Personally I feel you need to be in-line with quadlock pricing to be competitive. It’s a very similar concept, and I’m not sure that it’s worth a nearly 50% premium over quadlock (which is already on the expensive side) to switch to a magnetic release versus a twist release.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think its innovative and I’m certainly interested…but not at that price.

      Also, another suggestion on possible accessories besides the previous mentioned integrated charging clip. Suction Cup – for vehicles other than cars, my boat does not have a vent clip to use the car mount for. ‘Anywhere’ mount – I have quadlock posts screwed to my workbench, around the garage, etc. Just put some 3M tape on the back with a countersunk hole to put a screw through. (I’ll take a complimentary kit for these great ideas 🙂 ). Best of luck.

    • Appreciate the honest feedback Sean. I’ll put your free kit in the mail right away ;>

      Your Quad-Lock comparison is fair: they are the undisputed leader in the category and anyone who knows about them will make the same evaluation. For the Kickstarter, I tried to come in at or below them and deliver a product that is superior. My problem as a small, personal business (and it’s mine, not the customer’s) is that if I sell SwitchLok for too little, it will die on the vine. There will not be any money for additional production runs even if I sell every unit.

      One item that I don’t think came across in Ray’s write-up is how easy it is to get SwitchLok on and off. After a couple of times, you don’t even have to look which is especially nice on the armband and in the car. You just hold it close to the mount and it aligns it and sucks it into place. This is the main advantage of SwitchLok–it’s not just some super-sized magnet mount.

  17. Greg

    Is there a possibility for a universal adapter for other phones, that uses double sided tape? I’m one of those people who has an irrational aversion to Apple and Samsung.

    • Hi Greg, I sympathize with your situation–it can be very hard to find cases if you don’t have an Apple or Samsung phone. I elected not to go with the ‘stick on’ adapter because of concerns that people would have a bad experience. For example, many cases are made of silicone or have silicon coatings. This feels nice in your hand but is a nightmare for adhesives because nothing sticks well to silicone.

      It is possible that to develop ways to alleviate this and other problems and maybe I can make one in the future.

    • Eli

      Just limit the cases you support? Say otterbox with their plastic backs. I don’t have an iphone so….

  18. Greg

    What happened with your right ankle on the bench dismount? I’ve never seen that sort of spring-like motion before.

  19. Quix

    This looks like an interesting alternative but I’ll be waiting till it’s off Kickstarter. I’ve been burned too many times by that platform.

    • Quix, Sorry to hear you’ve had bad experiences on Kickstarter. I’m sorry to say that I have backed a couple of projects that never delivered as well. Because of that, I have gone to great lengths to ensure I will be able to deliver if funded. For example, all of the pre-manufacturing planning has been completed; I have personally visited each factory and supplier to finalize product details and verify quality.

      Most Kickstarter programs wont even find their suppliers until after their campaign is finished. Then they learn that product will cost twice as much to manufacture, they’re in a rush and select a poor manufacturing partner or they dont realize how expensive it is to ship out the rewards. I have accounted for all of these. Hope that helps.

  20. brandon

    Yeah.. I’ve been using the quad lock for about a year – first with the traditional bike mount, now with the pro out front mount. Absolutely love it – its also perfect for Zwift.

    I like the idea of a magnetized case and mount but that seems too bulky when the goal is to reduce clutter, not add to it. (At least thats my goal).

  21. Pascal

    Does this kind of magnetic holder affects the built-in magnometer (compass functionality)?

    • Good question Pascal. I have seen many other Kickstarter campaigns give answers that range from hopeful to totally wrong and I think it’s abhorrent to mislead people like that. The short answer is that placing your phone close to any magnet will disrupt the function of the e-compass. That’s it. GPS, Cellular, NFC payments (Apple Pay), camera–everything else works normally. If you regularly use the compass app on your phone, this case is probably not for you.

  22. Casey Cook

    With the ability to wireless charge in the car will Apple CarPlay work? (I suspect this is more of a iOS issue) It seems the phone has to be physically connected via lightning cable which then defeats the purpose of wireless charging.