You wouldn't think a smartphone car dock would elicit strong opinions, but I am here to tell you that you are incorrect. I have been searching for a car dock that would hold my ever-bigger phones without being more annoying than it's worth. The Aukey magnetic car mount handles the task flawlessly.
The Aukey magnetic car dock ($20) is a deceptively simple device. The dock itself is a small, flat circle, with four firm prongs sticking off the back. You can slide it onto the slats of any standard air conditioner vent. Then, on your phone you can either place a magnet inside your case, or if you don't use a case, adhere the magnet directly to the back of your phone. Simply place your phone on the pad and your phone stays in place. (As a side note: while magnets are harmless to modern smartphones, some phones use magnets to trigger features like turning off the screen or activating car mode. Be sure to check the placement of the magnet in your case when you set up any magnetic dock!)
Now, I have used a lot of car docks over the years. I like having my GPS available at a glance, and I use voice controls while I'm driving regularly. I also still use a 3.5mm cable to connect my phone to my stereo for music, so certain car docks just don't work for me. I've had suction cup docks that only fit in the corner of my window, with cables wrapped around the steering wheel. I've had clunky docks that fall apart. The Aukey dock is the first one that manages to serve my needs without creating a new pain in the arse.
Magnets Make For A Seamless Dock
If you have an iPhone or a flagship Samsung phone, you can find accessories that fit you perfectly. For the rest of us, we have to deal with "universal" stuff. Universal docks tend to use adjustable cradles that can be expanded to fit whatever size phone you might have. Allegedly. In my experience, they can never quite get there. Either it's too tight and you have to struggle with the dock to get your phone out, or it's too loose and your phone falls out. Worse yet, phones keep getting bigger, so a dock that handles most phone sizes in 2014 might be outsized by the time 2016's models come out.
With the Aukey dock, there's no adjustment or size concerns. One size fits all because there isn't a size to begin with. The only limit to the dock is the strength of the magnet. You can't stick a slim magnet on the back of your laptop and expect it to stick to your dashboard, but even decently large phones will stay in place. I used mine with a Nexus 6P, which is dangerously close to the ugly "phablet" category, and it never shook loose.
It's also invisibly easy to dock my phone. With other docks, I have to carefully slide my phone into the cradle, and usually readjust the flimsy dock arms. With the Aukey dock, it's as simple as setting my phone down on a table. Even through my admittedly thin case, the magnet holds my phone perfectly still, throughout all of Atlanta's bumpy, windy roads.
Mounting Is Easy, But Wear and Tear Can Be a Problem
For most people, you should only really need to mount your dock once. However, if you're like me, you occasionally need to use a car besides your own. With suction cup mounts that attach to your windshield, removing your dock to mount it again in another car is hardly worth the hassle. The Aukey dock uses four strong pieces of metal, coated in rubber and simply slides onto the slats of an air conditioning vent. It mounts so easily, I've pocketed it when swapping cars. It takes all of two seconds to mount in a new vehicle. When I've needed to change vehicles, it's very handy to have.
That being said, the Aukey doesn't seem designed to handle frequently changing vehicles. I found that after about a month and a half of changing vehicles every other day, the rubber around the metal prongs on the back began to peel off. This doesn't really affect its ability to mount, but it does mean you're scraping strong metal across the plastic of your ventilation slats. This shouldn't be a problem for most people, assuming you mount the Aukey once and leave it there, but if you're concerned about the condition of small pieces of plastic on your dashboard and frequently change vehicles, it's something to keep in mind.
The Aukey dock has one other major flaw. It completely blocks airflow for one of your air vents. Personally, this doesn't bother me. However, it's a common complaint — especially in the Australian summer. For most people though, this is a minor annoyance and the advantages of this dead-simple GPS cradle easily make up for it. I'm sold on magnetic car docks. Of all the options I've tried, this is easily the best.