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Hands on review: Strike Alpha Phone Cradle Kit

15 May 2015

Smartphones and driving are not an ideal combination. Fishing around in one's jacket (or handbag) to locate a ringing phone when driving down a motorway could end very badly indeed.

Having a phone safely within reach can also be incredibly handy, not to mention a whole lot safer for you, your passengers and others on the road. Enter stage left the Strike Alpha phone cradle kit. Apps such as Google Maps or Google Now are also dead handy when driving in unfamiliar places.

While there’s plenty of car cradle options available, few have the features of the Strike Alpha.

I’d previously reviewed the Strike Alpha cradle for the iPhone a while back and came away impressed by its solid build and simple yet common sense design.

When I was asked if I wanted to test out the strike cradle kits for the Samsung Galaxy, I jumped at the chance.

Unlike a lot of other smartphone cradles, the Strike Alpha Cradles have a built-in passive antenna, which is dead handy if you’re in areas with marginal mobile coverage. Also bundled is a connector for an external antenna which can further improve reception. Add to this voltage spike protection which handily ensures that the smartphone that you’ve shelled out the GDP of a small developing nation to buy doesn’t get fried. In short there’s plenty to like.

The cradle comes in two different versions. I tested the DIY version (which mounts on your car’s windscreen/Dash and charges using your cars cigarette lighter). There’s also a version aimed at professional installers that is designed to integrate with your cars dash and can be wired in for more discrete and tidy charging.

Getting the cradle installed was surprisingly easy – it was simply a matter of sticking the Strike Alpha cradle to the cars windscreen and plugging in the lighter adaptor. The mounting bracket is both solid and well thought out and solid, being equally easy to mount on the dash, the windscreen visor or even next to the visors.

The cradle itself feels pretty solid and works by sliding your phone in from the top down to the Lightning adapter on base of the cradle. The inside of the cradle is covered with a rubberised material which adds friction to make for a snug fit. It’s also soft enough to ensure that your phone won’t get scuffed or dinged when inserted in the cradle.

While your phone is definitely going to stay put when in the Strike Alpha Cradle, getting it out required some effort. It was a small irritation but definitely preferable to having your $1,000+ phone doing impromptu ejection tests while driving.

Verdict

Having your phone within reach while also allowing you to keep an eye on the road is dead handy. Dictating messages by just saying ok google and using Google Maps is hard to beat (another gem is Google field trips). I’d have preferred a version of the cradle that could integrate into an auxiliary input on my car stereo for speakerphone calls, but having solid reception in normally marginal areas and a fully charged phone is something you quickly learn to appreciate.

The home mounted cradle kit was a doddle for a complete novice like me to install, neat freaks who want a tidy car interior will probably go for the professionally mounted version, coughing up the extra dough to get it professionally installed.

While the Strike Alpha Cradle commands a $165 price premium and cheaper cradles are available, you do get plenty for your money, even if it isn’t immediately obvious.

While the voltage protection feature may sound unexciting, there’s nothing worse than having the electronics in your brand new high-end smartphone fried when start the car. Wellington’s hilly environment also has quite a few mobile coverage black-spots, but there seemed to be far less thanks to the additional antenna.

If you do a lot of driving and spend a lot of time on your phone, The Strike Alpha cradle may be just what you (and your passengers plus others on the road) need.

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