back to article Ten... in-car gadgets and accessories

Reg Hardware Car Week With so much tech being built into the even the most mundane of motors, writing round-ups of car gadgets isn’t as easy as it used to be. For this list, the brief was even more exacting: only include kit that if you were given one for Christmas it wouldn’t be on eBay come Boxing Day. There’s a lot here …


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  1. Dapprman
    Thumb Up

    Contigo Mugs ...

    Are superb and worth it despite the cost. Was recommended one by a colleague and since then I've done to the same to friends and other colleagues.

    Only thing is it is designed to fit US cup holders so if you want to use it in the car check dimensions first as some Euro manufacturers make their cup holders too small (Citroen/Peugot being one)

  2. Danny 14 Silver badge


    I have an Exomount, bought it on the strength of your first review. Daily use and no issues at all - a great buy.

    Incidentally, does the dual usb adapter use power when the usb's are unplugged? I too would like to leave one plugged in permanently although my cigar socket remains on for an hour after you pull the key out (if there is a device plugged in) so I dont fancy trickle killing the battery everytime I use the car.

    1. Al Taylor

      Re: Exomount

      I've left mine plugged into the 12v socket on my old Merc 240E for 10 days between drives with no ill effects. That said I've never left it plugged while connected to a charging device. Living where I do a half-eaten packet of gum is the most valuable thing I leave in my car when I'm not sitting in it.

    2. Daniel 4

      Re: Exomount

      "Incidentally, does the dual usb adapter use power when the usb's are unplugged? I too would like to leave one plugged in permanently although my cigar socket remains on for an hour after you pull the key out (if there is a device plugged in) so I dont fancy trickle killing the battery everytime I use the car."

      Yes, it does pull power - but in such small quantities that your car battery won't even notice 1 hour of "standby" usage. Even at full draw (hooked up and charging), devices like this usually pull less than an amp from the 12v line, MAX. There are a couple of different ways of making devices like these idle, ranging from techniques that require single digit milliwatts (so long as nothing is plugged in) to the very crude that use a phantom load to provide the minimum draw the switch mode power supply can operate at. However, even the crude phantom load devices will pull relatively tiny loads compared to your car battery capacity.

      If you still have doubts, there is the final test - all energy must go /somewhere/. In electronics, most unused (waste) energy ends up as heat. If your USB adapter is cool to the touch in idle mode, you know that it won't hurt your car for it to just sit there for a little while, plugged in, while the car is off.


      1. Danny 14 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Exomount

        Ta. I was hoping that is was a smarter 12v->5v rather than a pair of 10w resistors set as a divider pulling permanently. I'll chance it.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: Exomount

          Shouldn't be a problem anyway.

          Last vehicle I saw where the fag lighter socket remained live with the ignition switched fully off and the key removed was made in 1977......

  3. Gomez Adams

    Griffin FM transmitter

    Shame this does not work off batteries as well as the aux power socket as when parked up waiting for the next delivery my van turns off the power unless I keep the ignition or sidelights on. I have a cheap far eastern knock off transmitter which keeps the rechargable batteries fully topped up and does the job despite the tacky build quality (the tuning buttons fell off on day 2).

    1. David Lucke

      Re: Griffin FM transmitter

      Don't bother trying one of these in London, got one a few years ago, and found there just wasn't any frequency available to use it in. We gave up and got a stero with a line in, instead.

  4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Where should I start

    Holder - omniholder is much better and quarter of the price. Holds anything, enough degree of freedom to angle a phone to the correct position, never falls off even if you drive off-road and temperature changes by 20C or more.

    Charger - Belkin makes an equally svelte one and the ones Maplin currently resells are not far behind. However the devil there is in the detail - most modern phones eat more than the maximum USB spec 600ma. 1A+ are not uncommon. However these current levels are non-standard as far as most gadgets are concerned so a charger may not necessarily agree with a phone or vice versa. Depending on the level of disagreement you may end up with as low as 50ma current which can barely keep the gadget trickle-charged. So, which gadgets does this charger agree with? IMO it is essential for a review before giving it 90% rating.

    Tablet - quite clear that the reviewer inhabits a country where taxis are early 20th century or even 19th century and that "tradition" is enshrined by a guild-style regulatory permit regime (with exams for drivers where they have to know a 12 million city by heart and not use a SatNav). I was in one of the more obscure corners of Europe this February and 90% of taxi franchises had a tablet bolted somewhere running custom software showing current (from other taxis) congestion and incident reports, doing SatNav routing, showing speed traps and other "revenue collection" by police, showing customer order queue, routing to next order, dispatch information, assistance and "driver in danger" requests. Anything you can think of - you name it (IIRC it could be used movies and other content to kill time while parked and waiting for customers). Couriers, deliveries, etc - all were using similar contraptions. It was quite funny actually - an old banger falling apart with every single yellow warning light lit on the dash and a shiny tablet bang in the middle. I saw more tablets in one week than I see in the UK for a couple of months and all of them were put to practical use. All of that was running on a cheap Android with a 3G card. No iShiny iToys whatsoever. So there is actually a very big market out there for people to bolt on a tablet on their windscreen.

    1. Al Taylor

      Re: Where should I start

      I've owned an Omniholder. Not a bad bit of kit, but I didn't find it as robust or versatile as the Exogear so that's what gets my recommendation price notwithstanding.

      The Griffin charger pumps out 1A through both USB ports. I've used mine to charge an HTC Desire HD, BlackBerry 9860, Samsung Galaxy S 5.0 and Sansa Fuze, all in the last few weeks. Yet to discover a device it won't charge other than tablets like the Motorola Xoom 2 ME but that only charges properly with the 1.6A bundled mains power adapter anyway.

      My apologies for overlooking the needs of German cabbies. As you say, tablets are pretty common in taxis in several countries but a 10in tablet still takes up a lot a space when mounted on a windscreen, space I'd rather see used to keep an eye on the road.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Where should I start

        Not german taxi drivers actually - every country from there onwards all the way to black sea. The further east you go, the more tablets you see.

        What I found more interesting was that most of the software had the hallmarks of being written _LOCALLY_ and to order and just using Google or some other maps back-end. It was not just taxi drivers - it was most people who drive for a living - truckers, couriers, etc. Quite interesting actually - some people putting a slab to real use.

      2. bexley

        Re: Where should I start

        It will charge my galaxy s but if I'm using satnav, the screen and GPS use more power than the charger can supply.

        It lasts about 3 hours from a full charge.

        I use a power monkey extreme on longer drives now.

        1. Fuzz

          Re: Where should I start

          "It will charge my galaxy s but if I'm using satnav, the screen and GPS use more power than the charger can supply."

          That means the charger doesn't have the d+ and d- pins of the USB shorted. Modern phones will only draw minimal power from a USB port unless they know it's a charger. My HTC is the same, I have a similar looking charger for my car capable of supplying 1A. I had to make up a special charging only lead that shorts the pins out. Without this the phone barely charged, and using satnav would cause the phone to slowly discharge. With the new cable charging is the same as from the mains.

          1. trigpoint

            Re: Where should I start

            I have had the same problem too, I would have thought shorting the data pins on a USB charger at the design stage would have been a no-brainer.

          2. Lil Pete
            Thumb Up

            Re: Where should I start

            I have the same charger as the one in the review and was initially disappointed when my HTC Desire seemed to only be charging at 500mA. After a quick google, a pair of scissors and some electrical tape to short the d+ and d- wires together it charges at 1A quite happily. You just have to remember not to use this cable to plug into a computer as apparently it may damage the USB ports by trying to draw too much power through them.

    2. NellyBauer

      Re: Where should I start

      Had an omniholder for a year or so and agree it won't fall off the windscreen. Worked fine when I had an HTC Desire but now i've moved to the heavier Sensation XE it won't hold the phone in the position I place it, instad falling down to an angle where you can't use it as a Sat Nav. The Exomount looks far sturdier & probably worth the extra cash.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Like my car the windscreen is too far away, screen mount are a waste of time. I stick with brodit dash mounts.

    They last forever.

  6. LarsG

    same here

    Brodit, the mounts at at your finger tip with your hands on the wheel.

  7. nigel 15

    Double USB Charger £1 at the most

    12 quid for a double usb car charger?

    You can get the for a pound on any market, ebay or other on line tat bazaar.

  8. miknik
    IT Angle

    A squishy stig?

    You could have filled that gap with something useful, perhaps a bluetooth OBD2 adaptor? £10, free smartphone apps available, plug it into the diagnostic port and read and clear engine fault codes and see live sensor data from your engine.

    Good for the nerd in you if you fancy some digital gauges on your phone and will pay for itself the first time you use it if your engine management light ever comes on.

    1. Paul_Murphy

      Re: A squishy stig?

      Agreed, there is also the speedview HUD (which shows your speed on a HUD!) which is rather useful, no end of cameras for recording the road ahead and/or the cabin on the car. There are also reversing sensor kits for those cars without them.

      I also have a bluetooth OBD plug as well, and an android app called 'torque' just in case.

      It doesn't have to be about satnavs and phones.


    2. stucs201

      Re: A squishy stig?

      Yes, various things you could have picked before the squishy stig. E.g.

      - One of those torches that live in your lighter socket, and so won't be flat in an emergency.

      - A wired iPod/mp3 solution. E.g. something from Connects2.

      - A socket splitter so the other gadgets aren't fighting for the same socket.

      - Does anyone do cable management systems for cars? Also useful with many plug-in gadgets.

      In fact even a headrest mounted coat hook would have been better than a squishy stig.

  9. jake Silver badge

    When driving ...

    ... DRIVE! It's kind of important.

    Seriously. Put away all your toys before driving.

    The life you save may be your own.

  10. FanMan

    The best [mount] I've come across by a country mile is ....

    One and a half inches of Velcro. About 15p. Nuff said.

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: The best [mount] I've come across by a country mile is 1½" of Velcro ....

      But do you mount it on the dashboard with the furry side up or the hooky side up? One way must be better than the other...

      1. SYNTAX__ERROR

        Re: The best [mount] I've come across by a country mile is 1½" of Velcro ....

        I find it better to put the fluffy side on the device as it is less likely to be annoying during other use.

  11. bikerwales

    Exomount sounds good but at bit pricey

    does it include a car at £2,000 :)

  12. David Given

    83 percent of a pint?

    Sigh. There are metric units, there are imperial units, and there are just plain stupid units...

    To help clarify matters, I think what the author actually meant was 0.68 bulgarian airbags.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      How much is the post and packing?

      From the makers, it is $29, plus $49 for international delivery. otherwise one would be heading my way right now :(

      I guess that Amazon supplier would total over £5,000.

      Hello Amazon! How come neither .com nor .uk seem to be selling this good-looking piece of kit!

  13. FanMan


    My old Saab has a tricksy pop out coffee cup holder right in the middle of the dash, where iPhone nestles nicely in it, handy when running Co Pilot Live sat nav.

    As for coffee mugs: if you can'y take time to enjoy your coffee from a china cup in a static location, you are living your life wrong. Sooking tepid machine java out of a plastic tit at 80mph one-armed is ridiculous.

    Plus: if you drink coffee while driving it's going to end up in your lap sooner or later, or forming a smelly, tacky goo amidst your instrumentation. Not worth it. Pull over. Stretch your legs. Partake like a jintleman. Kinell.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kinell...

      I don't think it is /obligatory/ to be driving at 80MPH before doing the coffee drinking!

    2. Daniel 4

      Re: Kinell...

      "As for coffee mugs: if you can'y take time to enjoy your coffee from a china cup in a static location, you are living your life wrong. Sooking tepid machine java out of a plastic tit at 80mph one-armed is ridiculous."

      What right is it of yours to say that this is "living your life wrong?" Some people happen to enjoy driving, especially once they get out away from the city, and at least half of those people liked to sip at their coffee* while doing so. Since /someone/ has to take the jobs which include this type of driving, I'm happy to let them do so - and enjoy their coffee while they get paid to do something they really don't mind doing.

      For that matter, you have a very narrow minded of driving and the road in general. I once knew a motorcyclist who had a cupholder attachment (cute thing, gimbaled like a ship's cooktop). In the city at stop lights, and on the open road away from traffic he'd sip his coffee, just like anyone else. I always thought he was a little nuts, but it added to the pleasure of his ride - so it really wasn't MY business.


      * Oh, btw - I don't use an electric coffee machine to make my coffee, and my travel mug IS ceramic. But I sip my java while driving. Personally, I find your narrow viewpoint ridiculous.

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: Kinell...

        I'm torn here. On the one hand I'm an easy going chap and believe that people should have as much freedom as society can sensibly allow to make decisions about their lives.

        On the other hand, if you enjoy spending time in a tin box sipping tepid coffee then you're an idiot and should probably just donate yourself to the nearest A&E department to patch up somebody who is making proper use of their mortality.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Some Beggar

    Elf an safety gorn mad innit.

    The Highway Code says don't drink while you're driving. Miserable do-gooders with their sensible advice that's been consistently lowering road deaths for the past umpty years. It's no wonder we lost the empire blummin immigrants can't even sing baa baa black sheep harumph etc.

  16. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Stretchy Stig

    "...and the idiocy of some of its drivers..." You mean those who drive with a tablet PC mounted to their windscreen thinking "instrument driving" is the way to go?

  17. Keith Clancy

    TuneLink Auto Bluetooth for iPhone

    Bought this for 59.99 Euro off

    Works great, also shows the song name on the Radio via RDS.

    Plus if you buy the iPhone version it works with Android and any A2DP enabled device, so now the missus can use it with her iPhone, I can use it with my Android Dualsim Alcatel 918-D without problems.

    No wires is the best part, i broke the last one moving the seat and it has a hi power usb power for charging with also works on iPhone and Android.

    Very Pleased :)

    Reception is very clear and the App for Android and iPhone works great.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    How about a bluetooth ELM327

    OBDII code reader! Coupled with an android phone (use torque pro) or symbian (use OBDScope or better OBDAutodoctor) you can have real time data displayed such as fuel pressure, timing advance, fuel economy and TONS of other cool data all relayed real time. Really does add a touch of class and they are about 12 quid on flea bay...

      Thumb Up

      Re: How about a bluetooth ELM327

      Seconded. I got one of these recently and it is the coolest thing I have seen in a while.

      All of my friends, even less geeky ones want one now.

  19. Tom Chiverton 1

    Griffin USb charger doesn't make it sound as good as you did... still, worth a punt I reckon ?

  20. Cupboard

    Battery drain?

    Can you leave those bluetooth OBD transmitters plugged in all the time, or do they still run when the car is off? I know some power is always supplied to diagnostics sockets and I don't really want to find out the hard way!

  21. Carl W

    Garmin 2390

    Got this for £189.99 from Halfords (currently showing out of stock) *plus* Garmin will give you £30 cashback making it a bargain for £159.99

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