Finding an in-vehicle phone mounting solution can be a daunting prospect because of the variety of available products and an understandable but often frustrating shift to wireless charging protocols which aren't widely supported. However, it doesn't necessarily need to be either time consuming or difficult. VAVA is a fairly well-known company in the market of creating, among other things, in-vehicle cameras and mounting options and that's not without good reason. We recently had the opportunity to try out one of VAVA's latest options, an E-Touch branded car mount sold under the model number VA-SH008. While there are a number of options available to users in the segment, the E-Touch Car Mount is solidly built, easy to install, uninstall, or reposition, and offers a more traditional charging solution with a twist. Wireless Qi charging isn't supported, but it innovates a bit further than most options available for purchase and rings in at just $29.99 on Amazon.
Its price places it near the middle of the road in terms of costs for these types of devices, making it well worth a deeper look. As might be expected with most electronics in that range, there's not much to be discovered upon first opening the box. A short, well-written user manual is included for helping users get started and understand some of the more useful but uncommon features. Moreover, that also helps with installation for those who haven't used an in-car phone mount before. The manual is three pages each in several languages and includes well-labeled images to maximize understanding. There's a small warranty card, thanking the buyer for their purchase and explaining the 18-month warranty – extendable by 12 months via registration – in brief. A nearly 40-inch USB to micro USB charging cable is provided for charging the mount itself, which is neatly coiled up to prevent tangles. Then there's the mount itself which, unlike far too many similar devices, comes pre-assembled for easy use.
The hardware itself is well-made and feels very sturdy. Aside from TPUs utilized by VAVA where required, the entire device is comprised of hard plastics and metal. That encasement makes this device feel solid, as do the knobs used for repositioning. The more rubbery material is used in both the arms that hold a user's device upright and the pad it rests on – allowing for plenty of device protection without compromising quality. Meanwhile, the extender arm used for positioning also move, articulate, or hinge at no fewer than three points and the whole thing is attached to a vehicle via a durable, reusable sticky suction apparatus. So finding the perfect placement is not difficult, despite that VAVA's E-Touch is a bit on the bulky side. The attachment part of that setup also allows it to be placed on nearly any relatively smooth surface, so mounting options are effectively limitless. Each of the ports included on the E-Touch fit snug, as well, and the onboard sensors – which we'll cover later on – are as responsive as can be expected. The hardware itself is a sleek-looking black color with gray accents on the mechanism for securing the mount and those for securing a smartphone. Folded up, it measures 148mm x 74.9mm x 106.9mm and weight is set at 240 grams.
On the installation side of things, the ease of use is in large part due to the fact that the whole package comes already completely assembled, so there are no extra steps required before getting started. Of course, buyers will want to play around with positioning before getting started but placement is straightforward. After peeling away the protective film on the E-Touch's suction device and ensuring that the selected surface is clean, it's a simple matter of twisting a rubber-coated gray ring while pressing the device down. For reuse, the pad will need to be wiped clean with warm water. From there, it's just a matter of tightening adjustment knobs and ensuring the phone screen is in the desired position. That's made possible thanks to an arm that both extends the total length out to more than 9-inches and which articulates by 210-degrees. Moreover, that's coupled with a 360-degree ball joint at the phone holder itself. Releasing the lock to adjust positions is as easy as twisting the aforementioned gray ring in the other direction.
Not only is installation easy. The VAVA E-Touch can support devices between 54mm and 90mm in width. That means that it can support devices smaller than most budget handsets and wider than Samsung's Galaxy Note 8. For our testing purposes, we used a smaller Ulefone Power 3 and a ruggedized Oukitel WP5000 ruggedized phablet. Both fit just fine in the VAVA E-Touch car mount. Removing or placing a device, on the other hand, is even easier than installation and is made much easier than on similar devices thanks to those sensors located at the back of the mount's phone holder. VAVA went above and beyond here to mechanize the process and a simple touch on those sensors will release the grip of the arms automatically. A second sensor in the holder pad tightens the grips back into a locked position automatically, too.
Interestingly enough, that functionality is thanks to a power bank stored in the head of the mount, which is charged up via the included USB to micro USB cable. Once installed, that simply needs to be plugged into a standard DC 5V charger port adapter – often referred to as a cigarette lighter port – or a USB port for newer vehicles. Failing that, a portable power bank could feasibly be used in a pinch thanks to the reliance on USB, though that would likely be a bit less convenient. Once plugged in and charged up, that can be removed to keep cords in the driving space to a minimum and the mount will actually beep when it needs to be plugged back in for a bit. Charging doesn't take long at all so it's easily accomplished on even short trips and doesn't need to be a hassle, as a result. Used just as a means to power the mount, it also lasts for quite some time. No official stats have been provided for the capacity of that power bank. We left ours plugged in for the duration of our test but it's difficult to imagine it wouldn't last for several days given the size of the car mount.
Finally, the company took the inclusion of that power bank as a jumping off point to offer buyers a way to charge their mobile devices while a handset is mounted. Namely, that's because there's a second USB port so that users can charge whatever device they like via pass-through. Charging output isn't high enough to charge every device to full capacity while in use and won't be fast charging anything at just 5V/0.3A. But that should provide at least enough power to keep maps, music, or a phone call going throughout a given trip. The bottom cradle arm of the mount's head also slides to the left or right so that there won't be any loss of stability and charging ports are completely free from obstruction. However, it is worth pointing out that only one cable is supplied, for charging the mount itself. So buyers will need to supply their own cable for charging their device. Due to the way that works with this device, shorter cables will be better and should probably be factored into the cost.
There are, of course, trade-offs to nearly any purchase like this. In this case, whether or not VAVA's E-Touch phone holder is worth the cost mostly comes down to its bulkiness. Although it's not at all difficult to install in a way that ensures the bulk isn't getting in the way, it is bigger than many others on the market. The advantage there, first and foremost, is that it is easy to secure and remove and exceptionally well built. That solidity and ease of use, coupled with automated cradle arms for simplified smartphone placement and removal, are perks that are simply too good to ignore. Furthermore, it allows for charging a handset via charging cable, which removes some of the few hassles the proliferation of wireless charging solutions is causing for some. With all of that said, this is a mount that should certainly be taken into consideration for anybody in the market for this type of smartphone accessory.