Review Commuting with iPhone in Aqua Box (Long)
caveat: I am not associated with RAM Mount. I just like their iPhone related mounts.
Aqua Box RAM Mount Medium sized model for the iPhone. There are several sizes.
I ride a low end Hybrid bike for my daily 22 miles of commuting and weekend rides. I ride with a straightbar handlebar just to let you know how my bike is setup.
The Aqua Box itself is very sturdy and well built if a little heavy looking in appearances. If you are a weight conscious rider this might be a concern but for someone like me this is not a problem on my commute or casual weekend riding that I do. I’d rather know where I am going or track my ride than worry about grams. The Aqua Box was built to accommodate many different sized cell phone/GPS/PDA devices. Your mileage may vary.
The Aqua Box is easily removed from the bike mount. The mounting mechanism is spring loaded and will not pop off the bike. The mount system is very secure. I have never had it release unexpectedly while riding. It takes a push and a turn to release the mount.
The mount also permits vertical/horizontal (portrait/landscape) configuration while attached to the handlebars. Some applications on the iPhone will switch between these modes for wide screen viewing. Though most of the bike specific applications are not setup for this yet and only display ‘vertically’ in portrait mode.
I like the Aqua Box closure as it securely snaps shut on the side and looks like it will hold even if the box is dropped. It also has a security lock hole on the closure if you wish to lock it. Very ruggedly built. The box itself is big enough to hold my iPhone and Kensington battery backup but the 3 ft USB cable connecting the two was too bulky to coil up inside and attach the to the hardware. I am on the lookout for a really short USB cable. More on cable issues below in modifications.
The RAM Mount attachment to the bike uses one of the RAM Mount diamond mounts. The diamond mount was good for my previous RAM mount for my iPhone. Which worked very well but the old iPhone specific RAM Mount will not fit an iPhone with a case. Hence the new Aqua Box mount. I put a case on the iPhone after I dropped it on the floor at work and damaged it.
The Aqua Box comes with several rubber pads of different thicknesses to fit your phone inside the box. The rubberized surface looks like Neoprene and keeps phone from sliding around inside the box as well as cushions it from vibration. The pads have an adhesive backing to secure them in place. I used two of these to hold my iPhone.
Modifications to accommodate battery backup or earphone plugs:
The Aqua Box has a knock out hole in the center back of the box. However looking at the Diamond Mount setup USB cables and plugs may not fit through the hole in the back with the mount attached at least not on the diamond mount that I have. There might be other attachments available for it to fit this need.
I used a Dremel tool to create a slot for the USB cable on the rear edge of the faceplate. Fits nicely and is snug against the cables to prevent water from getting inside the box. I commute rain or shine so need to be careful about this.
Handlebar mount issue:
The handlebar mount scheme was modified to include rubber tubing to enhance the grip of the zip ties holding the mounting plate to the handlebar. The mounting plate comes with a piece of shaped rubber to secure the base to the handlebar but the zip ties will slip on the smooth handlebar surface when going over bumps on the road. Adding the extra rubber tubing between the zip ties on the other side of the handlebar from the base worked well. Now the Aqua Box does not shift positions when hitting bumps or even RR tracks on the ride.
On my son’s bike I have the bracket attached to the Stem and have had no problem with slippage on long rides no matter what I bumped into with the bike. The stem has a different shape and is more snuggly attached than on my handlebar.
I tried to attach the mount to my own bikes Stem but it has too narrow a shaped surface on the top of the stem tube to hold it securely. So am stuck with the handlebar position. I may play around with this a bit and see if I can jury rig this on the stem.
On the straightbar handlebar due to it’s shape not being entirely straight end to end the mount is ever so slightly turned and the Aqua Box and my previous mount as well are tilted just a little ‘inward’ as well as just off center on the handlebar. I can still easily read the display but it’s out of kilter just a little. I prefer the way this works on my sons bike stem. Square on and in the middle is preferred.
Flex Lens issue:
The Flex Lens (protective cover through which iPhone is visible) does not permit use of the iPhone touchscreen. Manufacturer clearly indicated this up front in all advertising that the system does not work with iPhones. I thought this would not be a big problem as usually I just turn on the iPhone and let it run until I stop my ride and stop data collection.
Now with first hand experience this really does not work well not to be able to interact with the touchscreen at all during a ride. Some applications blank the screen to conserve battery power. However if I want to check my speed/cadence, distance, time or whatever, I have to stop riding, pull over, unlatch the box and open it up. Not conducive to smooth riding.
You can’t use the Aqua Box without the Flex Lens cover holding the iPhone inside the box. It will fall out. Without the Flex Lens the integrity of the waterproof system is not intact. So this is an issue.
I did send a recommendation to RAM Mount about their Flex Lens and how it could be modified to accommodate touchscreen phones/pda’s etc. I am still waiting for reply.
I ride very early in morning and in the afternoon. That is very dark and very bright light situations. My helmet light will dazzle me if I look down directly at the Aqua Box. I have learned not to do that. During the low light ride the Flex Lens cover allows the iPhone to shine through with out a problem. While I ride in the afternoon I have the reverse issues. Glare from the sky interferes with the display unless I adjust the Aqua Box a bit out of the plane and then visibility is ok. I would however still like to get a cover that has fewer issues with glare and also permit use of the touchscreen.
Heat dissipation issue:
The iPhone plus the protective case I have installed on the iPhone fits nicely inside the Aqua Box compartment. I had to use 2 of the pads inside to raise the iPhone up a little inside the box. This setup is ok. There seems to be a problem however with the iPhone and the rubber material in that the pad does not dissipate heat well (think neoprene divers suit). The iPhone does get very hot while running full time in GPS mode inside the box while I am riding the bike. My rides are typically an hour or more in length on my commutes.
I would like to see the pads modified so as to permit air circulation around the iPhone to dissipate the heat. I may be punching some holes / channels into the foam layer for this purpose.
The Aqua Box would be an ideal mount for the iPhone encased in a protective case if I could get the Flex Lens modified and heat dissipation issue resolved.
Thanks for the review, I've been on the lookout for a good iPhone mount, but haven't seen any that look ideal. For now, I'm using a small dry bag that allows me to use the touch screen and I can pass the headphone cable through the roll-down seal.