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ADV ProductsSW-Motech Ruggedized iPhone 5 Motorcycle Mount Review

SW-Motech Ruggedized iPhone 5 Motorcycle Mount Review

A safe and easy way to use your iPhone 5 as a GPS navigation device.

Published on 03.20.2015

If you are the minimalist packing type, one way you can consolidate devices on your trips is to ditch your dedicated GPS unit and start using your Smartphone for GPS navigation. You may be thinking “I can’t use GPS navigation on my Smartphone when I’m out of cell range.” Actually, the GPS chip in your phone can locate your position even without cell service and there are several apps available that allow you to download maps for later offline use, just like a Garmin.

Protecting your expensive Smartphone from the harsh environment of adventure riding is the biggest hurdle. You need a hardcase that can protect your iPhone from rain, mud and dirt, along with the hard impacts and vibrations experienced off-road.

Over the last eight months we’ve been testing the SW-MOTECH iPhone 5 Motorcycle Mount (hardcase and RAM mounting system) in some of the toughest conditions. We’ve logged many hours in the saddle through torrential rain storms and banged through dusty desert trails at high speeds. We’ve even had a fall or two along the way.


How it Works

universal motorcycle handlebar mount iphone 5

SW-MOTECH’s universal handlebar mount offers an easy way to attach the iPhone case to nearly any motorcycle.

The SW-MOTECH iPhone 5 hardcase and mounting system allows you to mount an iPhone 5 or 5s safely and securely to your motorcycle. The hardcase is attached to the motorcycle using a standard 1″ RAM ball mount and extension arm. You can attach your iPhone 5 to your motorcycle’s handlebars or, after drilling a few holes, use the Diamond Plate Base attachment to mount it on a flat surface. There are a number of other base mounting options available to fit your needs using the standard 1″ RAM ball.

Once mounted on the motorcycle, the iPhone 5 slides into the hardcase using two secure latches on the sides. The case can be rotated 360°, allowing you to interact with your iPhone 5 in portrait or landscape mode. The transparent plastic touch screen cover is durable, scratch resistant and very responsive to touch. Although, to use it with gloves you will need touch screen compatible gloves or a product that can make your gloves touch screen sensitive.

iPhone 5 motorcycle case plug ports

Two cable ports at the bottom of the case can be sealed off in harsh conditions.

Two ports at the bottom of the case allow you to charge the iPhone or listen to music while you ride. If the conditions get really nasty, say a water crossing or major storm, you can unplug the cables and close up the ports with the attached rubber caps. There are also sealing plugs that create a tight seal around your cables without the need to detach cables from the case.

A quick release system allows you to remove the hardcase from the mount and use it just like a ruggedized iPhone case off the bike. A window for the camera lens allows you to capture quick action photos without taking the phone out of the case.

sw motech iphone 5 case quick release
The release mechanism on the SW-MOTECH case allows you to quickly detach the iPhone and capture action photos.

How it Performs

After using the iPhone 5 motorcycle mount for eight months we’ve come to rely on it and appreciate how well it works. The iPhone 5 provides a large high-resolution screen to navigate by and it’s also very light, making it less likely to move out of position on tougher terrain. The abuse of big jolts and vibration never caused us any problems with the iPhone.

Using the touchscreen in dirty conditions does require a bit more attention than with a dedicated GPS unit that uses button controls. We always bring a microfiber towel when we ride off-road and occasionally wipe down the screen when it gets particularly dirty or muddy. But the SW-MOTECH touch screen has proven to be more durable than we ever expected. After months of abuse the screen has accumulated only one tiny scratch.

iPhone 5 rugged case protects against dust
We were impressed with how well the SW-MOTECH iPhone 5 rugged case worked even in harsh dusty conditions like the LA-Barstow to Vegas ride.

We’ve heard people complain about the difficulty of seeing their Smartphone screen in direct sunlight compared to a dedicated GPS. We found that turning the iPhone screen brightness to the max helps with this problem and makes it at least as visible as a dedicated GPS device. GPS accuracy was never a problem either. The GPS chips in modern Smartphones like the iPhone 5 are very precise and offer similar performance to dedicated GPS units we’ve used in the past. When leaving the bike unattended, you can use the quick release on the case or remove the entire iPhone 5 motorcycle mount by unscrewing the RAM Ball extension arm.

Taking the Plunge

For those that are considering buying their first dedicated GPS unit, you can save a lot of money by using your existing Smartphone instead. You may even find that learning to use a GPS on your iPhone is more intuitive than learning a new interface on a dedicated GPS.

If you already own a dedicated GPS, it can be a bit more difficult to switch. Learning new ways of doing things you already know how to do is always a challenge. But if it’s time to upgrade your current dedicated GPS device anyway, the cost savings and advantages of consolidating devices make it a promising option.

Parts List

If you already have a RAM 1″ ball base mount and extension arm from your existing GPS you’ll only need these two parts:

If you don’t already have a RAM 1″ ball base mount and extension arm, you’ll also need these parts to attach the case to the motorcycle:

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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