First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Annex's Quad Lock is an outstanding iPhone case/mount system
- — 07 May, 2013 19:01
Thanks to an ever-growing, and increasingly diverse, array of apps for using your iPhone on the go--think GPS apps, cycling apps, and travel apps--one of the biggest questions iPhone owners have is, "How do I mount my iPhone [in my car/on my bike/wherever]?" The answer has generally been to buy a bike mount, and a car mount, and maybe even a separate dock or stand for your desk. Annex aims to fill all these needs with a single mounting system, and in my testing, it fits the bill.
The system starts with the company's unique case: the $30 Quad Lock Case for iPhone 5 or the $25 Quad Lock Case for iPhone 4/4S. (I list individual component prices in this review, but Annex offers various packages that include multiple components at a discount. For example, the $70 Bike Mount Kit for iPhone 5 includes the aforementioned iPhone 5 case, the $30 Bike Mount Pro, and the $25 iPhone 5 poncho, discussed below.)
Though the two versions of the case differ slightly, they're very similar, and each is a very good shell-style case. Made of semi-rigid polycarbonate, the case is easy to put on and take off, and shock-absorbing enough to protect the iPhone from drops, but thin enough that it doesn't add a huge amount of bulk to your phone. The surface is tacky enough for a good grip, but not so much that the case is tough to slide out of your pocket. Around the edges, the case extends a good way past the front of the screen--more than with most shell cases--to help protect the screen if your phone ends up face-down.
But it's the back of the case that makes it special. In the middle is a slightly raised section that hosts a recessed mount point--the Quad Lock Mounting System. This mount point looks like a circle with four notches spaced evenly around the perimeter. When attaching your phone to one of the Quad Lock mounts, you line up the mount's four "teeth" with these notches, and then you rotate the encased phone 45 degrees to lock it in place. The design of the mounting system lets you attach your iPhone to a mount in any of four orientations.
The Quad Lock system works very well--it's secure, but it's easy to get your iPhone onto and off of the various mounts--yet it adds surprisingly little bulk to the case. Over most of its body, the Quad Lock Case is thinner than many hardshell-style cases I've tested, and the area around the mount point is only 1mm to 2mm thicker than the rest of the case. In fact, while handling the case every day, I noticed the recessed center of the mount point more than the raised area around it, if that makes sense.
As an aside, although I really like both versions of the Quad Lock Case, I prefer the iPhone 4/4S model. Both include the appropriate openings for the iPhone's camera and Ring/Silent switch, but on the iPhone 5 version of the case, the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons are covered with push-through overlays, and the bottom edge of the phone is mostly covered--there are just three small openings for the Lightning-connector port, speaker, microphone, and headphone jack. This design makes the iPhone 5 version a bit more protective, but the button overlays are a little stiff, and the headphone-jack and Lightning-connector openings are on the small side--some plugs won't fit, and a couple Lightning-connector docks I tried didn't work with an encased iPhone 5. The iPhone 4/4S version leaves all buttons and switches exposed, as well as most of the top and bottom edges, making the controls easier to access and the case compatible with more accessories. That said, these criticisms are relative: The iPhone 5 version is still a very good case.
Once you've got the case, you can attach it to any of Quad Lock's three mounts. The most basic is the Adhesive Mount ($20 for two), which attaches to any smooth surface--the dash of your car, a wall, the front of your iMac (really!)--using secure 3M adhesive or a mounting screw. The second is the $20 Tripod Adapter, which attaches to the back of the Quad Lock case and provides a standard threaded tripod mount for taking photos and recording video. Though there are other tripod-mount cases on the market, the Quad Lock approach is appealing because of how quickly you can attach and remove the mount to a case you've already got on your phone.
But the most impressive mount is the $30 Bike Mount Pro. The bottom of this mount is lined with rubber and curved to fit most stems or handlebars from 25mm to 44mm. You place the mount on your bike's stem or handlebar, and then you secure it using the included zip ties or O-rings. If you plan to keep the mount on one bike permanently, the zip ties are a bit more secure, but the O-rings, which wrap around your stem or handlebar and attach to "ears" on the mount, make it easy to remove the Bike Mount (or swap it between bikes) while still being quite secure.
The Bike Mount's mounting mechanism is also a bit more robust than with the other mounts, as it includes a spring-loaded lock. When you place the case on the Bike Mount, you press the case firmly while turning it to depress the locking mechanism--you'll hear the lock click into place when the case is secure. To remove the case from the mount, you must pull the blue locking mechanism down and away from the case and then rotate the case. The lock is very easy to use, but it's exceptionally secure--the mount itself is likely to break before your iPhone would accidentally detach from the mount.
If you're thinking of getting the Bike Mount, I highly recommend buying a Bike Mount Kit, which also includes the $25 Poncho for iPhone 5 or the $20 Poncho for iPhone 4/4S. Made of water-resistant, flexible TPU, the Poncho slips over your Quad Lock Case-encased iPhone to protect it from the elements during rides or other activities, while still letting you use the iPhone's screen. My only beef is that the iPhone 5 Poncho makes the iPhone 5 case's stiff button overlays even stiffer.
The company offers a number of other packages that include various combinations of these components, and a $50 Car Mount is also on the way. If you like the Quad Lock system but already have a favorite hardshell case, Annex also offers a $15 Universal Adapter that attaches, using adhesive, to the back of any smooth, hard phone case to make that case compatible with any of the company's mounts.
If you're looking for a good iPhone case and a way to mount your iPhone, the Quad Lock system is easy to recommend. The cases are excellent, providing very good protection and a mount attachment without adding much bulk. The company offers a nice variety of mounts that let you stick your iPhone on your bike, on your tripod, on your car's dash, and more. And those mounts are secure--the Bike Mount, impressively so--and, just as appealing, quick and easy to attach and detach. I thought I'd use the Quad Lock only for bike rides, but over the past few months, it's ended up being my daily case, and I've got mounts on my bike, in my car, and even at my desk.