Friday, December 8, 2023

I finally got my family to try out phone grips, and you should to


Come to the dark side — we have PopSockets.

I’ve long been an ardent supporter of phone grips, but my scattered attempts to bring my family into the fold have mostly fallen flat. This Black Friday, the rest of my family bought new phones, and that made this holiday visit the perfect time to try again and see what, if any, phone grip could hold their fancy. I brought home every type of PopSocket and phone grip left in my apartment, and I gathered together my family to try and see if any of them might strike their fancy.

The goal was purely selfish: phone grips make great stocking stuffers. They come in thousands of styles and colors, allow the user to avoid joint pain from holding a smartphone the wrong way — or from holding a phone for extended periods — and allow for a more stable grip while taking photos or using your phone while moving. Of course, all those benefits go to waste if the recipient won’t put the grip on their phone, which is why I sought to see which, if any, grips would catch the eye of my parents and my twin (yes, I’m an evil twin) as they all set up the phones they got during Black Friday.

Let us begin with a grip that fell completely flat for the whole family.

Speck GrabTab


I used the Speck GrabTab back with my Pixel 3a, and while the kickstand feature ultimately fell flat, the grip itself was slim and easy to use. My mother had previously lamented the bump a PopSocket caused on the back of her phone and how it would catch when taking the phone in or out of her pocket, so I’d hoped the GrabTab’s slimmer, wider profile would be more to her liking.

Unfortunately, the GrabTab’s kickstand abilities are lackluster; the groove that the strap clicks into to act as a kickstand is too shallow, so it pops out and falls flat too quickly. While I use a dedicated phone stand, I understand the allure of having a sturdy stand built-in. Unfortunately, they also found it took up too much real estate on the back of the phone, even though it did have a lower profile.

Flat strap

Speck GrabTab


Speck’s GrabTab might need refinements before the kickstand becomes dependable, but as a phone grip, the slide is easy to slip in and out of and flexible enough to use with one or two fingers.

From $3 at Amazon
From $8 at Speck

Smartish Prop Tart

This was the only grip in the bunch I hadn’t tested myself, mostly because I could see it won’t outdo the PopSockets I already use. Like the GrabTab, the entire table quickly vetoed this grip from Austin-based case maker Smartish — known for its wallet cases. The strap here is more sturdy, and the kickstand is more consistent, but it’s too bulky for wireless charging to work with it.

That, combined with the kickstand only working in landscape — and no clue how long that would work, given the strap here looks like it’ll wear out within a matter of months — spelled a quick doom for the Prop Tart with my family. That said, I might give it a review myself sometime this spring to see how long/well it holds up. I dig the color choices for it.

Cute name, big grip

Smartish Prop Tart


This is thicker and larger than many phone grips, but its unique design lets the Prop Tart kickstand hold up better than most strap-based grips. It’s too thick for wireless charging, but so are most of the grips on this list.

$10 at Amazon

Spigen Style Ring 360


I used the Spigen Style Ring 360 (originally launched as the Spigen Style Ring POP) for over a year back around 2018-2019, and it’s still my favorite phone grip outside Swappable PopSockets. My mother showed interest in it for its small size and compact form factor, as it looked like this ring would cause as much of a bump in the pocket and would be less likely to catch on things.

The ring style of phone grips also allows for a greater level of comfort because you put your finger in, and it stays in place so long as you keep your finger from uncurling. It also has two distinct advantages over PopSockets: its kickstand can work in portrait mode (not just landscape), and the magnet inside the grip’s center plate allows it to work with magnetic phone grips without sticking an extra plate inside the case.

On the other hand, though, the Style Ring 360 is metal, magnetic, and thus incompatible with wireless charging. That’s a bummer considering this is the first time my parents have owned phones that support wireless charging. The final complaint is that while the plastic accordion on PopSockets can take years to wear out, the bearings inside a metal ring grip like Spigen’s can wear out in less than a year.

Tried and true

Spigen Style Ring 360


This upgraded, much more compact version of the original Spigen Style Ring is more adaptable and sits flatter on a desk, making it a far better ring grip than 90% of the models on the market today. Combine that with Spigen’s top quality and five fun colorways, and you get a darn good phone grip.

$15 at Amazon

Clckr Phone Grip and Expanding Stand


This phone grip got me through the first several months of the pandemic, where kickstands weren’t just a luxury; they were a necessity. Between video calls, virtual meetings, and hours of playing Disney Sorcerer’s Arena, the Clckr more than proved itself a capable grip in my eyes. It was the only other grip to garner serious attention from my father, the discerning man from who I inherited my insanely picky nature (especially when it comes to anything tech-related).

My father does an ungodly amount of reading on his phone — even when his brand-new laptop or even more brand new ultrawide curved monitor are less than ten yards away at his desk — so the kickstand portion of the Clckr was enticing for obvious reasons. However, its large size and thick profile meant he’d have to pull the case off every night to wireless charge his phone, which was a turn-off, especially when my ace in the hole showed up next.

Clckr is also a grip that works better with smaller, lighter phones, so I’m unsure how steady the portrait kickstand would’ve been with the large, heavy Pixel 6 Pro my father just upgraded to. Nonetheless, I’m going to leave one here for him to try if he ever tires of/breaks what ended up the winner of this phone grip battle royale.

A snappy kickstand

Clckr Phone Grip and Expanding Stand


This kickstand/strap grip combo is excellent for those of us who tend to watch a lot of videos or play lots of mobile strategy games. The strap is nice and long, allowing you to slip 2-4 fingers through it, and the kickstand is wide and stable thanks to the plastic snaps that keep it in place.

From $16 at Amazon
From $7 at Clckr

PopSockets PopGrips and Slide Stretch


I’ve been a Swappable PopGrip user for years now, but it’s hard to gauge just how well you’ll like or dislike one until you stick it on your phone. Well, that would be the case if the PopSockets Slide Stretch didn’t exist. I used one of these with my own Pixel 6 Pro during the review period just so I could hold that big boy securely, and I brought it home hoping that it would allow one or more family members to possibly try out before switching over to a regular PopGrip instead (of which I brought several samples from my collection).

After all, the PopSockets Slide Stretch is much bulkier than a regular PopGrip — but my father seems to like it more than the standard PopGrip.

The PopSockets Slide Stretch can still swap out with regular PopTops in other designs, so there’s still plenty of potential for adding some style (like a Crimson Tide PopGrip) while giving him something extra to hold onto while he reads over his dozen investment group apps and figures out where he’s playing that round of complimentary golf from his other app before it expires. The only issue with the Slide Stretch is remembering not to cover the buttons with the grip’s sides when he puts it on in the morning.

Easy on, easy off

PopSockets Slide Stretch


These supersized PopSockets allow you to skip the gel adhesives and 3M tape, using tension arms to keep the claw-like frame firmly attached to your phone while you pop your PopGrip up and down just like any other PopSocket. This allows you to easily swap your PopGrip between cases or phones without having to buy extra bases or deal with adhesive peeling off on your case.

From $15 at Amazon
$15 at PopSockets

This is the time to try


The best Android phones are getting bigger and heavier than ever, and we’re using them for more and more tasks everyday, from holding our vaccination status to scanning menus at restaurants and finding new webcomics to read with all the shows going dark again. Phone grips can help you avoid smartphone pinky, texting thumb, and other phone-related RSIs (repetitive stress injuries), and they do this while bringing style and stability to the way you hold your phone. And if you’re having trouble figuring out what they might like, consider buying one of a few different styles and seeing which ones everyone likes.

After all, you never know what someone might like.

Read more

More News