This is Part 3 of our "Using a Tablet as a Motorcycle GPS" series.
It could be called "Using a Phablet as a GPS", because the iPhone 6+ is about as close as you can get to being a tablet without actually being one!
The focus of this review is the new Interphone Pro Case for the iPhone 6 and 6+.
It includes a mount and an easy-to-use waterproof case (IPX4) and it also has a rubber input plug that accepts an iPhone cable for on-board charging.
The iPhone 6+ is big enough to use as a motorcycle GPS and pairs with Bluetooth intercoms for spoken directions using Google Maps, Waze or other GPS apps.
But there are still plenty of iPhone 4 variants being used, so we'll do a follow-up with information on mounts and cases for the old workhorse too.
Even though Android dominates the smartphone market worldwide, the Android market is so fragmented with phones from cheap to expensive, made by dozens of phone manufacturers. Thus, no single smartphone currently has the dominance enjoyed by the Apple iPhone.
Interphone -- the makers of one of our favorite intercoms, the Interphone F45MC (review) -- promised to send a couple of the new Pro Case for the iPhone 6 and they recently delivered.
Only problem? None of the local reviewers owns an iPhone!
A friend volunteered his iPhone 6+ and we played with it for a few minutes in the garage, but that's it. Let's take a look...
I'm an Android guy (Samsung) and Rick switched from Android to a Windows phone believe it or not (Lumia 640) that he really likes, although he still keeps a couple of Android phones (HTC One M7, Motorola Moto E) and a tablet (Asus MeMo Pad 8) on hand for Bluetooth intercom experiments.
The iPhone 6+ is, well, huge is the only word to describe it. I can't imagine carrying it in a pocket, but many people do. Even the iPhone 6 seems big, but manageable.
5.2" (about 13 cm) diagonal is about the perfect size for a smartphone in my opinion, although this depends on the actual amount of usable screen. For example, the Lumia 640 is 5.7" diagonal but 33% of that is black space; the usable screen is just 4.875" diagonal.
Interphone has been making iPhone cases for some time, but the new Interphone Pro Case for the iPhone 6 series has just become available.
The Pro Case for the 6+ measures 110 cm across at its widest point by 204 mm tall (including the hinge) and it's nearly 20 mm thick, while the Pro Case for the iPhone 6 measures 97 mm wide by 183 mm tall by about 19 mm thick.
This means that neither of these cases are designed for pockets...but what motorcycle smartphone case really is?
The Interphone Pro Case is also available for the Galaxy Note 3-4; Galaxy S3-5 and S5 Edge; iPad and Mini; iPhone 4-6+ and other phones, tablets, MP3 players and other devices with screens sizes from 3.5" to 7.0".
The Interphone Pro Case kit comes with the case; a rubber liner that fits inside the case and holds and protects the iPhone; a handlebar mount; a safety strap and two rubber inserts.
One of the inserts can be used to hold the charging cable and the other is a plug to use if you don't have the charging cable attached.
Both are designed to maintain the waterproof integrity of the case.
A small locking ring is also included; it fits over the charging cable and then over the end of the rubber plug. It has a plastic hook attached to fit over the rubber loop that hangs from the charging plug (on the far right in the photo above).
Don't forget, you won't be able to fit an iPhone that has an accessory case attached. The Pro Case -- like many other motorcycle smartphone cases -- is designed to hold the phone only without any other protective case attached.
The handlebar mount that comes with the kit is made from some type of reinforced plastic and it feels pretty robust.
It has two vinyl/rubber inserts to account for different handlebar widths; Interphone says it will fit from a 12 mm to 30 mm diameter handlebar. That's less than 1/2" (0.47") to over an inch (1.1") in the antique measuring system, so it should fit bicycle handlebars up to fat bars on a Harley.
There are two Phillips head screws on the upper part of the mount half to tighten the mount on the handlebar. We wondered why they didn't use a socket head cap screw but maybe they're concerned that owners would use too much torque.
The mount was easy to install on Rick's Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS (Blog) with its stock diameter handlebar. Remove the two screws, place the bottom half of the mount under the handlebar and the top half on top, then tighten the screws evenly.
On the V-Strom, the mount and the Pro Case work very nicely and the case can be oriented for very good visibility by the rider.
The case fits very nicely indeed, right in the center of the handlebar, between the two SW-Motech Bar Backs and Bar Risers (review).
The Pro Case has a three-socket adapter on the back that slots into the adapter on the handlebar mount. It holds the case solidly enough and the ball mount allows adjustment in all planes.
For some motorcycles without "normal" handlebars -- like the Suzuki GW250 (Review | Blog) or the BMW C 650 GT scooter (Review | Blog | Google+ Community) and others, Interphone makes a Pro Case for Scooters.
It may be possible to use some type of hybrid RAM mount setup on those also, although the ball and socket on the Interphone Pro Case mount is "reversed"; that is, the ball is on the part that attaches to the back of the iPhone case, while the socket attaches to the handlebar.
All of the RAM mounts I've seen have the ball on the handlebar and the socket part attaches to the GPS or other device.
I'm not very familiar with RAM mounts -- does anyone know if there's a "reverse" system?
We had only a limited amount of time with the borrowed iPhone 6+, so we could only play with the Pro Case mount and the iPhone in the garage.
Push the two sliding locks up and the Pro Case opens. The iPhone 6+ easily and perfectly fits the rubber holder, then close the lid with its clear touch-sensitive cover, slide the locks closed and you're ready to go.
You can fit either the rubber plug "dummy" at the lower part or use the other rubber plug if you want to keep your iPhone charged. We know nothing about Apple cables and chargers, so we're assuming there's some type of USB charging port for the Apple cable?
The iPhone has to be "on" before you close it in the Pro Case. Then you can press the button at the bottom to turn on the screen.
The clear touch-sensitive cover on the Pro Case works perfectly. It's very clear and you'd never know it's there -- just like one of those useless stick-on screen savers that some smartphone owners feel the need to buy.
Connect to your Bluetooth intercom, start your Google Maps or Waze and you're ready to go. Or, listen to music or (not) take a phone call.
It's easy and at least on the V-Strom, the Pro Case and the iPhone really are perfectly situated for rider viewing.
The only issue is the iPhone's on/off button at the bottom. It takes a good, solid push to get it to work once the iPhone is in the Pro Case.
[UPDATE: Interphone said that they discovered the button pushing problem on the Pro Case and they have added two small round adhesives, in EVA material, with the same shape and dimensions of the iPhone home button.
These can be attached to the internal side of the transparent cover, located over the iPhone Home button to solve the problem. This is a recent production change.]
Don't forget, motorcycle gloves can be a big problem when it comes to touch-sensitive smartphone screens of any type.
You'll probably have to buy a pair of motorcycle gloves with special touch-sensitive fingertips, unless you plan on firing up the iPhone, connecting it with Bluetooth, starting a music stream and then never touching it again. Regular gloves just don't work otherwise.
The Nanotips (review) touch-sensitive liquid coating for motorcycle gloves is a solution, but it's not perfect, as you'd have to cover a couple of fingertips completely to do any panning and zooming on the iPhone. It does work for simple touch-and-swipe maneuvers, however.
By the way -- and just for kicks -- we tried fitting Rick's Lumia 640 into the rubber holder and then into the iPhone 6+ Pro Case.
What do you know? The Lumia 640 fits the Pro Case 6+. It's a perfect fit for width in the rubber holder but the rubber has more height than needed.
That doesn't matter, because the rubber grips the Lumia nicely and the phone works perfectly inside the case when the cover is closed.
You won't be able to access the side buttons on the Lumia 640 however; although you can't access any of the side buttons on the iPhone for that matter.
The latest version of Windows Mobile (8.1 version 2) has a screen saver with notifications. On the Lumia, you'd have to press a button on the right to start using the phone.
But here's the trick: the screen timeout can be set to "Never" in Windows 8.1+ Mobile, so the Lumia 640 stays on and it works just fine inside the Pro Case.
It would be an easy fix for Interphone to make a rubber holder for the Lumia (and other phones) to fit the Pro Case 6+. Note that the Lumia 640 does not fit the smaller Pro Case for iPhone 6, just the Pro Case 6+. It's possible that other phones will fit, but we don't know for sure.
The Lumia 640 is fairly thin at 8.2 mm, which is only about 1 mm thicker than the iPhone 6+. Anything thicker may not fit in the Pro Case.
In fact, since the borrowed iPhone 6+ was only here for a brief time, Rick has been using the Pro Case with his Lumia 640 over the last couple of weeks and reports no problems.
We also gave it a "splash test" and the closed Pro Case is perfectly waterproof. We'd like to hear from owners who have used a Pro Case on long-distance wet rides for more input on that issue.
The new Interphone Pro Case for the iPhone 6 and 6+ is a nice addition to the ever-expanding Interphone smartphone/tablet/GPS/device lineup.
It's easy to install, it holds the iPhone perfectly and the touch-sensitive screen works fine.
Although we did not have the chance to "go the distance" with the iPhone in the Pro Case, it's been working just fine with its unexpected Lumia 640 passenger.
From "K.E." (November 2015): " The time for the phablet phone/GPS solution is here now, we just need the case technology and I am surprised nobody has solved this problem yet and that is the power cable.
I wouldnít attempt mounting my power hungry phone on my bike without dedicated power.
It's also unreasonable to expect that a USB type connection will work reliably for even a short ride. The interphone case is so close -- the only modification I would like to see with this case is the addition of a docking station in the case that secures the phone to its USB connection so that here is no movement between the two.
From here there should be a power cable that is permanently fixed to the case. Presto.
Do you think it would be possible to bond a USB cable to this case so that it works more like a dock? I was trying to get an email address from the Interphone site but there is only a mailing address to Italy."
Editor's Reply: I donít know how much power phones use when actively mapping. But the rubber USB port in the Interphone Pro Case works very well though and Iím not sure how much better a USB dock would work.
The rubber connector on the Pro Case holds the USB connector firmly in place, so I don't think it's at all unreasonable to use.
I bet it would add a lot of cost and complexity to the design to add a docking stationÖand youíd still have to connect a USB cable to it anyway to get power.
If they added a dedicated fused power source to power the phone, that would surely drive the price way beyond what most consumers would pay.
So in the end, the USB connector solution they have works just fine. It holds the connector firmly to the phone, Iím honestly not sure what more a docking station would do.
From "Y." (September 2015): "I ended up with really good nav solution for a bike: Lifeproof + Nanotips + RAM Mount + Bluetooth headset (Scala).
RAM Mount is the best mounting system for every electronic device, hands down (imho). Indestructible, reliable, certainly worth its money.
X-grip is g-r-e-a-t, and you can attach it basically everywhere on your bike (see RAMís catalog, though itís rather hard to navigate).
I have several friends who use RAM on their bicycles, motorbikes and cars -- they are 100% satisfied, period.
Nanotips work nice, though I had to devise a way to apply their solution reliably. Really useful.
I somewhat recommend Lifeproof cases for the iPhone instead of ugly-designed Chinese solutions. Itís better than anything else though it has some issues. Plus itís waterproof.
As A. B. wrote, the phone can reside in the Lifeproof permanently: speakers, buttons, mics, cameras, even Touch ID work nicely.
Lifeproof is one of the most low profile waterproof cases, so you can fit one in your pocket without suffering. X-grip holds it really tight.
Minus: Lifeproof for iPhone 6 had some issues with QA. Some cases donít shut tight enough and allow water in if abused (hard shower or submersion).
Maybe Otterbox/Lifeproof fixed that, maybe not, canít confirm from my country.
Of course you canít charge the phone in a shower.
If you need more protection, use Fre. If your gloves are clean enough (so they wonít scratch the screen) and you prefer more sensitive display, go for Nuud."
From "M.M." (August 2015): "I just use the Ram X-Grip. Once I over came my phobia that it wouldn't work, brought on by some nasty reviews. It works great and I've used many different types of waterproof cases.
It'll hold the iPhone inside the case. I use the Otterbox waterproof case. Easy to remove when you park, just spread the posts and remove the phone in the case."
From "B.R." (August 2015): "RAM produces a bunch of arm parts to couple the "ball joints" the way this product fits."
From "A.B." (August 2015): "I have previously gone down a similar road with my Samsung S4 and my current iPhone 5S using Seidio and LifeProof (respectively) waterproof/drop-proof phone cases and belt clips via some RAM-Mount bits to attach to my K1300GT.
Basically, I stripped the belt clip portion of the phone holder and bolted a RAM ball mount to both the phone holder and the factory (plastic) mounting bracket (for the Navigator III Plus I replaced).
Iíd call it an 85% solution (costing less than $100) to replace a $600-$1,000 moto-GPS.
It allows me to keep my phone protected in daily use (LifeProof case) but quickly attach it to the bike for use (nav via Sygic or Google Maps).
Per the article, it avoids the challenges of a moto-only case (phone reside permanently in the LifeProof/Seidio cases) while connecting quickly to the bike.
I power both via a USB plug/12-volt connection in my tank bag."