Instructables

Universal cellphone spidey-griper / car mount / stand

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I did this random hack about 9 months ago and have been living with it and using it constantly. I got to where I stopped noticing it and just used it. A friend reminded me to post it to instructables.

What is it? It's a thick vinyl strip secured to the cell phone that allows:
  • Single handed, yet secure touch usage
  • Quick car mount by sliding into an unused CD player slot
  • Prevents it from sliding off surfaces like dashboards
  • Makes it easy to fish out of pockets
  • Muffles the vibrating sound when placed on hard surfaces
  • Doubles as a night stand
I experimented with different materials like leather for the flap, but heavy vinyl worked best. It's soft, grippy, holds it's shape and is the right amount of rigid.

The hack is fairly easy. Attach a small strip of thick vinyl to the back of a cell phone cover. There might be multiple ways to do this, but here's my approach.

Warning: You must be able to remove the back panel to do this hack. NEVER expose cellphone batteries to heat. They tend to explode fiery acid. If you cannot remove the back panel from your phone DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS modification.
 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Materials

- Cellphone with a removable back panel

- Vinyl strip somewhere around 2.0 - 2.5mm thickness at least the size of the cell phone.
  My source: TAP Plastics 

- Polycaprolactone (PCL) plastic like InstaMorph, ShapeLock or Amaco's Friendly Plastic which comes in colors
  My source: Amazon  (black "Friendly Plastic")
  Used as "glue" to attach the vinyl to the back of the phone.
 

Tools

- Soldering Iron
  My Source: Radio Shack Digital Soldering Station (variable temperature)

- Heat gun
  My source: amazon, Milwaukee 8988-20 Variable Temperature Heat Gun is awesome
 

Optional

- Duct tape or the superior Gaffer tape (for prototyping before destroying your phone)

- Straight piece of thick wire. Like a snipped hanger (for finding center of cellphone)

- Razor or box knife (for scoring plastic)

Step 2: Prototype it first

Step 1 - Finding placement

With the back on the cellphone, you'll want to find the center of gravity or balancing point for the phone. You want to attach the vinyl slightly ABOVE this mid-line so the bottom is a little heavier. 

You can do this lots of ways. I used a wire hanger I had lying around to find it.

Step 2 - Test with tape first

Test the position by using some duct tape or gaffer tape. This isn't hard to figure out. Fold the tape over so it's not sticky everywhere except where it attaches to the phone. Cut it so it's a reasonable right width/height. Attach to the back of the phone.

The goal of this is to see if you really found the center-of-gravity and marked above it. If the top flips around then you'll know.

The tape comes off easily so be gentile.

Step 3 - Mark & clean

Mark where the mounting point should be on the back of the phone using something. I used a box cutter.

Clean off any sticky tape residue before going on.

Step 3: Hack the phone

Picture of Hack the phone

Step 4 - Cut the vinyl strip

Width: It doesn't have to be too wide. Around half or 3/4th the total width of the phone.
Length: Should be from the marked mount point to just shy of the bottom of the phone. 
Cut: The mount point should be cut at a steep angle. As steep and even as possible.

Bonus: use the heat gun to soften the edges and corners of the vinyl. This is as easy as just holding the vinyl with pliers and blowing heat over edges so they just start to melt. You'll see when it happens. Just stay clear of the tapered edge that attaches to the phone. You want that sharp.

Step 5 - Prep the cellphone back cover

This is where the soldering iron is used. In order for the Polycaprolactone plastic to join vinyl to the phone, it needs to have a good grip point on the cover. Simply scoring the cover isn't enough. I has to be melted a bit.

This cellphone has an antenna or something mounted to the inside of the back cover that I didn't want to damage. So, I used the solder iron to create a deep grove in the back cover, but do not melt all the way through.

WARNING AGAIN: take the back panel off the phone!!! You never want to get that battery hot!

On another phone that didn't have a back-panel antenna, I did melt all the way through and it was fine; however, it seemed to weaken the back panel a little.

The melt line on the back cover should be the same width as the vinyl and depending on your angled vinyl cut that tall.

The center line you marked is the lower bounds of the melt line. Melt and mount above it.

My soldering iron has a temperature control. I set it to 500° F and laid it down flat to draw the grove. If it starts smoking it might be too hot, but if you go quickly and don't press hard, it should be ok.

Step 6 Attach the PCL plastic

This plastic has a softening point of 150° - 170° F.

Gently heat the tapered edge of the vinyl and gently heat the back cover where you melted the plastic with the soldering iron.

150° isn't that hot. Don't overdo it.

Touch the Polycaprolactone plastic to the vinyl and it will stick. You won't need much.

Now press the Polycaprolactone overed vinyl to the back cover and let cool a few minute.

You can always clean up, reattempt or remove the hack by reheating to 150° F.


Step 4: Conclusion

That's it.

Don't put reattach the back cover until it's really cool. Remember:  Batteries + Heat = Exploding acid



Attached are photos from my first hacked phone I've been using for about a year.

Here's it in action:
 
 


Also, if you mess up or want to try a smaller/larger piece of vinyl, then gently heat the PCL plastic to 150° - 170° F. It pulls right off.
You could put it on a case instead
Edetailing1 year ago
It might be to hard on the fingers tryin to hold a small phone and what if it rips off in your pocket?
What about using a small nut and bolt? You could probably recess the nut into the vinyl and a small enough bolt should clear under the cover. This way you could turn it and use it landscape in the car CD player or as a stand on the desk?
trophygeek (author)  TrentBentley1 year ago
Interesting. I could prototype it up and see. However, when I tried flimsier material, their main problem came from rotating too easily. It's hard to understand, but you can test it by simply using duct tape on the back of the phone.

Try it first with a few pieces of tape stacked and then double it repeatedly.

For me, the lack of rotation seemed to make if feel more stable.

However, this is all experimental stuff, so I'd have to test out your idea.
bsoares21 year ago
I Will put this in my iphone case
qzzz1 year ago
Goodjob,easy and useful.it can be better if it can Rotation and lock.(sorry,my English is poor,you know my mean)
To hell with winning.
Go into business.
trophygeek (author)  Ricardo Furioso1 year ago
Heh. Best compliment ever.
dunnos1 year ago
Good one!

I have that soldering Iron branded 'toolcraft'. It's the digital 80w version I bought from conrad and it's amazing :)
rmcmaster1 year ago
You know I don't know why this hasn't been implemented in a phone case yet. I have a silicone case. I think I will try to cut flap into the back. Great idea!
trophygeek (author)  rmcmaster1 year ago
Awesome. Let me know how this works out. I used vinyl for it's extra stiffness.
macrumpton1 year ago
I did nearly the same thing last year, but attached the ring to a case that fit the phone, so I would not ruin the resale value of the iPhone. I also made the ring out of tape, so it could fold flat to fit in in my pocket. It is fun to pretend you are dropping your phone and then just have it hang from your hand.

One big bonus of this invention is that you need less of your hand to hold your phone so your thumb has a greater reach, which can be handy for phablets or even small tablets.
trophygeek (author)  macrumpton1 year ago
Would love to see pictures if you have any you can post.
Pattymouth1 year ago
Oooh, this is awesome. I bought something similar that 'folds' flat, but it doesn't hook in a car vent. Dang. Good job!
trophygeek (author)  Pattymouth1 year ago
Heh. Thanks!

If you look closely, you'll notice it's not the vent, but actually the CD player. If you slide the vinyl right down the center, it won't trigger a CD insert.
Duh doy! That'll teach me to scroll through photos while watching tv. (Well, it probably won't...)
Closer1 year ago
This is a great idea. I have an HTC One V so it does not have a removable back but I do keep a soft case on it. I will order another one to experiment with. I think the idea of cutting the case to make the holder strip is a good possibility.
trophygeek (author)  Closer1 year ago
I experimented with different materials for the flap. Stuff that was too flexible (like leather) didn't work so well.

If you have an option, get something flexible, but rigid.
When I say "case" I actually mean the soft plastic snap on cover. That is why I am thinking this might do the trick. An added benefit would be that the flap would be completly out of the way (vs something attached to the back of the phone) and would not interfere with keeping it in a belt holster.
trophygeek (author)  Closer1 year ago
Oh I understand now. I'm excited to hear about your experiments!
rdefranx1 year ago
nice. I will try this in a cover. Thanks
JJ Johnson1 year ago
This concept on a case would be sweeeet!
probeau991 year ago
very nice love how it has so many uses and is yet so simple
trophygeek (author)  probeau991 year ago
Thanks!

I found another use for it the other night and had a Fandango ticket barcode on my phone's screen.

Their scanner is in a weird position and the ticket guy wants you to scan your own phone. It was easy for me to hold the flap and get the phone in just the right place without the risk of dropping it.
Muniosi1 year ago
Crap, I have a Nexus 4 which doesn't have a removable back. Now I'm considering getting a case for it with a back and attaching it to that. Would it work to get a soft case or will it only work with a hard case?
trophygeek (author)  Muniosi1 year ago
You know what would make a great product? A case with this flap built in!

If you have a soft cover, you could try cutting the flap out of the back directly into the case. I'm not sure how durable the plastic/rubber is at the fold point, but it might work.
trophygeek (author)  Muniosi1 year ago
It might work with a soft case. It all depends on if the PCL plastic will bond to the soft cover when the PCL is heated.

The reason I run a soldering iron across the back of the panel is to create a bonding site for the PCL plastic. I tried scoring the back using a box knife, but it wasn't as secure as melting it.

PCL bonds to vinyl very nicely but smooth plastics can be a bit of a problem. Only way to know is to test it.

If you do try it, please post of follow-up here. I'd love to know if it works.
Very clever. :D Love that it adds hardly any bulk!
trophygeek (author)  jessyratfink1 year ago
Thanks! That's quite a compliment coming from someone with 238 instructables!

It's surprising how quickly I got used to it.
trophygeek (author) 1 year ago
Don't forget to vote if you like this instructable. I added it late in the contest so I'm not likely to win, but placing would be fun.