Have an extra $20 in Christmas cash you're unsure how to spend? Love using your smartphone while you're out photographing for behind the scenes shots, or just snapshots of your adventures that you don't want to edit later? Afraid you'll drop your $1,000 phone and crack the screen? Enter the WandeR bundle by Black Rapid. I've spent the last month using Black Rapid's “Smartphone safety tether system”, and while it isn't always the flashiest piece of equipment, it certainly gets the job done.
Coming in at $19.95 on Amazon (click here for product page), the tether system allows you several ways to physically connect your phone to your person while still allowing for range of motion and use of your hands. And with the exception of a minor design flaw, I find it to be an extremely useful product, and would absolutely consider purchasing one of the bundles for any of my photographer friends who utilize their phones in their everyday photographic adventures.
First, let's look at how Black Rapid designed the system:
It's built to work within the framework of a phone with a case on it (it does NOT come with a phone case – making it completely portable between phone models without having to cruise through a hundred model numbers), so you do not have to give up your favorite Otterbox or other brand case. There is a little tab that is placed behind the phone, between your device and the case, and a little cloth loop pokes out of the bottom hole where the charging port is.
This is where I feel there is a minor design flaw; though, I was unable to come up with a functional solution to resolve this flaw, other than creating individual models for phones (which would run the risk of skyrocketing the price and potentially leaving some phones left out). The problem with this is the cloth loop, while small and fairly unobtrusive, blocked my phone case from closing the little rubber tab that covers my charging port to protect from dust and lint. Not all phone cases have this, but I did find myself aggravated initially and attempting to develop secondary methods for mounting the loop.
This loop, once placed, becomes your point of contact between whatever tethering setup you choose to use. The most simple method is to use the larger cloth loop with a small carabiner and wear the phone on your wrist. There is an adjustable tab that enables you to loosen/tighten the strap in order to account for size variations and comfort. However, as someone who doesn't like when my watches slide around my wrist, I didn't like even the small amount of motion that was constantly experienced as a result of this. If you are going to be walking with your arm in a fairly consistent position for a long time (such as hiking), it may not be as aggravating. I, however, talk with my hands ALL THE TIME, and as a result I found myself irked by the constant rubbing as I raised and lowered my hands.
My personal preference for using the system is in conjunction with the solitary, larger, carabiner in the bundle. The recommendations Black Rapid makes on their product page are for this larger clip to be connected to your belt loop, bag, or strap. I tested all three, and love the way the system connects to my strap especially. There is a small strip of cloth just near the “R” logo at the shoulder, and placing the larger connector right on this strip functioned exceptionally well. While I was out shooting, it was easy for me to quickly glance at my phone to see who was calling or texting, and without having to remove the phone I could respond or even answer.
I will say, I prefer to connect the anchor point on the phone directly to the large carabiner, skipping the longer strap entirely. This is definitely a personal preference, but if you read my previous review of a Black Rapid strap, you know that I dislike having anything hanging too freely. I move a lot: ducking, laying, sitting, leaning over, etc. I don't like having anything I consider to be of value flopping around with a possibility of running into a wall, railing, person, whatever. I also find myself turning and changing direction in occasionally spastic manner, and it's too easy to get something caught.
That said, connecting my phone to the large carabiner on my bag or my strap and then the phone to that was a wonderfully convenient system. I didn't have to dig around in my pockets or my camera bag for my phone. In the summer, it would be wonderful to go out shooting and not have to worry about getting the sweat that accumulates on the screen. A very handy tool, at a very handy price. I highly recommend it, especially if you are looking for a way to spend a last little portion of your Christmas money. Also would work great as a gift for a birthday throughout the year. I look forward to seeing if Black Rapid makes any improvements on the design in the future.
Overall rating – 4.5/5. The small design flaw in the phone plate and the irritation the wrist strap caused just frustrated me so much in the beginning.
Also, if you are in the market for a good gag gift, this would be a great item to get your significant other/family/friends if they are prone to dropping their phones in toilets. They may not get the joke, but they may also be extremely grateful! Buy it here at Amazon!
Drop a comment below and let me know what you like to use to keep your phones from falling down the cliffs and buildings we're constantly leaning over!