Pop Sockets are weird: a little warty thing goes on the back of your phone because phones got so big that they’re now hard to hold for a lot of people. It’s effective, but inelegant—the technological equivalent of a pocket protector.
A Kickstarter campaign is trying to reinvent the Pop Socket, along with all the vaguely similar accessory gadgets that have been sprouting on the backs of modern phones. They call it the Ohsnap. It’s a surprisingly complex little thing that tries to make the phone grip/kickstand/thingamajig more useful in some situations and less awkward in others.
The attempt is admirable, but the result is frustrating. The Ohsnap trades in some annoyances of the Pop Socket for annoyances of its own. It’s a study in compromises, and while some Pop Socket users will love it, others will abandon it and go back to the annoyances that they know and
It’s kind of beautiful, in a consumer sort of way. A gadget fixes the failings of another gadget but has its own failings, so another gadget fixes that gadget, and fails differently. It’s an ouroboros of accessories, weird plastic trinkets all the way down.
Surprisingly, Lots of Moving Parts
The Ohsnap has three distinct parts: a plastic frame that sticks directly to your phone (or more likely its case) via double-sticky tape, a snazzy aluminum oval that slides into the plastic, and an inner ring with a flexible strip made out of the same stuff as the snap bracelets that were popular when I was in elementary school.
A lot is going on here, so let’s break it down by function. The Ohsnap can:
- Work as a “finger ring” by popping out the inner plastic tab and hooking one side into the other. The ring can spin around for the best possible grip.
- Work as a kickstand, with the two tabs unhooked and making little “legs” to prop up your phone.
- Fold up flat, with tapered sides that make it much easier to slip into a pocket than the sharp bump of a Pop Socket.
- Stick to any ferrous metal surface, thanks to surprisingly strong magnets beneath the aluminum ring.
- And the Ohsnap still works with wireless charging, because you can slip the aluminum ring off of the plastic frame.
So, all of those options are supposed to make the Ohsnap better than the Pop Socket.
One Step Forward, One Step Back
Unfortunately, the response after using the Ohsnap for a week is a pretty resounding “eh.” A lot of the points above hold: the whole thing is considerably slimmer than a Pop Socket, and with its sloping edges on all sides, it’s more comfy to hold in your hand when folded up. It’s also much, much easier to slip in and out of your pocket.
That’s the best part. It’s also neat that this thing can grip to most metal surfaces in a super-strong way—enough for me to, for example, slap my phone onto my fridge without any concern that it would fall. Whether this useful to you is probably dependent on how many flat steel surfaces you encounter throughout your day, and if you like to use magnetic mounts for your car or desk.
The rest of the design is kind of awkward. Take the “grip” aspect, for example. A Pop Socket has a single motion for deploying and closing, and while it isn’t elegant, it is quick and easy. For the Ohsnap, you need to press down on the central spot to pop out both halves of the snap bracelet ring. (Often this is actually two presses since one or the other half won’t pop up.) Then to make it secure, you need to hook one end into the other. That’s two, and more probably three, motions.
Now when you have to put it back into its collapsed mode, you need to unhook the snap arms, then press down on both sides. The second motion is unwieldy, generally requiring more than one finger to complete. And often I just gave up and did it with both hands, immediately reducing the utility of this gadget. It doesn’t help that, when the ring is closed, it’s too small to fit comfortably around your middle finger (even for a smaller hand), though the ability for the central ring to slide up and down on its mount and lock into place is convenient.
The kickstand mode is better since the grippy plastic material of the snap arms makes a phone extremely stable on any flat surface, and the angle is good for reading and videos. But the Ohsnap’s compatibility with wireless charging is more problematic. Needing to slide out a separate metal piece adds an extra step to wireless charging, making it even less convenient than just plugging in a cable—even before you add the possibility of losing the metal ring and snap.
On top of that, I had some serious issues with wireless charging itself while the plastic frame was attached to my phone case. It adds only three millimeters to my phone’s thickness, but even with a thin TPU case, that was JUST enough to make my wireless charger picky about placement. Other testers didn’t have this problem (and it disappears if you apply the Ohsnap directly to your phone), but it’s one more thing that could make the convenience of wireless charging moot. Also note that, if your phone has NFC capability, it won’t work with the aluminum ring in place, either—once again, messing up the convenience factor of phone payments.
Oh, and at four inches long, the Ohsnap just won’t fit on smaller phones with fingerprint scanners on the back, like the Pixel 3 or 3a. You might want to take a measuring tape to the back of your phone or its case if you’re on the fence.
Worth a Try, With Conditions
Should you buy one? It depends. Are you desperate for a grippy solution to your huge phone, but want compatibility with wireless charging, an easier-to-pocket gadget, and some crazy-strong magnets to boot? Then yeah, I’d say the $25 retail asking price for the Ohsnap is reasonable. It helps that it looks pretty good, and that central aluminum ring comes in four snazzy colors.
But if you’re happy with your Pop Socket or similar solution, and you’re not keen on an alternative that requires multiple motions for opening and closing, give this one a pass. My Pop Socket-loving friend, who tried the new design out for me, went back after a couple of days. As an ergonomic solution to giant smartphones, it solves a few problems and adds a few more, while being more complex and more expensive than the current standard.