PopSockets and phone grips: why they matter and why you should use one

Get a grip, save your fingers
Get a grip, save your fingers (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

There's no better place for people-watching than a theme park, because lines are long, the weather's not always great, and most folks are bone-tired before sunset. You can see how people from all around the country and the world interact with each other, and because I'm an absolute freak, I watch how people interact with their phones.

And what I see every day at Walt Disney World is giving me phantom pains in my hands and neck.

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

People hunch over their phones as they stand in line, as they sit at restaurants, and walk through a crowd of thousands. Their kids loom over phones and tablets in their laps or stroller trays, shoulders hunched, with little fingers tightly gripping the sometimes comically oversized devices distracting them from the heat and the crowd. I'm struggling with my own poor posture, but one simple accessory has gone a long way towards helping me stand straighter and look at my phone properly, and no, it's not that weird necklace that vibrates to tell you you're slouching.

It's $15 Swappable PopSocket, and it's the only way I can get through the day without my pinky and thumb yelling at me.

So many grips, so little time

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

I've used a lot of phone grips over the last three years. I've had to: I swap phones and cases for work far more often than I'd like, and whenever I have a new case that I'm reviewing, I go to bed with my left hand dully roaring at me for the way I prop my phone in my hand. I'm a pinky-propper, and while this wasn't a problem six years ago when phones were smaller and lighter, it has become a major issue. These days phones have 6-inch screens, glass backs, and weigh more. The fact that I rely heavily on my phone for both work and personal communication means I'm spending more time propping it up with my fingers. That propping has worn down the tendons in my pinky, and my thumb also suffers from reaching up towards the top corners for menu icons.

PopSockets have helped me get in the habit of keeping my phone and my head up.

I can feel a definite difference in my fingers on days that I use a case with a phone grip and days I don't, not just in my fingers, but in my wrist and shoulders, too. It's easier to keep my phone steady and higher. I still find myself sliding into hunching slouches more often than I'd like, but PopSockets have helped me get in the habit of keeping my phone and my head up.

The stability it offers me in-hand also makes for fewer typing mistakes and fewer accidental swipes, especially now that both edges of the screen function as the back button. My pictures are more stable — I'm not much of a selfie girl, but it's great when taking quick pics around the parks — and it's easier to keep control of my phone while sliding it in and out of my holster or pockets.

Grab a Tab

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

I'm not the only one who's succumbed to the siren song of the PopSocket; I spot more and more of them every time I get in line for Flights of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. They're still mostly on women's phones or teenagers phones — which is great news since they're even more useful for clumsy kids — but I'm starting to see sports and Star Wars PopSockets on the back of guy's cases, too. These aren't the only grips out there, but they are the most popular, albeit a bit less multi-functional.

My first grips were ring grips like the Spigen Style Ring 2, which I adored because they possess far superior kickstand abilities compared to PopSockets. While PopSockets can work okay as a horizontal kickstand for watching videos, ring kickstands can also work as vertical kickstands, propping up your phone like a notepad next to your computer or holding up the article you're reading while you eat lunch in the break room.

Let's kick it with a kickstand

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Being able to prop up your phone at a desk or table is an important feature for a phone grip, as it can make a world of difference in trying to fix the bad posture issues I mentioned before. Vertical kickstands are better for most content because that's the way most apps are designed to be seen and used, but even using the horizontal kickstand to keep it angled on the dining room table can help you avoid hunching over your phone and putting undue strain on your spine.

A $15 phone grip versus a lifetime of nerve pain is the easiest tech decision I ever made.

We're already starting to see the impact that all out hunching over our phones is causing, including neck pains, tweaked wrists, and strained fingers. The repeated strain on our joints can lead to RSIs — Repetitive Stress Injuries — and you can make all the jokes about texting neck and Nintendonitis you want. Still, I've had my thumb and palm go numb on exceptionally long days before, and it is nothing short of terrifying. Especially once you discover that while you can mitigate some symptoms and ease the pain, most RSIs like these will never fully heal.

Granted, years of data entry and frantic copy-pasting of graphics code at the TV station exacerbated my condition, but I would have bought into phone grips years earlier if I'd know they could help me get through the day without my left hand revolting on me. And whether or not you already feel those pins and needles in your fingers yet, why wouldn't you try to prevent it when all you need is a $15 accessory that you can move from phone to phone as you upgrade over the years?

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.