Concept 2 PM5 Compatible Phone Holder: The process of developing a better phone holder

Can we make this better?  This is the thought that runs through our minds when we look at an innocuous piece of equipment. Better is vague, but to us it means better in every way: function, look, and performance. By improving this, are we solving an issue that people care about? Will people buy it? These questions follow, but to us at Vapor Fitness, the first question we ask is always, can we make this better?
When it came to a smartphone cradle for Concept 2 exercise machines, the answer was a hard yes. We are big believers in the idea that to market something, you need to be engaged and invested in more than just a business perspective. To that end, we are athletes. We are huge fans of Concept 2 machines. We row, we BikeErg, and we SkiErg. We watch videos while we workout, and we need a place to hold our phones.

With current phone holders on the market, we were able to identify several problematic attributes, what we call “pain points”:
1) they didn’t fit bigger phones
2) they didn’t fit phones with a large case
3) when anchored the buttons on the side of the phone would trigger which would lead to not being able to hear, blown eardrums, or locked screens.
We thought we could fix all that and make it look cooler.
Step 1. The initial design concept
 Concept 2 Phone holder drawing

Once we had acknowledged the pain points, we had to figure out how to solve them. We wanted the phone holder to be steady, so it needed to fit on the PM5 monitor. We wanted it to be able to hold a phone and look cool, which led us to a hook-shaped design. And we knew it was going to be silicone so that it could stretch and accommodate multiple sizes of phones and cases. Once we had those ideas, we drew our preliminary design out on paper.
Step 2: 3D Drawing
 Phone holde c2Phone holder C2
Concept 2 PM5 phone holderback of phone holder

Using precise measurements and computer-aided design (CAD), we were able to produce our first 3D render of the phone holder.
Step 3: 3D Printed Model
PU Concept 2 Phone Holder
But you can’t go from a drawing to a computer design to a product. You need to make sure it works. So we 3D-printed a prototype out of Thermoplastic Urethane (TPU). It’s not as flexible as silicone, but it was an excellent first draft. With the prototype, we noticed two problems: 1) the hook angle wrong, which meant that the angle of the phone in the holder was also wrong. 2) the design didn’t stop the buttons from being pushed all the time.
Step 4: Tweak the design.
 tweak the bridge of phone holder concept 2
So we went back to the CAD and adjusted the hook angle. Problem solved. The button issue required a little more creativity, but eventually, we developed a bridge setup and then left the middle cavity open. This would allow a wider variety of phones to use the holder.
Step 5: 3D Print the revised version
With the revisions to the preliminary design done, we went back to the 3D printer—this time, we used Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE), a good approximation of silicone. We then tested the product on Concept 2 machines and found that we were thrilled with the product.
Step 6: Finalize the design for mold production.
vapor fitness concept 2 phone holder pm5
Once the design was finalized and validated with extensive testing, we finished the CAD and created a mold for mass production.
Step 7: The final product is created.

The mold came out very well, and the only thing left was to choose colors. We chose to start off making the phone holder in black and bright yellow. Both colors go well with the traditional Concept 2 accents, and we thought these two colors were simultaneously bold and subdued.
The biggest test is the answers to questions two and 3. Are we solving a problem people care about? And will people buy it? Fortunately, the answer to both of these questions was a resounding yes! Check out this fantastic video from Dark Horse Rowing endorsing our product:
The road from idea to market is a really, really long one. A lot of thought, time, and money go into products that we take for granted. But dedication and thoughtfulness during this phase can save you lots of time and money later. We are happy to announce that we have a patent-pending on this, and we are currently gazing intently at other innocuous items thinking, “can we make this better?”
Click to view the product page of our Concept 2 Phone Holder for PM5 monitors.
Product from idea to final product concept 2
Above: The various prototypes and the final product in yellow