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The best Android and iPhone gimbal

Check out the DJI Osmo Mobile 2.
Wirecutter, @wirecutter
March 17, 2019
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By Signe Brewster

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full Android and iPhone gimbal guide here.

After spending 20 hours researching and testing top-rated gimbals for smartphones, we found the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is the best mechanical stabilizer for casual phone videographers who want to shoot smoother, more cinematic footage. It reliably stabilizes video and is simple to set up and use, and DJI has the fastest customer service of the gimbal manufacturers we interacted with.

The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 smooths out shaky hands and jerky movements, which comes in handy while snowboarding, on vacation, or shooting video for a social media post. The few buttons on its comfortable handle are simple to learn how to use, and its app is clearly designed. It can autonomously track a subject of your choice or handle cinematic shots like hyper-lapses and dolly zooms.

If you have an iPhone and don't mind sacrificing on customer service and handle comfort for an app with more options and a device with more useful buttons, you should consider the Zhiyun Smooth 4. The app offers more fine-tuning of settings like aperture and filters. It also integrates smoothly with the handle's buttons, which are more numerous and configurable if you don't want to touch the phone screen as often, but can be more difficult to learn than our top pick's. We don't recommend the Smooth 4 for Android devices at this time because the Android app does not support shooting 4K video.

Why you should trust us

I am a lifelong photography enthusiast and journalist who has spent the last five years writing about emerging camera technology such as drones, 360-degree cameras, and light field cameras. I've spent hundreds of hours flying drones and seen the benefits a gimbal can provide for stabilizing footage.

Who should get this

Smartphones that shoot 4K video are now common enough that even amateur videographers can shoot high-quality videos. A gimbal—a pivoting suspension device that mechanically stabilizes a camera—can replace an expensive tripod or dolly to make cinematic video effects accessible to anyone. Primarily, gimbals smooth out hand tremors or a bumpy gait if you are filming while walking. They can also make pans look smooth and consistent, or automate tricky shots like time lapses. Additionally, they can serve as souped-up selfie sticks that allow you to hold a phone farther away from your face for better framing.

Gimbals are made up of two parts: On the bottom is a handle, which you hold much like a selfie stick. The handle usually includes a mix of buttons, joysticks, and wheels. The gimbal sits on top of the handle, and looks like an arm with a gripper that holds your phone. When you wiggle the handle, the phone stays in place.

If you like filming video with your existing smartphone and are comfortable spending a little more than $100 to achieve more professional-looking results, a gimbal might be right for you. It's a nice tool for filming scenery on vacation, or something to bring along for an active hobby like snowboarding. The ability to film yourself also makes them useful for social media and live streaming.

Though a gimbal for a smartphone is likely to be less expensive, gimbals are available for nearly every type of camera, including DSLRs and GoPros. If you use a different type of camera more than your phone, consider investing in a gimbal for that camera instead.

We do not cover cameras with built-in gimbals or models that approximate gimbal performance digitally in this guide, but they're also worth considering. We like the Insta360 One, which we recommend in our guide to 360-degree cameras. It lets you shoot spherical videos that you can edit into shake-free regular videos, complete with gimbal-like pans. Additionally, DJI, which makes our top smartphone-gimbal pick, offers the Osmo Pocket camera, which integrates a similar gimbal. They cost a bit more, but could be a good option for someone who doesn't have a high-quality camera in their smartphone or wants something they can pull out of their pocket and start using. They can also be a better option if you don't want to risk damaging your $1,000 smartphone while filming.

How we picked

Gimbals for iPhones and Android phones

The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 (top) has just a few buttons, while the Zhiyun Smooth 4 (bottom) has many. Both approaches work, but we liked that we had to touch the phone screen less often while using the Smooth 4. Photo: Signe Brewster

We read Amazon and B&H reviews to find the most popular smartphone gimbals currently available. We also watched YouTube reviews and footage shot with different gimbals to find promising options. With what we learned, plus our own habits, in mind, we determined the following features are most important:

  • A three-axis gimbal: A three-axis gimbal provides superior stabilization to a two-axis gimbal by using accelerometers and gyroscopes to keep an attached phone steady. We skipped testing stabilizers that do not have a true three-axis gimbal.
  • Autonomous modes: Preprogrammed shooting modes make getting some types of shots, including time lapses and dolly zooms, dead simple. Many gimbals can also autonomously track a moving subject.
  • Great customer service: Reaching a customer service representative and receiving a response should be easy; the faster the better.
  • A warranty: Manufacturers should be willing to repair or replace gimbals that develop issues outside the owner's control. A year-long warranty is standard.
  • Easy to set up: An instruction booklet or link to a video that shows how to set up and operate the gimbal is essential, as every gimbal operates differently. If the gimbal needs to be adjusted so the phone balances correctly, it should take just one or two steps. The gimbal, phone, and app should all connect to one another without much fuss.
  • Wide phone compatibility: Companies usually list a range of phone sizes and weights that work with their gimbal. We looked for options that can work with a wide selection of phones, but especially our top iPhone and Android picks.
  • A great app: The best apps are easy to use thanks to clear design and come with lots of options for customizing camera settings. The app should be available for both iOS and Android devices.
  • Easy-to-use buttons: Whether you prefer more or fewer buttons on a gimbal's handle, the buttons should each have a clear purpose and be relatively easy to learn and use. However, if you dislike a gimbal's buttons you can usually accomplish the same tasks by touching the phone screen instead.
  • Long battery life: Unless you're especially worried about weight, a longer battery life is better because it means you have to charge the gimbal less often. Gimbals will usually charge your phone, too, so a bigger battery means a longer life for your phone.
  • Comfortable: A light gimbal with an ergonomic grip is much easier to hold during lengthy shoots.
  • Accessories: It's nice, but not essential, if gimbals come with useful accessories like a carrying case and small tripod.

How we tested

Gimbals for iPhones and Android phones

Many gimbals performed similarly, so app design and button placement became of extra interest during testing. Photo: Signe Brewster

We tested five gimbals by filming videos with an iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8. We used the front-facing camera while walking down a street and the back-facing camera combined with the gimbals' object-tracking modes to film a moving drone. We examined the footage for its smoothness.

We also timed how long it took to set up each gimbal, ranked how much we liked the iOS and Android apps, noted our experience using the buttons on each handle, recorded how easy it was to balance each gimbal, and noted any included accessories. Finally, we asked a customer service representative at each company how to balance their gimbal, and recorded how long it took them to respond and how helpfully they responded.

Our pick: DJI Osmo Mobile 2

Gimbals for iPhones and Android phones

Photo: Signe Brewster

The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 shoots stable video that will elevate any hobby videographer's style. It has a nice selection of autonomous shooting modes, an easy-to-use app, and a comfortable handle with just a few buttons, so it's among the easiest gimbals to learn how to use. DJI also provides the best customer service of any gimbal we tested.

The Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal's three-axis design allowed us to shoot footage that looked smooth and shake-free, though we didn't notice much of a difference in quality compared with our runner-up pick. We also liked the selection of autonomous modes, including ActiveTrack, which cues the gimbal to automatically track a moving object (or a still one while you move around it with the camera). The gimbal can also help you make a time lapse or keep the camera steady while you zoom or film in slow motion. The hyper-lapse and motion-lapse options combine the camera moving with a time lapse, making for even more sophisticated shots. We also thought this model's rounded handle was more comfortable to hold than the runner-up pick's flatter shape, and the buttons are all within easy reach of your thumb.

Most people have never used a gimbal because until recently they cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. As a result, we consider it essential that a gimbal come with easy access to helpful customer service, a decent warranty, and easy-to-follow instructions for setup and operation. A DJI customer service representative responded almost instantly when we reached out via live chat on the company's website. They also walked us through steps to diagnose our stated problem, instead of just pointing us toward a tutorial like the other gimbal companies did. Like all the gimbals we tested, the Osmo Mobile 2 comes with a one-year warranty.

Gimbals for iPhones and Android phones

The Osmo Mobile 2 has only a few buttons, which makes it easier to learn how to use but means you have to touch the phone screen more often. Photo: Signe Brewster

DJI publishes a quick-start guide for the Osmo Mobile 2, plus a more thorough instruction manual. You can also find a wide variety of DJI and third-party tutorial videos online. Overall, the gimbal comes with the most thorough set of documentation of any gimbal we tested. It took about two and a half minutes to set up the gimbal for the first time, including connecting the phone and gimbal via Bluetooth. The gimbal was already balanced, but we unbalanced it on purpose and were able to rebalance it without issue.

Gimbals for iPhones and Android phones

You can adjust the gimbal for different phones by turning two knobs until the phone balances properly. Photo: Signe Brewster

DJI says the Osmo Mobile 2 is compatible with phones ranging from 58.6 to 84.8 mm wide and up to 8.4 mm thick. It fit the iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8 we used for testing without issue, and can also accommodate larger phones like the iPhone XS Max. Unlike our runner-up pick, its apps for both iPhones and Android phones are fully functional and nearly identical to one another. We found it easy to find different features and set up shots.