tl;dr: I'm going with the Zhiyun Smooth Q Stabilizer.

A few months ago I started creating travel videos which you can check out on Facebook or YouTube, and so far I've created every video completely using my cell phone for both the video recording and audio voice-overs. While in Medellin, Colombia these past few months, I didn't have any other video equipment with me, but I did not let that stop me. However, I'm about to take a short trip to the USA in a few days, and while there, I'm going to upgrade some of my equipment. The three things that I think will make a big difference in my production value are a: 1) Stabilizer, 2) Unidirectional Microphone, and 3) Drone. Today's article is about finding the right stabilizer for my phone (which is a Samsung Galaxy S7).

By the way, if you're into travel vlogging, check out my article on 21 Things I Learned From Nas Daily About Travel Vlogging

Here's what I'm looking for in a cell phone stabilizer:

  • 3 Axis Gimbal Stabilizer: Gimbal stabilizers use brushless motors to keep your smartphone steady. Two-axis gimbals stabilize the Tilt and Roll, and three-axis gimbals stabilize Pan. I need the three-axis because I do a lot of pan shots of cities and landscapes in my videos.
  • Rechargeable Batteries: I don't want to have to buy batteries all over the world so I'm looking for a stabilizer with a built-in rechargeable battery (which most of the better ones have). Ideally the battery lasts 10+ hours so it can double as a battery pack and recharge my phone while I use it.
  • Android App: This goes without saying, but the stabilizer has got to have software that's designed to work with my equipment which is a Samsung Galaxy S7 and a Lenovo Yoga 910 laptop. Not all stabilizers work with every operating system.
  • Lightweight and Compact: Everything I own fits in one bag and I'd like to keep it that way. Bigger and heavier stabilizers work better because their weight acts as a balancing agent to keep your camera steady, so I might have to sacrifice a little weight or quality in one direction or another. I don't want to add 4 lbs to my bag but also want something that works well and can handle some wear and tear.
  • Equipment Versatility: Right now I'm using a Galaxy S7, but it'd be nice if I could use the same stabilizer when I upgrade my phone later this year to something with a larger screen. I previously used a Samsung Note and miss having the bigger screen, so I'm going to look for a stabilizer that can also handle a bigger phone like the Pixel 2 Plus.
  • Doubles as a Tripod: Makes sense right? I've wanted a tripod for a while which would be helpful in recording myself and also pan shots. So it'd be great if the stabilizer had one built-in.
  • Cheap to Mid-Priced: There's always the risk of losing/breaking equipment in transit or getting robbed while traveling. I have insurance on my laptop and cell phone, but this stabilizer won't be insured. So for that reason, I don't want to spend a fortune on a stabilizer. I'm looking for a happy medium between quality and price, which will probably be about $100-$150 based on my research.
  • Sold on Amazon: I'm on a time frame here and will have a limited window in the USA to get things delivered, so I need to rely on Amazon's 2 day shipping. This shouldn't be a problem though as I'd imagine the best stabilizers are sold on Amazon anyway.
  • BONUS: This isn't required, but I'd love it if the stabilizer had a built-in unidirectional microphone to record better sound than my phone. I can buy a separate microphone, but if it was built in, I'd know that the stabilizer is built to handle the extra weight.

And the winner is… the Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer

Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone, i.e. iPhone 7 Plus 6 Plus, Samsung S7 S6, Featuring APP Control, Vertical Shooting, Face Tracking
79 Reviews
Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone, i.e. iPhone 7 Plus 6 Plus, Samsung S7 S6, Featuring APP Control, Vertical Shooting, Face Tracking
  • Zhiyun Smooth-Q is a 3 axis gimbal stabilizer, suitable for smartphones up to 7.7 oz like iphone 7...
  • Smooth, Steady and Noiseless Videos powered by 3 brushless motors, 3 axis up to 360 degrees...
  • Allow easy switch of mounting direction, either horizontal or vertical. Control the shooting angle...
  • Enhanced camera functions such as camera record, zoom in/out, face tracking, panorama mode and...
  • A standard micro-USB charging port and built-in batteries support 12hrs operating time. Another USB...

Does the Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Gimbal meet my criteria?

  • 3 Axis Gimbal Stabilizer: Yes, it offers 3 axis up to 360 degrees unlimited rotation with one step balancing by adjusting the knob.
  • Rechargeable Batteries: Yes, via two built-in 18650 mAh Li-ion batteries for up to 12-hours of continuous recording (assuming my phone doesn't explode before then), and the battery is rechargeable from within the device. I can also use it to recharge my phone while shooting.
  • Android App: Updated APP-ZY PLAY APP supports Auto-Tracking, Time-Lapse and Filter Options.
  • Lightweight and Compact: The device weighs a total of 450 grams and is 14.7 x 6.1 x 2.9 inches.
  • Equipment Versatility: This device can handle a payload of 75g-200g. My Samsung Galaxy S7 is 152 grams and the Google Pixel 2 Plus is 143 grams so I'll be good to go for this phone and my future phone.
  • Doubles as a Tripod: Yes, on this particular listing, the seller offers a free tipod that connects to the bottom of the gimbal as a gift.
  • Cheap to Mid-Priced: Yes, this falls within the budget that I set.
  • Sold on Amazon: Yes, here's the link to buy on Amazon.
  • MIC (BONUS): No, it does not offer a built in mic, but I found some small smartphone attachment mics that I'm going to order for about $25.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Gimbal Reviews

On paper, the Zhiyun Smooth-Q looks like it will meet my criteria regarding technical specs, but does it work well? The reviews on Amazon were mostly positive via verified purchases which is a good start. Only a handful of people gave this gimbal a shitty review, but from what they wrote, I got the impression that they either didn't know how to use it properly or got a lemon, which happens with technology. I also looked to YouTube to see the gimbal in action.

What do you think? Have you used this gimbal?

If so, please share your thoughts about the Zhiyun Smooth-Q in the comments section below. Or if you have experience with a different gimbal that you'd like to recommend, feel free to do so as well.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q Alternatives: My Runners Up

Although I'm going with the Zhiyun Smooth-Q because it fit my particular criteria, I want to show you my runners up. These were the gimbals that I was also considering. Underneath each gimbal, I'll post the reasons why I went with the Zhiyun instead.

#1) Hohem Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer

Sale
Hohem Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer with Innovative Folding Design and Equipped with Charging Function for iphone 7plus/6S plus/6 plus Android Smartphones (Black)
1 Reviews
Hohem Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer with Innovative Folding Design and Equipped with Charging Function for iphone 7plus/6S plus/6 plus Android Smartphones (Black)
  • Visual auto-tracking shooting
  • Amazing APP interactions through bulit in bluetooth
  • Single click for 180°/360° panorama
  • Built-in power bank up to 3600mAh
  • Supports iphone 7plus/6S plus/6 plus,iphone 7/6S/6,iphone 5S/5/SE and Android smartphones between...

The Hohem Handheld Gimbal is 3-axis, highly rated, has a built-in battery that recharges your phone as you use it, is lightweight, works with my current and future phones, comes with an Android app, and is within my budget. Most of the items on my list were checked off with this one. The reason I did not go with this gimbal is because it doesn't come with a tripod or offer a tripod connection. It's mostly made for attaching to yourself or bikes and would be great if that were my intended use.

#2) Feiyu SPG 3-Axis Gimbal

Sale
Feiyu SPG Upgraded version Splash-Proof Design 3 Axis Handheld Stabilizer Phone Gimbal for iPhone Huawei Samsung Galaxy Moto LG Xiaomi Smartphones
8 Reviews
Feiyu SPG Upgraded version Splash-Proof Design 3 Axis Handheld Stabilizer Phone Gimbal for iPhone Huawei Samsung Galaxy Moto LG Xiaomi Smartphones
  • Splash proof Design: The upgrade version of spg achieves the splash proof function, which enables...
  • Smart portrait mode: Ideal motorized gimbal for live streaming on Facebook periscope meerkat,...
  • Intuitive user interface: Powering on, off and switching among various modes with just one button,...
  • Excellent craftsmanship: Enhanced finish with revolutionary unibody motor arm for sports camera and...
  • Perfect for one hand hold: Built from solid aluminum alloy, super lightweight and comfortable by...

The Feiyu SPG 3-Axis Gimbal was a close contender for me and I was seriously considering this one. It satisfies all my criteria above and it's highly rated. The only reason I went with the Zhiyun Smooth-Q instead is because it had a larger quantity of positive reviews, and the price was $60 less expensive than the Feiyu SPG at the time I purchased it.

#3) EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal

EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal for iPhone & Android Smartphones - Intelligent APP Controls for Auto Panoramas, Time-Lapse & Tracking + Built in Phone Charging - Includes 1 Year US Warranty | Black
67 Reviews
EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal for iPhone & Android Smartphones - Intelligent APP Controls for Auto Panoramas, Time-Lapse & Tracking + Built in Phone Charging - Includes 1 Year US Warranty | Black
  • The EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Gimbal for iPhone & Androids (regular & plus size) smartphones transforms your...
  • Record & Zoom Controls on Handle: When paired with your smartphone, the EVO Shift allows full...
  • Advance Stabilization Modes: Featuring 3 easy to use stabilization modes, the EVO Shift gives you...
  • Perfect Panoramas, Object Tracking & Time-Lapse: The SHIFT's intelligent control features allow you...
  • Up To 10 Hours of Run-Time with Built in charger and battery. The EVO SHIFT also has a Built-In...

The EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal is a popular and highly regarded gimbal as well. Similar to the Feiyu SPG, it satisfies my criteria for a gimbal, but was priced $50 more expensive than the Zhiyun Smooth-Q.

Best Selling Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizers

And lastly, if you're curious to compare my top choices with Amazon's best sellers, these are the top 10 gimbal stabilizers for smartphones.

Bestseller No. 1
Feiyu G4 Pro 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer for Smartphones with Joystick and 360 Degrees (Certified Refurbished)
6 Reviews
Feiyu G4 Pro 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer for Smartphones with Joystick and 360 Degrees (Certified Refurbished)
  • This Certified Refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new. The...
  • You can switch between all five modes with just a single LED push-button on the handle: Pan...
  • Compatible with iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, iPhone SE, iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s+, iPhone 7, 7+, Samsung S6, S6...
  • Powered using two rechargeable 900 mAh batteries / Battery indicator light on the device lets you...
  • Capturing stabilized, free-floating video footage on your iPhone has never been easier! Designed for...
SaleBestseller No. 2
Fantaseal 4-in-1 Smartphone+Action Camera+Camcorder+ DSLR Camera Stabilizer C Shape Rig Low Position Shooting System for Nikon/Canon/Sony/GoPro/SJCAM/Xiaomi Yi/Sony/Garmin Virb XE + iPhone/Samsung
238 Reviews
Fantaseal 4-in-1 Smartphone+Action Camera+Camcorder+ DSLR Camera Stabilizer C Shape Rig Low Position Shooting System for Nikon/Canon/Sony/GoPro/SJCAM/Xiaomi Yi/Sony/Garmin Virb XE + iPhone/Samsung
  • Advanced Low Angles Shooting System for all DSLR cameras, DV, Compact Cameras, Action Cameras with a...
  • Powerful anti-loose Cell Phone Clamp Mount for holding Cell Phone while shooting as the HD monitor...
  • Removable Mini Ball Head Hot Shot Tripod Adapter can be used to attach Video Lights, Flashes, LED...
  • GoPro Quick Release Buckle Plate - Attach your GoPro Action Camcorders and other Actioncams to the...
  • Light weight Shock-proof EVA handle and ergonomic C-shaped design that alleviates stress by offering...
SaleBestseller No. 3
BINKO Videook Handheld iPhone & GoPro Stabilizer Gimbal Compatible with Most Android Phones, Smartphones and Other Compact Action Cameras for Taking Stable Cellphone Videos
84 Reviews
BINKO Videook Handheld iPhone & GoPro Stabilizer Gimbal Compatible with Most Android Phones, Smartphones and Other Compact Action Cameras for Taking Stable Cellphone Videos
  • Recording professional and smooth mobile videos. Videos recorded with BINKO VS-GO and your...
  • Compatible with most smartphones and gopro cameras. It comes with a clip for smartphones, with which...
  • Durable and portable. Thanks to the high quality aviation aluminum material, this stabilizer is very...
  • Flexible and collapsible. Thanks to the callapsible design, the stabilizer can be strenched to 37.5...
  • Suitable for all weather. BINKO VS-GO is fully waterproof, also it can handle all the weather...
Bestseller No. 4
Ulanzi Mini Tripod Stand for Selfie Stick Monopod Stabilizer on Cellphone DSLR Cameras,Portable Folding Desktop Stand For Projector For ZHIYUN Smooth Q Feiyu Gimbal WG2 (Ulanzi Mini Tripod)
5 Reviews
Ulanzi Mini Tripod Stand for Selfie Stick Monopod Stabilizer on Cellphone DSLR Cameras,Portable Folding Desktop Stand For Projector For ZHIYUN Smooth Q Feiyu Gimbal WG2 (Ulanzi Mini Tripod)
  • 2 in 1 Multi Use: Flexible switch from tripod into handle , no need to take it off and easy to be...
  • Tripod Stand for Stabilizer:Can be used on stabilizer like Zhiyun Smooth Q,Feiyu WG2 .
  • Tripod Stand for Selfie Stick: Can be installed on selfie stick, release your hands .
  • Super Lightweight:Only about 100g, suitable for all kinds occasions.,like live...
  • Stable Shooting:Shoot images better with our mini tripod, no need to worry shaking.

SaleBestseller No. 5
Movo Smartphone Video Rig with Stereo Microphone, Grip Handle, Wrist Strap for iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6S, 7, 8, X (Regular and Plus), Samsung Galaxy, Note and More
35 Reviews
Movo Smartphone Video Rig with Stereo Microphone, Grip Handle, Wrist Strap for iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6S, 7, 8, X (Regular and Plus), Samsung Galaxy, Note and More
  • Instantly improve the production value of your smartphone video - Perfect for live-streaming,...
  • Superior universal mounting clamp fits smartphones 2.2" to 3.6" wide including the iPhone 7 Plus and...
  • Easy to grip padded handle (removable) assists with stabilizing your video & adjustable wrist strap...
  • Stereo Microphone Specs: Selectable 90° or 120° pickup patterns, Frequency Response: 35-20k Hz,...
  • 1 Year Movo Warranty with Fast & Friendly Support Based in the U.S.A.
Bestseller No. 6
FOTOWELT Cinema Tray, Metal Handheld Gimbal Camera Stabilizer Bracket Kit for DJI Mavic Pro and Platinum Version Drone Accessories
3 Reviews
FOTOWELT Cinema Tray, Metal Handheld Gimbal Camera Stabilizer Bracket Kit for DJI Mavic Pro and Platinum Version Drone Accessories
  • Tray System is Superb metal construction: CNC machined from solid aluminum alloy for exceptional...
  • With 1/4"-20 screw Soft Rubber Universal handle,Comfortable,Soft, non-slip material makes to hold...
  • With removable Mini Ball Head and handheld grip and Smartphone Mount (2.3 - 4 inches / 58mm -...
  • Protect Your DJI mavic pro is well protected by Sponge Foam -backed rubber pads and nothing contacts...
  • Gimbal Holder Hand Support up and down two kinds of handheld way,Panning &Tilting and Low Angle...
Bestseller No. 7
Movo Smartphone Video Rig with Shotgun Microphone, Grip Handle, Wrist Strap for iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6S, 7, 8, X (Regular and Plus), Samsung Galaxy, Note and More
28 Reviews
Movo Smartphone Video Rig with Shotgun Microphone, Grip Handle, Wrist Strap for iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6S, 7, 8, X (Regular and Plus), Samsung Galaxy, Note and More
  • Instantly improve the production value of your smartphone video - Perfect for live-streaming,...
  • Superior universal mounting clamp fits smartphones 2.2" to 3.6" wide including the iPhone 7 Plus and...
  • Easy to grip padded handle (removable) assists with stabilizing your video & adjustable wrist strap...
  • Shotgun Microphone Features: Integrated shock-mount to minimize handling noise, Frequency Response:...
  • 1 Year Movo Warranty with Fast & Friendly Support Based in the U.S.A.
Bestseller No. 8
Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Selfie Stick – Professional Video Stabilizer for iPhone Samsung Galaxy Led Fill Light / Rear Mirror / Vertical Shooting / Portable by Wewow Fancy(Black)
19 Reviews
Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Selfie Stick – Professional Video Stabilizer for iPhone Samsung Galaxy Led Fill Light / Rear Mirror / Vertical Shooting / Portable by Wewow Fancy(Black)
  • [WEWOW BRAND CERTIFIED] - Top-Brand smove stabilizer for Smartphone. Wewow Fancy is a kind of...
  • [EFFORTLESSLY SMOOTH] - Anti-shake electronic gyro-stabilized system, smooths and even cancels out...
  • [A Unique 'Power Bank'] - With a 2600mAh of rechargeable battery and a USB port, so it can be used...
  • [LIGHT AND COMPACT] - The most comfortable travel size and the most simple operation of the gimbal...
  • [HASSLE FREE WARRANTY] - What a great surprise to get a High Quality Professional gimbal. Everyone...
Bestseller No. 9
Gimbal Carrying Bag Compatible with Many Popular Cellphone Gimbals Such As DJI Osmo Mobile & DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Zhiyun Smooth Q Gimbal Smove Mobile Gimbal Accessories(Not For Zhiyun Smooth 4 Yet)
7 Reviews
Gimbal Carrying Bag Compatible with Many Popular Cellphone Gimbals Such As DJI Osmo Mobile & DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Zhiyun Smooth Q Gimbal Smove Mobile Gimbal Accessories(Not For Zhiyun Smooth 4 Yet)
  • Made of Diving Material with Good Flexibility , Soft, Stretchy. Lightweight and Portable.
  • Foam pad offers anti-shock and overall protection for stabilizers
  • The surface is slightly waterproof, resistant to splashing water
  • Comes with a nylon shoulder strap, making the gimbal bag more portable
  • Compact Design, Fit Closely with Your Gimbals' Shape, also Providing Good Protection for Your...
Bestseller No. 10
Zhiyun Universal Smartphone Gimbal Tripod Adapter Rotatable Cellphone Clamp for Crane 2,Crane Plus,Crane V2,Crane-M,iPhone X /8 Plus /7 Plus Samsung Huawei/HTC Smartphones within 6inces
  • MATERIAL: Made from premium quality plastic and soft protective rubber for extended durability and...
  • ANGLE: 360 degree rotating phone holder for portrait mode (vertical) or landscape mode (horizontal)...
  • UNIVERSAL ADAPTER/MOUNT FOR TRIPOD: The mount is of screw thread 1/4", which is the most widely...
  • SMALL AND LIGHTWEIGHT: The cellphone clamp is small in size, easy to carry it anywhere, perfect for...
  • WARRANTY: Lifetime. Items shipped from Zhiyun Official Store, can be returned within 15 days of...

Where's your video examples Paul?

I'll update this post after I publish my next video recorded with the Zhiyun Smooth-Q. So look for that soon. Follow along on my Facebook to get updates.

UPDATE: I dropped the ball when I was in the USA in terms of getting everything on my list accomplished, and I wasn't able to get ahold of a Zhiyun Smooth-Q. A friend of mine is coming to visit me in Peru from the USA in April and I may have him bring it down for me then. So in the meantime, sorry about the shakey videos! I went ahead and published this post since it includes my research and my purchase decision – and perhaps in the meantime I can get some feedback from others about which gimbals they've had success with. I'll be sure to update again though after I get my hands on the Zhiyun Smooth-Q.

Last update on 2018-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API