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
230 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
  • 【Phone-Size & Foldable Gimbal】 Weighing only 246g, SMOOTH-X can be easily rotated to phone...
  • 【Instant Landscape /Portrait Mode】Double click the M button to switch Portrait/Landscape mode....
  • 【Accurate Object/Face Tracking】Wherever you go, SMOOTH-X follows. Simply select the desired...
  • 【Intelligent Gesture Control 】If your hands are busy, just showing a V gesture or waving to...
  • 【More Features in "ZY Cami" APP】With the dedicated App "ZY Cami", you can unlock more...

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

No products found.

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

No products found.

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
195 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
BOMAKER Foldable Gimbal Stabilizer, Extendable Cell Phone Tripod Selfie Stick with Bluetooth Wireless Remote, Compatible with iPhone Android Smartphone
  • Selfie Stick Tripod: Selfie stick tripod can stabilize mobile phone when holding a mobile phone to...
  • Automatic Rotation:This mobile phone gimbal stabilizer has novel functions of phone camera rotation,...
  • Horizontal and Vertical Screen Switch:When the gimbal is powered on, you only need to click the...
  • Follow Mode: It allows the orientation of the phone lens to follow the movement of the hand holding...
  • Bluetooth Control:The bluetooth remote is integrated with the stick, you can slide it out of the...
Bestseller No. 2
3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer for iPhone 12 11 PRO MAX X XR XS Smartphone Vlog Youtuber Live Video Record with Sport Inception Mode Face Object Tracking Motion Time-Lapse - Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus
  • ✈【Newly Developed 3D "Inception" Mode】 Proudly present the updated Hohem gimbal stabilizer....
  • ✈【Updated Sports Mode & Perfect Balance】 Updated sports mode allows you to shoot incredibly...
  • ✈【You can also be a Professional Director】 From fast-moving action, like sports, to vlogs and...
  • ✈【Endless Possibilities via "Hohem Gimbal" APP】 Enjoy controlling your filming tool both on...
  • ✈【"Time-lapse" & Up to 12H Running Time】 Tracking face/object and recording all motions in a...
SaleBestseller No. 3
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer YouTube Video Vlog Tripod for iPhone 11 Pro Xs Max Xr X 8 Plus 7 6 SE Android Cell Phone Smartphone
3,410 Reviews
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer YouTube Video Vlog Tripod for iPhone 11 Pro Xs Max Xr X 8 Plus 7 6 SE Android Cell Phone Smartphone
  • 👍👍【Filmic Pro】The official APP for Smooth 4 is called ZY play. But Filmic Pro has best in...
  • 👍👍【Control Panel】Integrated control panel design,Focus Pull & Zoom Capability
  • ✅✅【MUST KNOW】Balance the gimbal before use: Slide the smartphoone in as close as possible to...
  • 👍👍【PhoneGo Mode】PhoneGo Mode for Instant Scene Transition
  • 👍👍【Time Lapse & Object Tracking】Time Lapse Expert and Object Tracking available, Supports...
Bestseller No. 4
2in1 Portable Action Camera+Smartphone SYN Stabilizer Mount Ergonomic Hand Grip Video Vlogging Kit Motion Camcorder Phone Handle Holder for GoPro Sony + iPhone Interview Travel YouTube Livestream Rig
503 Reviews
2in1 Portable Action Camera+Smartphone SYN Stabilizer Mount Ergonomic Hand Grip Video Vlogging Kit Motion Camcorder Phone Handle Holder for GoPro Sony + iPhone Interview Travel YouTube Livestream Rig
  • Made of high-strength ABS material, more than cool eye-catching shape: professional ergonomic design...
  • Super phone clip holder: 360 degree rotary for portrait mode (vertical) or landscape mode...
  • Attach your smartphone to phone clamp of the grip, then the smartphone will turn into a monitor and...
  • Extra bult-in shoe mounting slot on the top, ingenious desing for the plug-in video lights to get a...
  • Detachable and Versatile Hand Grip, compatible with all GoPro and GoPro-Like Action Cameras, such...
Bestseller No. 5
Fantaseal 4in1 DSLR/ Mirrorless /Action Camera +Camcorder +Smartphone Stabilizer Holder We-media Youtube Vlog Low Position Video Rig Mount Fit for GoPro Sony DJI OSMO ACTION Nikon Canon 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/DJI OSMO ACTION and other...
  • Light weight Shock-proof EVA handle and ergonomic C-shaped design that alleviates stress by offering...
Bestseller No. 6
Snoppa Atom 3-Axis Foldable Pocket Sized Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer 310g Payload for iPhone 12 11 PRO MAX X XR XS Smartphone Wireless Charging & 24 H Running time
  • 🏆The Snoppa Atom can achieve 360° rotation in roll axis . 【FOLDABLE & PORTABLE】A foldable...
  • 🎉【Eliminate Shake】With a 3-axis gimbal that effectively reduces shaky footage, Snoppa Atom...
  • 🏆【Object tracking & Face tracking】Atom is the videographer while your mobile phone is the...
  • 🏆【ZOOM & FOCUS CONTROL】 The ATOM Smartphone Gimbal integrates plenty of control buttons,...
  • 🏆【BUILT-IN Microphone INTERFACE】ATOM stabilizer gimbal supports 3.5mm TRRS microphone and it...
SaleBestseller No. 7
DJI Osmo Mobile 3 - 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Handheld Stabilizer Vlog Youtuber Live Video for iPhone Android
  • Featuring a new foldable design, a lots of new functions the Osmo Mobile 3 smartphone stabilizer is...
  • A 3-axis stabilized gimbal features brushless motors that provide smooth, real-time responses to...
  • The Osmo Mobile 3 features a variety of functions allowing you to vlog and shoot content throughout...
  • Compatible Phones: Weight: 7 +/- 1oz; Thickness: ≤ 0.37"; Width: 2.44"-3.46"
  • DJI Mimo App requires iOS 10.0, Android 7.0 or above. Compatible devices include: iPhone 11 Pro Max,...
SaleBestseller No. 8
3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone - 0.5lbs Lightweight Foldable Phone Gimbal w/Auto Inception Dolly-Zoom Time-lapse, Handheld Gimbal for iPhone 11 pro max/11/Xs Max/Samsung - Hohem iSteady X
  • 〠【Foldable Design & Pocket-Size】As the world's lightest 3-Axis handheld smartphone gimbal...
  • 〠【Moment Mode - Create Your Own Blockbusters】Are you still struggling with the plain & dull...
  • 〠【HOHEM PRO - Record Your Story】With the upgraded HOHEM PRO, this smartphone gimbal can...
  • 〠【Outstanding Anti-Shake Performance】Equipped with the enhanced brushless motor and iSteady...
  • 〠【Extremely Easy Operation】iSteady X smartphone gimbal, which adapts the one-handed & simple...
SaleBestseller No. 9
CINEPEER Phone Gimbal, 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer for iPhone 12/11/X/XS, Samsung Android Phone, ZY Play App Support, Smooth Video Gimbal - CINEPEER C11
  • Record Videos with Better Stabilization: The advanced 3-Axis gimbal stabilizer system enhances...
  • Professional Cinematic Features: ZY Play app built-in Object Tracking, Dolly Zoom, Panorama,...
  • Extra-Long Battery Life: CINEPEER C11 supports up to 12-hour runtime with 4000 mAh batteries and a...
  • Powerful and Lightweight: CINEPEER C11 supports up to 200 g (0.44 lbs) device with only 440 g (0.97...
  • Be More Creative: 4 gimbal modes are featured in CINEPEER C11: Pan, Lock, Follow and POV. Simply...
SaleBestseller No. 10
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer for iPhone 11 PRO XS Max XR X 8 Plus 7 6 SE Android Phone Filming Vlog Youtuber Live Video Record(Plate Adapter for Gopro/Counterweight Included)
512 Reviews
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer for iPhone 11 PRO XS Max XR X 8 Plus 7 6 SE Android Phone Filming Vlog Youtuber Live Video Record(Plate Adapter for Gopro/Counterweight Included)
  • 👍【SMOOTH 4 Compatible Filmic Pro】Zhiyun Smooth 4 handheld gimbal stabilizer now compatible...
  • 👍【Applicable for Smartphone Models】The motor power of Smooth 4 has increased by a large...
  • 👍【Making Your Own Smooth Videos】Focus Pull & Zoom Capability: smoothly zoom in/out the...
  • 👍【Control Panel Technology upgrade】Hot Keys Design for Instant Controls can reduce the need...
  • ✅【How to Blance the Mobile Gimbal】If the smartphone fails to stay in level and keeps tilting...

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 2020-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Hey it's Paul Drecksler the founder of Travel is Life. Thank you for being here (wherever you are). Be sure to join my Friends List for some exciting things coming soon on this website. If you're a travel blogger, join our Travel is Life Tribe. Happy travels!