As Vergecast listeners know, I’m a sucker for car phone holders and chargers. They’re a perfect gadget for the modern age – a design problem with no perfect solution, price points that usually land at the top of the impulse buying zone, and fully capable of targeted Instagram ads. “People who bought a Qi-based car mount in the past year,” the marketing director of a small accessories company rigorously instructs the Facebook ad system. “Find them and relentlessly pressurize them to buy our product that is at best slightly better than the product they have.”
Reader, it works.
All of this means I was very excited when Apple added MagSafe charging to the new iPhone 12 line. A series of magnets place a wireless charger on the back of the phone and have enough mounting force to hold – yes – the phone on a car holder. A dream: you get into the car seamlessly to think! put your phone on the holder and drive off, laughing at the suckers fiddling with their cradles and motorized friction arms and other unwieldy ideas. Magnets, treasure. How do they work.
Unfortunately, it has been six months since the iPhone 12 was announced and there is a dire shortage of MagSafe car chargers. In fact, there are No officially approved MagSafe car chargers. Instead, there’s this Belkin Car Ventilation Grille Mount PRO with MagSafe, which, as the name suggests, allows you to professionally attach a phone to your vents using MagSafe. However, it will not charge your phone.
I’ve been using a review unit of the Belkin Car Vent Mount PRO with MagSafe, or BCVMPwM, for a few months now. It is at the same time extremely satisfying – to think! – and also very frustrating. Like all air vents, the weight of the phone is enough to pull the air vents down over time, especially if you have a large phone like my iPhone 12 Pro Max. Indeed, the magnets are strong enough to hold even that phone in place, but when you go over particularly large bumps, something falls down: the phone from the holder or the holder from the vent.
“Damn it, BCVMPwM,” you’ll yell, using the full name of this $ 40 pledge to yourself. “Why aren’t you everything I hoped for and dreamed of when looking at the marketing photos on social media?” Then you put everything back in place at the next traffic light, look sheepishly at your partner and slowly realize that they don’t pay any attention to these kinds of antics at all. You need new antics. You need to add Linux to your smart home.
Stop. Did I mention that the BCVMPwM has no C? No, this is not a charger. You still need to plug in a Lightning cable for that, which might make sense if your car doesn’t have wireless CarPlay and you need to plug it in anyway – but there you are, plugging a cable into your phone, which is the opposite of the to think! Magnet Experience. Your old car mount, with the horrible friction arms, had a built-in Qi charger. There are hacky wireless CarPlay adapters! People say they are kind of slow and have issues with audio latency, but come on – a single to think! to mount your phone, charge it and connect directly to CarPlay? Now that’s the good shit.
Why not there an approved MagSafe car holder with built-in wireless charging after six months? Why do Apple’s accessory ecosystems always seem so petrified, in every sense of the word? This is the easiest win of all time, but instead, there’s the BCVMPwM. It offers you a glimpse of a dream. Then it falls down. There are better unlicensed permits that can burn your car to the ground than you can buy on AmazonIt’s the paradigmatic Apple accessory.