As Vergecast listeners know, I am a sucker for car phone mounts and chargers. They are a perfect gadget for the modern age — a design problem with no perfect solution, price points that usually land at the higher end of the impulse-buy zone, and completely well-suited for targeted Instagram ads. “People who have bought a Qi-based car mount in the last year,” the marketing director of a tiny accessory company sternly instructs the Facebook ad-targeting system. “Find them and relentlessly pressure them into buying our product which is at best marginally better than the one 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 aligns a wireless charger to the back of the phone, and has enough attachment strength to — yes — hold the phone on a car mount. A dream: you get in the car, seamlessly dink! your phone onto the mount, and drive away, laughing at the suckers fumbling with their cradles and motorized friction arms and other unwieldy ideas. Magnets, baby. How do they work.
Unfortunately it has been six months since the iPhone 12 was announced, and there is a pitiful shortage of MagSafe car chargers. In fact, there are no officially-sanctioned MagSafe car chargers. Instead, there is this Belkin Car Vent Mount PRO with MagSafe, which, as the name suggests, allows you to mount a phone to your vents with MagSafe, in, um, a professional way. However, it does not charge your phone.
I have been using a review unit of the Belkin Car Vent Mount PRO with MagSafe, or BCVMPwM, for a couple months now. It is at once supremely satisfying — dink! — and also tremendously frustrating. Like all vent mounts, the weight of the phone is enough to pull the vent louvers down over time, especially if you have a large phone like my iPhone 12 Pro Max. The magnets are indeed strong enough to hold even that phone in place, but if you go over any particularly huge bumps, something will fall down — the phone off the mount, or the mount off the vent.
“Dammit, BCVMPwM,” you will yell, using the full name of this $40 promise to yourself. “Why aren’t you everything I hoped and dreamed of when I looked at the marketing photos on social media?” Then you will put everything back into place at the next stop light, sheepishly glance at your partner, and slowly realize they have completely stopped paying attention to these sorts of antics anymore. You need new antics. You need to add Linux to your smart home.
Stop it. Have I mentioned that the BCVMPwM does not have C? No, this is not a charger. For that, you still have to plug in a Lightning cable, which sort-of-maybe makes sense if your car does not have wireless CarPlay and you need to plug it in anyway — but there you are, plugging a cable into your phone, which is the complete opposite of the dink! 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 kinda slow and have audio latency issues, but c’mon — a single dink! to mount your phone, charge it, and instantly connect to CarPlay? Now that’s the good shit.
Why isn’t there an approved MagSafe car mount with built-in wireless charging after six months? Why do Apple accessory ecosystems always seem so petrified, in every sense of the word? This is the easiest win of all time, but instead, there is the BCVMPwM. It offers you a glimpse of a dream. Then it falls down. There are better unlicensed ones that might burn your car to the ground that you can buy on Amazon. It is the paradigmatic Apple accessory.