Review: Just Mobile Highway + Highway Pro for iPod, iPhone + iPad
Five years ago, car chargers for Apple devices were getting better -- simple charging was becoming integrated with mounting and audio-out hardware, enabling users to make a single connection to see, hear, and refuel their iPods. Things have changed a lot since then. Power-hungry iPhones with the potential for screeching cellular interference noises arrived on the scene in mid-2007, helping to discourage charger makers from including audio out, then larger and more energy-demanding iPads debuted in 2010, making it impractical to create a universal car mount for all Dock Connector devices. Consequently, classic power-only chargers have enjoyed something of a resurgence, and developers have sought to broaden their appeal by adding universal iPad, iPhone, and iPod power support. Now one company has taken things to the next level.
While many accessory makers have released “micro” chargers over the past two years, stuffing all of the necessary components into tiny plastic shells that barely stick out of a car’s power port, Just Mobile went in the opposite direction with Highway ($35) and Highway Pro ($40). Rather than downplaying their chargers, the longtime experts in metal accessories sought to make them look sexy again, capping each with silver or black diamond tread aluminum. The goal was to create something that would look worthy of higher-end car interiors, and the Highway designs succeed without mimicking any specific model: the tread looks fancy regardless of the color, and makes removal of the charger comparatively easy.
Highway and Highway Pro differ in two ways, one obvious and one not. The basic Highway features only a single USB port capable of 2.1-Amp full speed iPad charging, 1-Amp iPhone charging, and 0.5-Amp iPod charging, automatically adjusting to whatever’s connected. Highway Pro includes two separately labeled USB ports: one offers up to 2.1-Amp iPad charging, while the other has a maximum of 1-Amp output, for full-speed charging of both iPhones and iPods. Both versions come with one coiled USB to Dock Connector cable that’s around 11” long at minimum, expanding to around 3.5 feet as necessary. If you need a second cable for Highway Pro, you have to supply it yourself.
Less apparent from photographs but noticeable in person are differences in the sizes of their top caps: Highway Pro is just a little longer—around 2.6” versus 2.3”—and wider, with a 1.13” diameter versus just under 1” for Highway. Neither feels large, and thanks to the metal caps, they both feel substantial and sturdy. Somewhat like Apple’s MagSafe connectors, a single pinhole-sized green light on each charger lets you know that it’s powered on, but doesn’t change colors to indicate charging status or reflect the number of connected devices. The indicator’s a nice little touch, but not as useful as the multi-colored indicators Apple and some third-party developers use on their chargers.
Charging performance from both units was as expected: full-speed iPad recharging on the iPad ports, with full-speed iPhone and iPod charging on Highway Pro’s second port. Using the iPad’s GPS while refueling was therefore no problem with either model, and Highway Pro had enough juice to spare for a second device. While we noticed that Highway Pro’s plastic connector became a little warm during iPad charging, it wasn’t a real issue, and we’ve tested enough iPad chargers to know that this is a common issue with 2.1-Amp power devices; it’s almost entirely mitigated here.
The only real knock against Highway and Highway Pro is their limited functionality. They’re universal iPad, iPhone, and iPod chargers, and they look great, but they don’t do anything else; audio output, mounting, FM transmitting, and other features of some past car chargers are totally left out here, which means that your device’s Dock Connector port—the source of its highest-quality wired audio—will be filled with a cable rather than accessible for music. You’ll either need to connect a second cable to the iPad/iPhone/iPod headphone port and separately adjust the headphone port audio level for your car, or rely upon a wireless connection for your audio needs. While stereo Bluetooth connections are beginning to appear in some vehicles for music, monaural Bluetooth has long been an option for iPhone calling purposes, and integrated speakers in Apple devices can offer some audio output, you’ll have to decide whether the power-only approach of the Highway units is adequate for your needs.
Overall, while the dual-port Highway Pro is definitely the better value of these two chargers—and therefore worthy of a higher rating—both Highway versions benefit from the same sharp-looking enclosure, which at this point in time is the single biggest reason to choose one iPad-ready car charger over the other. By going upscale during a time when rival alternatives are becoming more generic, Just Mobile found a way to make each of its models merit a small price premium. The standard Highway is a very good car charger, and Highway Pro is a great one; if you’re less concerned about dollars than design, give each of these models very serious consideration.