Review: Belkin Car Charge + Navigation Mount for iPhone 5/5s
With its Car Charge + Navigation Mount for iPhone 5/5s ($50), Belkin has taken a setup seen in prior accessories such as TuneBase Hands-Free Aux, and simplified both the design and functionality. Unlike products in the TuneBase family, Car Charge + Navigation Mount doesn't offer any sort of audio connection to a vehicle's entertainment system. Instead, its job is to hold and charge any Lightning-equipped iPhone, while positioning it in a way that's supposed to be well-suited for navigation apps. This puts it at a lower price, one that's competitive with the sum one would have to pay for each component separately.
Car Charge + Navigation Mount is made up of three main pieces. At one end, there’s an adjustable mount with a Lightning plug at the bottom. All the way at the other side is a power adapter that fits into a cigarette lighter socket. In between, there’s an 4.75”-long adjustable gooseneck. There aren’t too many surprises from the last two of these pieces. The charger provides the proper amount of power to an iPhone to juice it up, even when a maps application is running. Rubber pads and a flange around the tip help secure it in place. The neck juts out of it at an angle that’s nearly perpendicular, and can be easily adjusted while holding its shape. In our testing, it’s not so tense as to prevent some bouncing while driving, but it works well otherwise.
That leaves the mount, which has has some appreciable strengths plus a major weakness. It’s made of two different colors and textures of plastic. The body is silver, designed to look like metal, and it’s lined with a soft-touch finished black material on the inside. At the bottom is the Lightning plug, unfortunately surrounded by an Apple-mandated plastic base that rocks back and forth. As is the case with almost all MFi-labeled Lightning products, this prevents the use of any cases except for open-bottom shells. While it may not be Belkin’s fault, it does degrade the overall appeal of the system, as such a high majority of iPhone users do use protective cases. On the positive side of things, the top arm of the mount slides up and down, with a clip holding it securely in place. This means it may work with larger iPhones that are rumored to appear in the future. The whole mount rotates, allowing the iPhone to be positioned as desired.
Adding together the cost of a car mount, charger, and Lightning cable easily brings you to the $50 price point, depending on the models you choose. Car Charge + Navigation Mount is a well-built and attractive in-vehicle solution, and does just about everything right. The big problem is one that’s out of Belkin’s hands: the case compatibility issue. Most people will be better off buying the separate pieces and being able to keep their cases on, than going through the hassle of removing protectors every time. That’s why Car Charge + Navigation Mount earns a limited recommendation. For those who don’t use cases, or are content with shells, it’s a good choice. For everyone else, the value is more questionable.