Belkin’s new Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar ($40) is already one of the most widely seen iPhone accessories of all time — though the vast majority of those sharing images of the product almost certainly had no idea who made it, or what it was actually called. An explanation: shortly after the launch of Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, a number of widely disseminated memes featured this very accessory as evidence that Apple was going in the wrong direction, often by comparing images of a previous iPhone — showing only one audio cord and one Lightning cord plugged in — with a contrasting image of this accessory plugged into a new iPhone, with two more cords stemming out further from the dongle, as if to say, “Isn’t this ridiculous?” Belkin’s tiny dongle actually has a noble purpose: allow users to charge their iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus while listening to music via Lightning headphones — or a Lightning-to-3.5 mm headphone adapter — at the same time. RockStar is not an Apple product, but its mere existence seemed to draw a lot more attention to the issues surrounding the lack of headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar is undeniably a bit clunky, which doesn’t do it any favors. The dongle plugs into the Lightning port of an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, or for that matter, any device running iOS 10 or later. A short cable connects the Lightning plug to a thicker portion where two Lightning cables can be inserted — one Lightning cable for charging purposes, and another for listening to audio. Belkin notes that you can’t plug in two charging cables or two audio cables at once, if you had any desire to do so. The dongle is 4.5” long. And it works. RockStar supports 12W pass-through charging, and up to 48 kHz, 24-bit audio. We were able to listen to music while charging without with having any problems.
Despite its mocked design, Belkin’s Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar does what it sets out to do, offering users a way to listen and charge at the same time — provided, of course, that you supply your own Lightning audio adapter or Lightning headphones. RockStar might work best as a car accessory for any older vehicles which aren’t equipped with Bluetooth.
One wonders if Belkin would have been better off making a shorter dongle with one Lightning port and one 3.5mm audio jack already built in, but perhaps that would have drawn Apple’s ire. It’s also tough to ignore that $40 is a lot to pay to do something you could do on prior iPhones for free, though Belkin can’t be blamed for offering up a solution. Sure, you might want to wait for a less expensive, or a more refined option. You could also take that $40, and put it toward the cost of some nice Bluetooth headphones. But if you do need a way to charge and listen to music now, Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar is here for you.
Company and Price
Compatibility: iPhone 7/7 Plus, any iOS device running iOS 10 or later