Six months after Apple introduced the Lightning connector standard, relatively few Lightning accessories have come to market, but charging cables and accessories continue to trickle out every week or two. Three companies have recently released Lightning-equipped car chargers that we review here today: Incipio has the Mini Auto Charger – 2.1A Lightning ($30) and Ultra Compact Auto Charger – 1A Lightning ($25), and there’s also Odoyo’s Micro Car Charger with Lightning Connector ($30, aka PS110). All three models feature captured cables rather than removable ones, limiting their functionality to use in your vehicle.
As their extended names suggest, each of Incipio’s cables supports different maximum output speeds. In our tests, both Mini Auto Charger and Ultra Compact Auto Charger were able to refill a compatible device—an iPad mini for the former, an iPhone 5 for the latter—at their appropriate peak speeds. The cable on Mini Auto Charger is about 40” long, terminating at a plain looking round car plug. The surface that shows from the port is a flat circle, with an LED above the end of the cable. Although it looks like you might be able to remove a USB plug where the pieces connect, it’s permanently fixed in place. The sheathe around the Lightning plug is one of the narrowest we’ve seen on a third-party accessory, and should be compatible with all but the very tightest cases.
Ultra Compact Auto Charger has a more unique design than Mini Auto Charger. Instead of a round car plug, this one is flat on two ends and only half an inch thick. Gone is the charging indicator light, but the fusion of the cord and plug does look nicer. You lose about an inch and a half of cable length compared to Incipio’s other car charger, but that shouldn’t make a big difference for most users. The plastic around the Lightning plug is a wider here, and matte black instead of glossy. It’s also a rectangle as opposed to the ovals we usually see. While you don’t save a huge amount of space relative to the other chargers here, and the size differences really don’t matter once you’ve plugged the charger into your car’s power outlet, Ultra Compact Auto Charger’s flat body may be a little easier to pack in a bag for travel—at the cost of faster iPad charging support.
Compared to the other chargers currently on the market, Odoyo’s does stand out—not on looks, but functionality. For those who value the ability to charge any iPad at full-speed, there’s currently no other option. Given how simple it is, it would be great if the price were a little lower, but it’s fair enough to warrant a general recommendation. On the other hand, both of Incipio’s chargers earn limited recommendations. There’s nothing wrong with either, but they don’t bring anything special to the table at their respective price points.
Company and Price
Model: Mini Auto Charger, Ultra Compact Auto Charger
Compatible: iPad (4th-Gen), iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPod nano 7G, iPod touch 5G