It’s not often that a truly useful new technology is released that both increases performance and undercuts the cost of the tech it replaces. But that’s exactly what the new Qi2 magnetic wireless charging standard has done for iPhone owners — and soon, Android — now that the first products have arrived.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been testing a new Qi2 charging mount for cars that matches the performance of Apple’s MagSafe-certified chargers and costs less. Hell, it’ll also work with Android devices once they start shipping with Qi2 support.
To be honest, I don’t know if it’s the $35.99 ESR charger that I’m so impressed by or the fact that Qi2 products have shipped that are immediately beneficial just one year after the standardization effort was first announced. USB-C didn’t do that, Wi-Fi 7 didn’t, and Matter… well, I’m not brave enough to even try.
But this inexpensive car mount holds my phone securely with a strong magnet, fast-charges it at 15W, and takes just seconds to set up in a car. It’s enough to make me forget about the potential of the Vision Pro because Qi2 is the future, now.
After upgrading to an iPhone 15 Pro a few months ago, I finally got interested in Apple’s MagSafe charging tech to replace my slow $55 robotic car mount that could only muster a 7.5W Qi charge. I just didn’t want to pay a premium for a MagSafe-certified car mount — which start at $80 on Apple dot com — knowing that inexpensive Qi2 solutions were coming.
And now that I’ve tested the ESR charger, I can confirm it does in fact do (almost) everything MagSafe does, only cheaper. When placed on the ESR charger, my iPhone 15 Pro in an Apple MagSafe case charges from zero to 100 percent in two hours and 45 minutes, same as it would if connected to an Apple MagSafe charger.
The ESR wireless car charger comes with the magnetic charging base and two mounts that attach to the base in less than a minute. One mount is a clip that you squeeze and release to grab onto the slats inside your car’s air vent; the other is an oversize GoPro-like 3M adhesive mount for a semipermanent attachment to your car’s dashboard. I don’t own a car, so being able to temporarily clip the charger into whatever car-share I’m driving is crucial to my needs.
Here’s the thing, though: that clip on the vent mount is fat. I tested it on the vents inside a piece of shit VW Up, a stupidly fast BMW 335d E92, and an old Ford Westfalia camper van. It easily fit the first two but was far too thick to latch securely onto the Ford’s dense and shallow cluster of slats inside its vents.
Otherwise, the clip performed as expected. It’s bolstered by a small adjustable flange below the clip that rests on the vent or dashboard (depending on which vent slat you choose to clip the mount) to create a sturdy platform that keeps the phone still and directed at the driver. When the ESR logo is upright on the charging puck, the USB-C jack is at the bottom, with two blue lights on the driver and passenger sides to indicate power.
The ESR charger comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable as well as a small USB-A to USC-C adapter that I’ve already lost. The cable is just one meter (three feet, four inches) long, which was fine everywhere I tested it but could be too short for some setups. If you want that full 15W Qi2 wireless charge to your phone, you’re on the hook to provide a power source of at least 18W to account for conversion inefficiencies. That 18W comes either directly from your car’s more powerful USB-C sockets (USB-A is likely capped at 12W) or via an adapter (not included) for your car’s 12V “cigarette lighter” socket.
In my testing at home, I saw the charger briefly pull a maximum of 22.3W from the wall jack early in the charging cycle, but usually, it hovered between 14W and 11W before dropping well below 10W for the last 45 minutes of charging — all right in line with a typical charging curve for a modern phone. The phone did get noticeably warm at times, but not excessively so.
If you’re concerned about heat and its impact on your battery’s longevity, you can always pull the plug from the puck and insert it directly into your phone. Then, you’ve basically got a MagSafe vent mount, which Mophie sells for $30 and also doesn’t charge your phone (or come with a second adhesive dashboard mount).
That’s also what you should do if you want to use the ESR mount with an Android phone in a MagSafe-compatible case. Just know that Qi2 chargers are limited to 5W when used with Qi v1 phones.
Unlike MagSafe, Qi2 also can’t remember which StandBy display you want on which charger, like family photos when in the kitchen or an alarm clock at your bedside.
And while the Qi2 magnet should be strong enough to deal with bumpy roads and potholes, I can still fling the iPhone 15 Pro off the mount with some vigorous shaking. It’s fine — just don’t plan on using the ESR mount for the next Dakar race or think you can repurpose it for a helmet cam to bomb down mountain bike trails.
For owners of iPhone 13, iPhone 14, and iPhone 15 devices, ESR’s high-quality $35.99 (on sale for $30.99 right now) Qi2 magnetic car mount does exactly what it should: it holds your phone tight, charges it (relatively) fast, and is quick to mount to either your car’s air vent or dashboard. And at just half the price of comparable MagSafe mounts, there’s really nothing to complain about.
Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge