Belkin provides a useful dongle to provide audio and power without syncing data.

I can understand the drive for Apple to make its devices smaller and that the 3.5mm jack is an older, much larger, connection type.  With the latest generation of iPhone, Apple has removed this jack, instead opting for a single lightning port.  With our world becoming more Bluetooth interconnected, this change seems to be rather progressive.  However, we are at somewhat of an impasse, as we still have older tech and devices that rely on AUX-IN.  More importantly, we need our devices to do more and push them further with each upgrade.  Traditionally, we have relied on dongles, plugs, cables and ports to add accessories.  With a decrease in the number of ports on the latest iPhones, it appears that we may be heading the wrong way.

The iPhone 7 and 7 plus, like the 6/6s before them have been designed to last about a day on a charge.  This is likely adequate for most users and under most circumstances.  Nearly everything I own has Bluetooth connection, and thus I never thought I would miss the 3.5mm port.  Alas, a single port means a single plug.  Some may want to listen to corded headphones while charging.  This is currently not an option without added accessories.  Apple does provide a lightning to 3.5mm jack (included with my iPhone), which allows you to utilize the charging port as a headphone jack.  Again, you cannot charge your phone through this dongle and you must choose to charge or to listen.  Do not get me wrong, I am appreciative that Apple included this device.  Unfortunately, I wish that there was a way to charge and listen.  Additionally, dongles are easily misplaced and often prove difficult to find.

While at CES 2017, in Las Vegas Nevada, I was using my iPhone 7 plus for messaging, phone calls, CES map, web searches and for video interviews.  I had an iRig handheld microphone attached via a lightning cable to my phone, for enhanced audio, and found that I was unable to keep my phone charged for long.  I also had, in my possession, an iRig lavalier microphone that plugged in via 3.5mm jack.  Again, the issue has been the presence of a single port within the iPhone.  I had previously used the Apple Lightning to HDMI adaptor, which proved incredibly useful for watching movies on my projector. I personally thought that there must be an adapter, a dongle, something, that would allow you to have an extra port.  Then I found Belkin produces a lightning Audio + Charge Rockstar dongle, which provides single to double lightning adaptors.

The point of the device is to allow you to charge and listen to music at the same time.  The packaging has a picture of the device on the cover and notes it is MFI certified.  You can clearly see the Made for iPhone and iPad on the cover and the side shows compatibility with IOS 10 and later.  Nowhere on the packaging does Belkin detail the capabilities of the device or what types of devices can be used with the RockStar device.  I opened up the package and removed the insert.  The insert clearly shows you can charge in 1 of the ports and you can use the other to listen.  Each port can be used interchangeably, meaning you are not locked into a single port only.  Using a very clear diagram, Belkin shows the capability of the device.  There is a 2×4 grid of circles, 4 green, and 4 red, each with lightning symbols and headphone symbols.  Essentially, you can charge/listen but not listen/listen or charge/charge.

Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge Rockstar Adapter REVIEW

The device is feather light and measures 4 1/2″ long and 1 3/8″ at the long end.  I wish that there was a strap or some kind of included method to attach the device to a case/phone.  Dongles get lost, they get dropped, they find their way into the bottom of a backpack and you can never find them when you need them.  This has been my biggest complaint about every accessory cable I have ever owned.  How often have you reached a destination to realize you forgot the plug for your camera or you forgot your charger?

The connection with the lightning port is very secure and I appreciate the 3 3/4″ cable between the two ports.  The cable is not fixed but not fully bendable either, which provides some support.  There is a negative to this cable, and it is a very large negative.  This cable is only able to charge, it will not sync data.  Plugging the iPhone into my MacBook Pro, through this cable, my computer could not identify the iPhone.  Nowhere on the packaging and nowhere inside of the materials could I find information that would suggest you could not charge and sync.  I turned to the FAQ on Belkin website to learn more about the device. The FAQ clearly states that only the lightning to 3.5mm dongle is accepted at this time.  You cannot thus use additional cables/dongles to provide a daisy chaining opportunity.  The Lightning to 3.5mm dongle worked amazingly well with or without the Belkin dongle.  The sound output via my Bose AE2 around-ear headphones sounded just as good as they did plugging directly into a 3.5mm port.

Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge Rockstar Adapter REVIEW

I did notice an occasional disconnect, where you would play music and no sound would come through the headphones.  Simply removing the lightning adaptor and replacing the adapter into the phone corrected this issue.  I have evaluated many reviews of the Belkin cable and see a large split between 5’s and 1’s and there are some definite pros and cons to this device.  First, it will allow you to charge while listening to music.  I did not experience any major issues with charging or with the use of the Lightning to 3.5mm port.  Both worked well and both lightning ports on the dongle worked interchangeably.  As noted above, plugging the device into the computer will not allow you to sync.  Although this was not my intended purpose, it is rather unfortunate that there is not a charge/sync function.

Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge Rockstar Adapter REVIEW

As a rather large pro, the dongle will allow audio-in.  I was able to use the iRig lavalier microphone to record sound.  To test this function, you can go to Voice Memos and record an audio test.  As another plus, the iRig lavalier microphone has a 3.5mm jack inside of it, which allows you to use headphones, microphone and charge function.  I was not expecting to be able to have audio in and audio out from the same dongle.   Lastly, the male lightning adaptor end is a little big and fits snuggly into the Otterbox defender case.  This does not fit inside of my Catalyst case (iPhone 6s plus) and some other reviews have expressed concern regarding the Element case or the Apple battery case (not tested by me personally).  The cable is definitely worth having if you use your phone regularly for music.  I would rate it at 4/5 stars based on my review alone.  There seems to be an intermittent connection issue that is corrected by reseeding the cable.  Otherwise, it seems to work as intended.  I wish the packaging relayed the lack of data syncing.  I found that pairing the device with my Nomad PowerPack battery and the Lightning to 3.5mm adaptor with the iRig microphone worked incredibly well.
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