From adding CarPlay to your vehicle to MagSafe iPhone mounts and the best charging cables for car rides, we’ve got must-have recommendations that make great gifts — even if you’re shopping for yourself.
CarPlay has been a specialty of mine since Apple’s car-friendly feature launched on the iPhone in 2014. Here’s a throwback to the very early concept for CarPlay that was original called iOS in the Car.
I published this early review of CarPlay when it debuted eight years ago. These articles are ones I regularly update for the CarPlay curious:
- These are the best CarPlay apps for iPhone
- This adapter turns standard CarPlay into Wireless CarPlay, and somehow it actually works
- Adding Wireless CarPlay and Qi charging to a 2016-2020 tenth generation Honda Civic for ~$200
You should definitely consider adding Apple CarPlay and a backup camera to your car or a loved one’s vehicle. You can replace the existing entertainment system in most cars without CarPlay for under $1,000.
This year I have two recommendations: a budget-friendly wired solution, and a more expensive wireless option.
Alpine iLX-W650 CarPlay with Back Up Camera
For $400, you get an upgraded receiver with a 7-inch capacitive touch screen (avoid resistive touch, that’s the bad kind) plus a compatible backup camera with a 132 degree viewing angle and a frame for mounting.
Alpine iLX-507 Wireless CarPlay with Backup Camera
New this year is Alpine’s iLX-507 Wireless CarPlay receiver (reviewed). This bundle for $800 gives you a very similar display so twice the price. Personally, I’m not sure the extra $400 is worth not having to connect with a Lightning cable each time. Wireless CarPlay is certainly superior and if you have the money to spend, this is a great pick.
Installation is a factor for retrofitting your existing car with CarPlay, but it’s cheaper than buying a new car. In the past, I’ve gone with a local car audio shop as well as Best Buy for installation.
You can also opt for a less traditional option like the Intellidash Pro display (reviewed) that mounts to your windshield or car dash — no assembly required. Wired will set you back $250 and wireless goes for $300. There’s a 10% coupon available for the wired version at the time of writing.
Lastly, if your car or your loved one’s vehicle already has CarPlay built-in but it doesn’t work without a Lightning cable connected, I highly recommend checking out one of these adapters that actually adds Wireless CarPlay functionality.
Other must-have accessories for the road and your iPhone include:
- Belkin MagSafe Car Vent Mount PRO $40
- Belkin BoostCharge Pro 15W MagSafe $100
- Spigen Mag Fit Phone Holder Car Mount Designed for Magsafe $23
- Anker Powerline+ II Lightning Cable (10 ft) $23
- Backseat Car Mount for iPhone or iPad $23
If you have an iPhone 12 or later, Belkin’s Car Vent Mount is a useful attachment for mounting your iPhone to your dash, and it’s handy as a second screen even if you have CarPlay. Think navigation on one screen and music control on another — safely, of course.
New this year is Belkin’s powered version of its MagSafe mount. The $60 premium is a big jump in price, but that’s comparable to supplying your own MagSafe charging puck. It also delivers full 15W charging speeds that the iPhone is capable of receiving over wireless charging.
I know you may be thinking that a 10-foot-long Lightning cable is a bit much and the last thing you’d need as a driver. Consider your passengers (especially kids), however, and how running out of iPad battery on the road could be a nightmare. Anker makes great products and this braided solution will help with durability.
And you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate a headrest-mounted video screen for entertainment. This solution works with both iPhone and most iPads and easily turns your backseat into a first-class flying experience.
- 2/10/25A 12V Smart Battery Charger/Maintainer Fully Automatic with Engine Start, Cable Clamps $100
- Car Charger, [2Pack] 3.4a Fast Charge Dual Port USB Cargador Carro Lighter Adapter for iPhone $9
- iOttie Easy One Touch 4 Dash & Windshield Universal Car Mount $23
- Apple AirTag (seriously, dude, where’s my car?) $29
- Belkin AirTag Case with Key Ring (dude, where’s my car… key?) $10
Author: Zac Hall