Over on Kinja Deals, I’ve come across hundreds of USB car chargers, and while they vary in shape, size, power, and number of ports, they’re all basically just that: Car chargers. Nonda had the bright idea to add some Bluetooth-powered smarts to its $30 Zus Smart Car Charger, and the results are truly awesome, save for one serious flaw.
First, the good stuff: Zus includes two lighted, reversible USB ports at 2.4A each, which is as powerful as these things get without Quick Charge. The headlining feature though is a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone. That allows the Zus app to monitor the voltage of your car battery (iOS only), and also drops a pin on a map whenever you turn your engine off.
That’s an amazing feature if you’re parking your car at a stadium or airport, and it even works completely in the background; you don’t need to open the Zus app to activate it. If your car already has Bluetooth, iOS 10 and Android have this feature built in, but this is a revelation for owners of older vehicles.
Remember how I mentioned there was a problem? For reasons I’ll never comprehend, Nonda decided to put the USB ports on the side of the device, rather than the front like literally every other car charger in the world. Turns out, there’s a reason USB ports should be on the front: USB connectors are big, and most DC power ports are usually tucked into tiny, out-of-the-way corners of car dashboards. So if you don’t have ample clearance around your outlet, Zus is effectively useless as a USB charger, which is a real shame, because it was so close to being great.
Hilariously, Nonda sells obscenely expensive ($20) Lightning, microUSB, and USB-C cables with right angle connectors to “fix” this glaring problem, but you shouldn’t need to buy a special cable just to use a car charger.
If you really wanted the battery monitoring and parking alerts, you could just plug this thing into a spare DC outlet in the back of your car, and use another car charger up front to power your phone. And if you’ve got the space for Zus, I’d absolutely recommend buying it. Just be sure to check out your dashboard before taking the plunge.
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