It’s a dongle-ful world, everybody, and it’s all Apple’s fault.
Some companies like Samsung and LG still ship their flagship phones with a headphone jack, but those days are numbered, especially because Google, HTC, Motorola, and Essential have all followed Apple into the darkness, where phones without headphone jacks live unhappily with a dongle jammed into their ports.
But not all dongles are created equally. Does size matter? What about stiffness? There’s much to be curious about! Which is why we went through great lengths to test and rank 10 of them. Prepare yourself, folks. This is dongles, ranked.
Before we start, it’s important to note that it takes a certain level of maturity to rank dongles. Not everyone is qualified to undertake such an important task. What makes me so qualified for the job?
Because I said so. Because more dongles cross my desk than I ever wish to have, and so I feel it’s my civic duty to provide this service.
I’ve already said too much, so I’ll just cut to the chase and rank these danglin’ dongle bastards from worst to best. This is by no means a definitive list of every dongle ever made (I humbly open my mailbox to the best and worst there is to offer.)
Where do I even begin with this dongle? First, why is the word “adapter” spelled with an “o” in the official name?
Second, this looks like a penis, which is the last thing you want connected to your iPhone. Imagine that? A dongle that looks like an actual dongle. Who thought this was a good idea?
And third, this thing is huge. It’s the largest of any of the dongles I tried. Its plastic enclosure is extremely stiff and rigid. The cable picks up dust too easily.
But if design isn’t a top priority, it’s actually quite functional. There’s a remote with buttons for +/- volume and play/pause. Most importantly, there’s a Lightning port to charge and a headphone jack. That Lightning port is only for charging, though. You can’t plug in a pair of Lightning headphones and a jack-equipped headphones for dual listening.
Audio quality piped through this dongle is also surprisingly good, with fuller sound and less of ambient humming in the background.
Amazon Basics accessories are usually much more cost effective than buying brand name ones. It’s too bad this one is pretty crappy. Not only is it $35, but why on Earth did they go and make it L-shaped? It looks like a hideous plastic leg cast.
The cable is nice and durable, and the port is reinforced. There’s a built-in remote that works exactly like the StrikeLine. In fact, it works identically to the StrikeLine dongle with the Lightning port only working for charging.
Unfortunately, music sounds pretty mediocre through this dongle. Compared to the StrikeLine, I noticed some serious static noise humming in the background. It basically ruined La La Land’s “Another Day of Sun” for me. And how can you ruin that song? Nuh-uh.
Notice how this adapter’s name is spelled properly.
Spelling aside, this dongle is much better-looking than the one with the Lightning port for charging. Audio quality is just as good, and the remote works the same, too.
The real question I had while trying this dongle was if I even needed a remote at all. I concluded: no, I don’t. My EarPods already come with an in-line remote and so do my old Beats on-ear headphones. Besides, the remote control’s in the wrong place. It’s too far down the cable.
If I’m going to reach that far down, I might as well just pick up my phone and use its volume buttons or on-screen playback controls. I say skip the remote and buy a cheaper dongle and save yourself some money.
7. Moto Z USB-C adapter
While Apple and Google are including short headphone jack dongles with their latest phones, Motorola went in the opposite direction with a super-long one included with its modular Moto Z phones — the longest one of all that I’ve tested.
That’s either a plus or a minus depending how long you like your dongles. It’s a bit much if you ask me. It sounds alright, too. IDK, if you need the extra length and don’t need any trims like a Lightning charging port, this one’s a good one to get.
If you want quality accessories, Belkin’s one of the few that come to mind immediately. Right off the bat, you can see Belkin nailed the Apple-esque aesthetic with this dongle. It looks just like one of Apple’s Mac adapters.
The dongle’s well-constructed and has survived a beating in my backpack, but the cable is so damn stiff and long that it protrudes out of my winter coat’s deep pockets.
This particular dongle has dual Lightning ports. But that doesn’t mean you can plug in a pair of Lightning-equipped EarPods or headphones. The left port only works for charging, while the right one only works for Lightning headphones. For a hefty $40, I had hoped they’d be interchangeable. But alas, they aren’t. You’ve been warned.
This dongle’s virtually identical to the one above, except it’s $5 cheaper, and instead of twin Lightning ports, it has a headphone jack and a Lightning port.
It’s far more useful than the dual Lightning one because the whole point of a dongle is to bring back the headphone jack (eww to anyone who likes using Lighting-equipped headphones).
That said, it shares the same pros and cons as Belkin’s other adapter. While not as large as Scosche or Amazon’s, it’s still offensively large and plasticky. It’s a high-quality dongle and being able to charge and listen to music is a huge plus for when you’re traveling, but the price is still a little steep.
4. Essential Phone USB-C adapter
The Essential Phone’s camera may be poo-poo, but its dongle is top-notch. Well, it would have been if it didn’t start breaking down so quickly.
I was all ready to crown Essential’s dongle the king of dongles because of its braided cable, perfectly-sized length, and well-made quality. But after a few weeks, the dongle started to malfunction, constantly not converting the analog signal from several of my headphones.
I especially noticed problems while using it with the Pixel 2 XL. I’d frequently need to unplug and plug the dongle back in to reset things. Sound would always randomly become tinny and distorted. It’s entirely possible I got a dud, but also: you can’t buy this nifty dongle separately. I’d happily give it a second shot if I could get a new one.
It’s the worst-rated Apple-made product of all time with a 1.5/5 star rating. But hey, it’s free with every iPhone 7 (or newer), and saves you $9.
It’s honestly not the best dongle, but it is cheap, short and does the job. Music actually sounds worse through these than on some of the other dongles listed above and a pair of Lightning EarPods, but whatever, it’s the one everyone gets for free and uses.
Life ain’t perfect. It’s really mostly mediocre, but we all make do with what we have. Apply this philosophy to Apple’s dongle and deal with it, and you’ll survive.
2. ILDock ($10)
One look at the ILDock and you can immediately see that it’s different. It doesn’t have a wire at all, which means it doesn’t dangle at all.
Of the batch of dongles I’ve put to the test, this one is the smallest one that gives you both a Lightning port for charging and a headphone jack. It’s small and looks good, and even has a little hole in the upper corner to attach it to a keychain.
It was originally sold on Kickstarter, and it looks like the company doesn’t even sell them anymore. But if you look on Amazon, you can find similar ones, some of which reference ILDock. I have no idea if they’re using the same underlying components, but it’s easy to imagine that they are. This one costs a few more bucks, though.
If I were to pick between Belkins or this, I’d pick this one every time.
My pick for best dongle is Google’s $9 headphone jack adapter. It measures 3.8 inches, which is longer than Apple’s and not so overly long like some of the others. I like that the build quality is overall more durable and not as flimsily designed as Apple’s.
If you’re a Pixel 2 or 2 XL owner, you get one free in the box. Audio quality sent through it has been crisp and clear and better sounding than on Apple’s, too. Obviously, if you’re an iPhone 7 (or newer) user, you’re shit out of luck, but if you have an Android phone without a headphone jack, this affordable dongle is the one to get.