Yesterday, I reviewed PowerSkin’s Spare, a semi-protective battery case designed specifically for the iPhone 6. While Spare didn’t strike me as a great value for its asking price, PowerSkin also sells a more powerful alternative called PoP’n 3 that can work with multiple iPhones, including the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and earlier iPhone 5 models. And despite having nearly twice as much power as Spare — enough power to fully recharge any iPhone — it sells for only $50-$55, depending on the color you prefer.

PoP’n 3 isn’t a typical USB battery pack, even though it looks like one. Made mostly from metallic plastic that matches the space gray, silver, or gold colors of recent iPhones, it has a Lightning cable built into the bottom for easy connection to bare or encased devices. Suction cups on one side let it attach or detach from your iPhone on an as-desired basis, and unlike iPhone-specific battery cases, enable it to function as a just-in-case power source for iPads, too…

Key Details:

  • Three color choices match Apple’s current iPhones + iPads
  • Includes an integrated Lightning cable and a detachable micro-USB recharging cable
  • 4000mAh cell can fully recharge iPhone 6 Plus and other iPhones
  • Suction cups attach to the back of iPhones and many iPhone cases

 

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As the third-generation version of PowerSkin’s PoP’n battery pack, PoP’n 3 offers the family’s best overall combination of design and value. Measuring roughly 4.3″ tall by 2.3″ wide by 0.5″ thick at its largest points, PoP’n 3 fits a 4000mAh battery into a metallic plastic chassis that’s not much larger than the original PoP’n battery’s 2000mAh cell. It’s only a few millimeters wider than iPhone 5 models, and about a half-inch shorter, so it can fit on any Lightning-equipped iPhone like a backpack. But it was clearly designed mostly for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as its capacity is a better match for the larger iPhones’ bigger batteries.

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The biggest difference between PoP’n 3 and typical USB external batteries is the integrated suction cup pad on its back. There are 24 small suction cups and one large, clear microadhesive surface that can be used “if necessary” to attach PoP’n 3 to your iPhone — I found it necessary. While the suction cups and microadhesive surface work on a wide range of surfaces, it’s fairly easy to get an imperfect alignment between the battery and your iPhone, so if you’re cosmetically obsessive, a traditional battery case might better suit your needs. On the other hand, I was very pleased to find that PoP’n 3 fit right between the steel pins on the back of Incipio’s Trestle for iPhone 6 Plus, which meant that I could use my regular iPhone case along with a spare battery on an as-needed basis.

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Another key distinction between PoP’n 3 and common USB batteries is the integrated Lightning plug, which has been redesigned from PoP’n and PoP’n 2 for greater flexibility and case-compatibility. Apple-licensed with Made for iPhone branding, PoP’n 3 is capable of recharging iPhones at their expected 1-Amp speeds, and also works with Lightning-equipped iPods and iPads. Connected to the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple’s most power-hungry iPhone, PoP’n 3 was able to deliver a 102% overall recharge before expiring, going from 2% to 100% and then adding 4% to a partially discharged phone. Any other iPhone will be able to achieve a complete recharge while still having plenty of juice left over. Interestingly, though PoP’n 3 offers only 1-Amp output, it can be recharged at 2.1-Amp speeds, which is a nice benefit if you have a spare iPad charger or 2.1/2.4-Amp USB port handy.

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One unusual thing did come up during my testing. PoP’n 3’s single button is supposed to turn on the battery’s power after being held for five seconds, alternately triggering the power indicator lights when it’s tapped. Although the power-on feature worked perfectly when connected to partially powered iPhones and iPads, it wouldn’t work when the iPhone 6 Plus was completely discharged; on multiple separate tests with a completely discharged iPhone, I had to jumpstart the phone first using another power source, then connect PoP’n 3 once the phone had 2% or more power. I haven’t seen this issue in any other battery I’ve tested, and some people will consider the battery’s inability to resuscitate a dead iPhone a show-stopping flaw.

 

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That having been said, PoP’n 3 is much like iPhone-specific battery cases in that it’s designed primarily for people who need extra energy while their devices are in use. The backpack-style design will appeal more to some people than others, perhaps finding its greatest audience with presently underserved iPhone 6 Plus owners, users of multiple Lightning devices, and people who want to occasionally couple a battery with a favorite case. There are more capacious bargain batteries out there, and some great dedicated iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus battery cases, but if you want something that’s convenient for as-needed use alongside an iPhone, PoP’n 3 is worth your consideration.

Manufacturer: PowerSkin Price: $50-$55 Compatibility: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Lightning iPads/iPods/iPhones

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