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Out of the blue, Apple has today launched their first battery case, the Apple iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case for $99. The case comes in Charcoal Gray or White and is compatible with iPhone 6s or iPhone 6. The case is like the Apple Silicone Case, with the addition of a back bump for a battery. Third-party iPhone battery cases have existed for a long time, this is the first version of the product from Apple itself.

The integrated battery will increase iPhone talk time up to 25 hours and Internet use up to 18 hours on LTE (an increase of 8 hours). The battery of the Smart Case is displayed in the iOS UI, thanks to the integration between software and hardware.

The battery case includes a passthrough so you can still plug in other Lightning accessories whilst the case is in use. The product is available to pickup in Apple Stores today with delivery as early as Thursday.

My description of the case is a Silicon Case with a hump; not the most flattering description but pretty accurate. Here’s how Apple describes the iPhone case on its website.

The Smart Battery Case is engineered specifically for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 to give you even longer battery life and protection. The soft microfiber lining on the inside helps protect your iPhone, while the soft elastomer hinge design makes it easy to put the case on and take it off again. On the outside, the silky, soft-touch finish of the silicone exterior feels great in your hand.

Unlike some of Apple’s Magic accessories, the Smart Battery Case is very competitively priced: $99. For comparison, the most well known brand in this space, the Mophie Juice Pack Air, sells their iPhone 6s battery case for $99.95.

The Juice Pack Air has a 2750 mAH capacity, the capacity of the Apple Smart Battery Case is not disclosed on the website. According to The Verge’s review, the Apple case has a 1877 mAH battery inside, substantially smaller than the Mophie.

The Apple case has some ‘smarts’ to justify its name. For starters, it includes iOS system integration to show the battery pack status in Notification Center and the lock screen. The case itself also includes a discreet light that indicates charging status (amber, green, or off).

Moreover, Apple says that other cases often impair cellular performance as the battery gets in the way of the radios. For the Smart Battery Case, Apple has incorporated a passive antenna which reroutes radio frequencies and minimizes interference. For sound, the case includes a specifically designed acoustic opening to channel audio from the iPhone speaker.

The company also claims its charging mechanism is better than competing cases. Most cases first charge the phone and then charge the battery pack. Apple’s case can crossover to charge the integrated battery mid-way through the phone charge cycle.

The Apple Smart Battery Case is only available for the 4.7 inch iPhone 6. Apple has not released its own case for the iPhone 6 Plus, presumably because the Plus naturally gets higher battery life due to the larger internal battery. Try the $99 Mophie Juice Pack case if you are looking to extend your iPhone 6s Plus battery even further.

Speaking of unannounced Apple iPhone accessory releases, last week Apple launched a (PRODUCT)RED version of its Silicon Case. The battery case is boring in color (just white or black) but is an interesting signal by Apple that iPhone battery life could be better than it is today.

Update: Reviews!

The Verge:

Maybe some other stuff will appeal to you. Like the fact that Apple’s Smart Battery Case uses a Lightning cable, so if you already carry around a Lightning cable to charge your iPhone, you’re all set! You don’t need to pack a microUSB cable, too.

Or the fact that this case is built with extra antennas to boost cellular performance, because the last thing you want — and Apple wants — is for your cell performance to be impacted by the case. In either, ahem, case, I didn’t have any issues with cellular connectivity while using the case.

Wall Street Journal:

It brought my dead iPhone 6s up to 83%. That’s plenty to keep up with my heavy usage. Without charging my phone at my desk as I usually do, I got into bed most days with 20% remaining. I didn’t have to worry about that taunting battery meter throughout the day. In my battery test, which loops a series of websites with brightness at around 65%, phone and case together lasted an impressive 13 hours. That’s five hours longer than an iPhone 6s without it.

As I mentioned, the case can also power an iPhone 6. Apple isn’t making a battery case for the larger iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus, however, because those phones have larger internal batteries and less need for mid-day top-ups.

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About the Author

Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.