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Opinion: The iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case shows Apple knows iPhone battery woes, but wants to profit from them


Arriving with little fanfare — much like several of Apple’s recent Apple Watch, iPhone, and iPad accessories — the new iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case appears to have been designed by Apple to make two statements:

  1. The “smart” way to add a battery to a super-svelte iPhone is to graft it onto the back of a case like a hump, clearly identifying its battery-ness.
  2. If you’re buying a non-Plus version of the iPhone, you’ll probably want to add an extra battery, and rather than building it into the phone itself or letting third-parties rake in the dough, Apple would like to capture the extra $99 for itself.

Having reviewed lots of iPhone battery cases, and assembled a popular guide to the best iPhone 6 / 6s Plus battery cases, I’m feeling very conflicted about the Smart Battery Case — it doesn’t seem “smart” at all. In polls and in comments, readers have clearly expressed that an Apple-developed solution to the iPhone’s less-than-full-day battery life is long overdue. But the vast majority of people have said they want Apple to improve the battery inside the iPhone, even compromising thinness, rather than requiring an external battery solution.

Since it’s rare for Apple to make a one-off accessory for a single iPhone, the Smart Battery Case strongly suggests that next year’s basic iPhone, too, will struggle to make it through a full day without assistance. And that’s not good news for iPhone users…

Although I’ll have more to say on this point in our review of the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case, our editors’ initial reaction to Apple’s latest industrial design isn’t positive. Unlike almost every battery case we’ve seen for the last 7 years, Apple made no attempt to organically blend its battery pack into the iPhone’s back, instead leaving a highly visible rectangular hump centered below the camera and above the ports. It’s as if Apple’s designers took the prior iPhone 6 Silicone Case, tucked a battery inside, and called it a day.

While this isn’t entirely surprising in light of the iPad Pro’s similarly bulging Smart Keyboard design — the keyboard just sticks out of the iPad’s front, as if Apple’s design team concluded that “there’s no point in organically hiding this thing” — a hump on the iPhone’s back is nearly as contrary to Apple’s past design ethos as anything we’ve seen. With the exception of the gently curved iPhone 3G and 3GS, every iPhone has had a flat back, and none has had staggered ridges.



Hump-style batteries such as PowerSkin’s PoP’n 3 tend to have issues going in and out of pockets, and don’t feel as comfortable in the hand as smooth cases developed by companies such as Mophie. For a company as ergonomically obsessed as Apple, adding awkward humps is a bizarre design direction to be taking, to say the least.


Even less appealing is the Smart Battery Case’s capacity. According to advance reviews, Apple is using only an 1,877mAh battery, which has only 68% as much capacity as Mophie’s same-priced (2,700mAh) Juice Pack Air, making Apple’s solution one of the lowest-powered battery cases on the market. Peruse my list of the best iPhone 6 / 6s battery cases and you’ll find excellent Anker battery cases with 2,850mAh going for only $40.

From my perspective, the really sad part about the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case is what it implies about Apple’s iPhone design priorities going forward. We’ve seen such strong comments and poll results from readers over the past year making crystal clear that Apple’s relentless iPhone thinning is becoming counter-productive, as a majority of people have indicated that they would gladly trade additional iPhone thickness for superior battery life. But Apple’s release of this accessory — almost certainly the first in what will be a series of such cases for subsequent iPhones, like its other cases — strongly suggests that the company would sooner sell you an overly-thin iPhone and then a $99 battery case to fix the phone’s deficiency. It adds credence to reports that the next iPhone will, in fact, be at least a millimeter thinner than the last one… not that anyone outside of Apple is asking for that.

While I’ll go into my iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case review with reasonable objectivity, it’s hard to root for Apple’s approach here. My quick take is that this is a cash grab — and not a particularly well-executed one — for a company that really should be prioritizing its users’ well-expressed requests for markedly better iPhone internal battery life. Apple users are clearly willing to pay a premium for excellent devices, and for best-of-breed accessories such as the Apple Pencil, but they shouldn’t also be asked to also pay steep prices for second-rate designs with third-rate performance.

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Check out more of my editorials, How-To guides, and reviews for 9to5Mac here! I’ve covered a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users. I’ve recently discussed how to safely prepare and wipe your iPhone for resale or trade-in, and how to get the best iPhone trade-in price to help buy an iPhone 6s, amongst many other topics.

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  1. gjconstructs - 7 years ago

    Why is the side view profile different from the other two pictures? Makes the device look pregnant. Is this really an Apple design? Why work so hard to make a device thinner than add a bump to it? Where is Steve? Has apples design team gone off track?

    • uniszuurmond - 7 years ago

      Amen. Steve would never, never, NEVER have allowed this. And now I sound just like those fanboys I never wanted to, giving Tim a fair chance. But I’m fast, really fast, becoming an unfan of Apple. Feels just like the early 90s…

      • iali87 - 7 years ago

        Congratulation, The iPhone became pregnant!

      • amazingrugs - 7 years ago

        Why do people continue to assume what a DEAD MAN would or would not allow. Please stop. It was old years ago, and continues to be old today.

        My guess is they went with this design to feel better in the hand. Instead of having extreme thickness on either side of the device like a Mophie case, it tapers so it gives the feeling and illusion of thinness at the far left and right of the device.

      • iSRS - 7 years ago

        @amazingrugs – I think you get it. When I hold my phone like normal (the way it is held in all still pictures Apple puts out, because that is the natural grip), there is a gap between my phone and Jane, but not on the sides.

      • Starting to feel like the early 90s? Apple is making more money now than ever before! They’re making more money than any company in history, in fact.

    • S. (@Stevenmonika) - 7 years ago

      This is great example of what we lost in Steve. Jonny is a very good designer but only started doing his best work under the leadership of and partnership with Steve. Scott Forestall played an ironic role in that progress as well. Steve took both points of view and merged them in something better than either. His greatest design gift was not the ability to design in itself, but the ability to recognize greatness and the power to relentlessly say, “No” until he felt it from those under his guidance. He had a nearly unrivaled intuitive sense of what would be popular taste at any given time. Who (at Apple) has the authority or even the taste to challenge Jonny right now? Tim might have the authority but has no interest and frankly if Jonny decided to leave Tim couldn’t stop him. I honestly don’t think there is anyone. Apple’s design future is more lopsided than it was 4 years ago — more focused on abstracted concepts of design than concrete expressions of human ergonomic needs (things that don’t have to be in conflict according to Steve). Tim is good with supply chains and organization but certainly is not a popular tastemaker. It is too bad that Scott couldn’t bring himself to work more reasonably with Jonny, or that Tim didn’t work overtime as adult supervision to extract the greatness of these two hard heads. I’m not sure Tim had it in him, especially in light of the raw emotional sense of loss everyone at Apple (including Scott) was still feeling at the time Scott was removed.

      • uniszuurmond - 7 years ago

        Great explanation for all those who don’t get “it wouldn’t happen if Steve was there”. I totally agree, two very talented people, Jony and Scott, in constant friction which translates to better competition until the leader got the best of both.

  2. I completely agree. Apple seem to do some half-ass industrial designs lately, as if the design teams are given tasks they dont really care about and apple just pushes out a mediocre product for a premium price. Example like: This ugly battery pack, the new magic mouse charger location, the ipad Pro keyboard, the apple pencil that lacks any place to put it and no rubber tool are all examples of things that could have been a lot better. I hope this isnt something we will see more and more of now that Ive left the Indrustrial Design part to some other dudes.

    • rogifan - 7 years ago

      I’m going to guess that Apple’s design team doesn’t care much about accessories. For all we know its marketing or retail that is pushing thinks like this battery pack. I have to disagree with the pencil and keyboard though. I have a pencil and it’s awesome. I don’t need an “eraser” when every software application has an undo/eraser function that’s just as easy as flipping the pencil over to ” erase”. And the pencil is thicker than the iPad so had Apple designed a place for the pencil to attach to the iPad it would have made the iPad thicker and heavier (which no one wants). Also not every pencil owner will buy they keyboard so adding a pencil holder to the keyboard does non keyboard owners no good. I bought a $3 pencil case at a crafts store and that’s where I keep my pencil

      • shoegazer4 - 7 years ago

        so if Apple designed a place for the pen to be held it would make the device heavier and thicker ? kind of like say, a battery case? which Apple has just designed?

    • barthrh (@barthrh) - 7 years ago

      Need to dissent. I don’t see the issue with the Magic Mouse charger location since two minutes of charge give you a full day’s worth of mousing. Surely during a bathroom break, wasted chat time or meeting you can find two minutes to get 9 hours of use? Putting the port on the front would have ruined the shape and design of the mouse due to the slope right down to the table. Not to mention, who wants to use a mouse with a cable hanging out of it? My 10-year-old Logitech mouse worked like that for charging. I’ll take the two-minute break over that any day.

      The pencil issue is debatable. I have read reviews by experienced Wacom users who don’t miss the eraser at all; they find the eraser less efficient (i.e. just reaching / tapping eraser tool vs. changing grip) and far less precise than using the tip. They also welcome the lack of buttons you find on Wacom tools. I suspect that the lack of no pencil spot has much to do with it’s completely optional nature. If the case included it, it would look odd if there was nothing there. They probably should have made case variants with & without pencil holders.

      As for the battery, it’s a matter of perception whether it’s ugly or not. I’m going to guess that the designers at Apple disagree with you, so we’ll call that a draw.

      • Eduardo Hernandez - 7 years ago

        I often wonder what would it take for people like you to turn on Apple. If Time Cook went over to your house and punched you in the face you would probably say “Well my face needed punching.”

    • uniszuurmond - 7 years ago

      Thank you. Thank you so much for also seeing what I am.

  3. minieggseater - 7 years ago

    I think this is a short term product to gauge if people want to/can live with a thicker iPhone with longer battery life. I don’t think there will be one for the 7

  4. johnmfoley - 7 years ago

    I like it actually. Apple is going to make the thinnest phone it can with battery life that they think will get most people through the day–that’s a given whether you agree or disagree with the choice.

    They are acknowledging with this product that some people at least some of the time need more battery life, maybe at a conference or vacation–Apple has emphasized how easy it is to remove from the case for this reason. The design reduces the bulk of many other battery cases and I think this looks better than those. Obviously the phone looks the best without a batter case but it’s the best looking for what it brings to the table and keeps it easier to hold by allowing more grippable sides.

    • iSRS - 7 years ago

      I am 100% with you. I had a battery case for my iPhone 5. I only used it when:

      (1) I was going to a place with poor cell service and would be away from a power source (a local theme park here is terrible for coverage, and the constant signal searching drains the batter fast)
      (2) I was going on vacation (Disney World and the like) and I remembered to pack it

      Most battery cases are not good “everyday” cases, or even very good at protecting the phone (or the battery inside the case). From what I see of this case, it may be a case I can use as my primary case, which will make it ever more useful.

      Also, to suggest that “Since it’s rare for Apple to make a one-off accessory for a single iPhone, the Smart Battery Case strongly suggests that next year’s basic iPhone, too, will struggle to make it through a full day without assistance. And that’s not good news for iPhone users…” I feel is a bit of a stretch. Chances are, the iPhone 7 is a new form factor. It very well may have a better battery.

    • modeyabsolom - 7 years ago


  5. Joe (@realofficialjoe) - 7 years ago

    It’s official – Apple’s design team are losing it and the company is becoming far too greedy under Tim Cook.

    • twelve01 - 7 years ago

      It’s official, your comment is ridiculous

      • Charlypollo - 7 years ago

        It’s official. You are a sheep and also blind.

      • Joe (@realofficialjoe) - 7 years ago

        Would you like to elaborate on why my comment is ridiculous?

        Do you think recent Apple pricing has been fair then? $99 for Apple Pencil? $169 for iPad Pro case with keyboard? Apple’s prices recently seem to be expensive for the sake of it and not priced in relation to what the item is worth. This has always been the extent to some degree but more so under Tim than Steve imo.

        As for design, they go to such efforts to make the nicest looking devices, yet they are not always practical and lean towards making people spend more for them to be so – as per this article.

      • ctyrider (@ctyrider) - 7 years ago

        Tend to agree, the design is hideous. Why not extend the battery portion of the case to its full length, and avoid this “jump”? Not only you gain additional battery life, but it now looks like a normal case.. I honestly don’t know what Apple is thinking here with this hump design.

    • johnmfoley - 7 years ago

      I like this one. Although the Apple Watch dock suggests this at least a little bit to me.

  6. This pre-review is ill conceived and unnecessarily harsh….

    The battery pack is centered as to keep the bottom thin and allow use of docks that don’t work with most battery packs.

    ‘Most people’ that respond to polls on a Apple rumors/tech site are not representative of the general population. This allows for a thin phone that (likely) suits most peoples needs, while allowing the heavy-users/road warriors a solution.

    • Joseph Fattizzi - 7 years ago

      At first glance it doesnt look like a good design. I just picked one up at the local store here in NYC and I love the case. It is thin and very well integrated into iOS. The battery design allows it to work with all the charging docks including apples own dock. It is very comfortable to hold as well.

      • modeyabsolom - 7 years ago

        That’s interesting…maybe I’ll give it another chance then. Should really wait for a full review.

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 7 years ago

      The same polls have been run on numerous sites, including technology sites and mainstream publications. They are often run with thousands of responses, making them broadly generalizable to millions of people (following standard polling statistics).

      At this stage, anyone who claims that this is a minority position is clearly just drunk on the Apple Kool-Aid. Surveys show that the numbers are not even close – they are strongly in favor of better battery life, thinness be damned.

      • johnmfoley - 7 years ago

        I think it was Gruber who pointed out on a recent podcast that while people say they want a thicker phone with more battery, maybe Apple has marketing data that shows people will always buy the thinner phone in the store when making their decision. It could be BS. It was just speculation, but just because people in polling data say they want something doesn’t necessarily mean they do or that it’s the best move for Apple.

      • Jeremy Horwitz - 7 years ago

        So everyone’s lying about their preferences. Got it.

      • iJonni - 7 years ago

        No Jeremy. Everyone is not lying. 1. standard polling statistics are ridiculous and typically off-base. (if you think Trump is going to win the republican nomination you’re nuts). You just can’t trust statistics, especially when extrapolating to a larger, non contiguous demo 2. People don’t know what they want until they see the brand new shiny object in front of them. 3. As johnmfoley pointed out, I’m sure Apple has more data than any website polling provides. Its either marketing related or diagnostic data related. Either way, please don’t underestimate the billion dollar company in assuming website polls provide more accurate data than the manufacturer.

      • Jeremy Horwitz - 7 years ago

        So “standard polling statistics” are lying. Got it.

    • Charlypollo - 7 years ago

      Suits most people needs.

      Yeah. My phone was stupidly big, but now that it is a fraction of a milimeter thinner, I can finally use it properly. Because you know, most of the population is evolving into crustaceans with pincers, and this suits them. Smart choice Apple.

  7. Joseph Fattizzi - 7 years ago

    At first glance it doesnt look like a good design. I just picked one up at the local store here in NYC and I love the case. It is thin and very well integrated into iOS. The battery design allows it to work with all the charging docks including apples own dock. It is very comfortable to hold as well.

    • amazingrugs - 7 years ago

      Exactly what I was thinking. They wanted to avoid the extreme thickness at the far left and right of the device, so located the battery centrally where this is natural open space in your palm when holding the phone with one hand.

  8. Edward (@archurban) - 7 years ago

    one word. fail.

  9. irelandjnr - 7 years ago

    Looks over battery life. Image, image, image. This is Apple. Steve was like this too.

    • Timur Tripp - 7 years ago

      Your comment might make sense if this actually looked nice. It’s both underpowered and ugly.

  10. confluxnz - 7 years ago

    Hands down the ugliest battery case I’ve ever seen. Agree this sets a worrying precedent for future iPhones, where battery life will continue to be sacrificed in pursuit of more and more anorexic devices.

    Oh but wait, it’s ok because if you want your phone to last all day, Apple will of course be happy to sell you a ~NZ$150 battery case on top of the NZ$1,800 you already spend on the device in the first place :/

  11. vandiced - 7 years ago

    Steve jobs would never allow this.

    But then again Steve jobs would never allow treatment for a cancer with herbs instead of proven western medicine…

  12. Steve Jobs would be rolling in his grave at the site of this crap. Seriously – has Apple finally lost the plot? Humps? The camera lens popping out was bad enough – and that’s PART of the iPhone. This should of just been a ‘smooth back’? Are they using the same battery as is found in the phone and just looking to save money and/or attempting to maintain the ‘thinness’ of the phone? More and more Apple is turning to pre-Steve direction and reminding me more and more of ‘everyone else’. If Apple is just the same as everyone else, whats the point?
    This isnt ‘perfect’. This isn’t aesthetically pleasing. This isn’t Apple.

  13. Drew (@gettysburg11s) - 7 years ago

    Meh. If I needed a battery case, I might consider this one. The truth is, my iPhone 6s is never away from an outlet long enough to run out of juice. I mean, how does that happen anyways? Most people might not know this, but your workplace likely allows you to bring a charger to work. If you are a person who eats thought the 6s battery in less than a day, perhaps you’d be better off with a 6s Plus.

  14. cdm283813 - 7 years ago

    Apple is just practicing. When they remove the headphone jack their going to try to sale us a case with it.

  15. TfT_02 - 7 years ago

    This is terrible! Apple just make the next iPhone thicker or don’t make these kinds of accessories. It just doesn’t make sense!

  16. Torrey Huerta - 7 years ago

    Looks a little on the ugly side.

  17. Greg Buser - 7 years ago

    That’s got to be the ugliest case ever.

  18. kjl3000 - 7 years ago

    Jonny, get back to work! WTF

  19. Charlypollo - 7 years ago

    Well. Goodbye to a better battery life for the Iphone. Apple finally managed to warp reality and convince people that a 1 day battery life is the way to go. So from now on, whenever anyone complains about battery life, sheeps will jump immediately and “suggest” to spend extra 100 dollars for a battery case for a +600 dollars phone. Bravo Apple. You moneysucking twats.

  20. iali87 - 7 years ago

    This is just a proof that Steve jobs were involved more with what Jony and his team would do. This is because it is obvious that Steve will never allow such a stupid design to hold an Apple logo on its back.

  21. iJonni - 7 years ago

    Firstly, I’m going to say that the design team at Apple hasn’t changed and Jony is still running things. Jony was one of Steve’s closest companions, so to say that he doesn’t have Steve’s insight in mind is ludicrous. Second, I’m going to assume that Apple has 1000% more insight to what actual iPhone users need and want versus an anecdotal poll on a tech website. Even if you received 10,000 responses (which i doubt) Apple has diagnostic data from over 10M iPhones. I’m sure they know how users are experiencing battery life, how often users need more battery during the day and wether or not users care for more battery vs thinner devices. My guess is that that average consumer will always purchase a thinner device compared to the thicker more battery lasting device when they get to the register. Because we are all dumb consumers who get blinded by glitz and flash. But please don’t think that this Billion dollar company hasn’t researched or gone through any discussions over whether phones should have better battery or get thinner. I’m willing to bet they have plenty of data to backup the “14 hr battery is good enough for most users” claim.

    • Charlypollo - 7 years ago

      The thing is that nobody thinks that Apple its stupid, but the opposite. Of course we know that Apple had to decide between Battery life and a thinner phone.

      The problem is that all decisions seem to be decided by which one gives them more profit. Not which one will give the best user experience.

  22. modeyabsolom - 7 years ago

    Goodness my iPhone is pregnant! Seriously though WTF! This is an officially sanctioned Apple product? This thing is so incredibly ugly it beggars belief! I’ll have to wait until a proper review to see if the ergonomics are as bad as the styling but again WTF! Apple are losing it…I’m sorry.

    • modeyabsolom - 7 years ago

      Especially after the beautiful Watch dock and Apple Pencil.

  23. John Smith - 7 years ago

    Like some of us said …. TOO THIN !!!

    For future products: less thinness, more battery please.

  24. Jonathan Brusco - 7 years ago

    This is hideous! So ugly. Is this some sort of joke? Nobody wants to have a big hump on their case. Introducing the iPhone camelback case.

    • amazingrugs - 7 years ago

      When you hold your phone in one hand, what do you notice? There is open space near the palm area, which is where the battery on this case is located. This way you don’t feel extra thickness (besides the case) on the far left and right of the device, where your fingers cradle.

      Look at a Mophie case and you will see it is extremely thick everywhere, making it harder to hold.

      So now Apple can’t put function over form?? No one is ever happy.

  25. o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

    This is a horrible design. First that horrible Apple Watch dock design, and now this. Clearly they are using designers outside of Jony Ive’s team to do these. And if that’s true, they need to disband and halt all design except for Ive’s team, immediately. This case is just bad. Apple doesn’t do garbage design like this, it doesn’t even make sense. A battery case designed by the richest company in the world, with the best designers in the world, should be a few mm thicker versions of the Silicone cases. The battery should be completely hidden in the design. First of all, they shouldn’t have even made this product. Their first battery case should be for the iPhone 7 with Smart Connector, so that they could have the bottom of the case not have to be slid down onto, but rather, just snapped onto like any ordinary case, and also no speaker hole, etc would need to be built into the front of the case, making it longer, and hideous. Just sad.

  26. AugustGreengem - 7 years ago

    I feel like Jony left the building. This battery pack looks so ugly.

  27. Rick van Rossum - 7 years ago

    Never understood why Apple doesn’t just produce alternate models of the iPhones. One, the flagship, thinnest possible and a second, 2mm thicker with a battery to last twice as long. What’s wrong with that?

  28. PJ (@D00mM4r1n3) - 7 years ago

    With the push to expand their footprint in the Enterprise space it makes since to sell OEM accessories that corporations are likely to buy with every device. Particularly for sales and executive personnel battery packs are a necessity. I would expect they are simply looking at sales numbers and coming up with some of their own accessories to offer in the top-selling categories.

  29. capdorf - 7 years ago

    In recent times apple seems to have lost it’s way. New interfaces that have lost intuitiveness and ready visibility. Phones that are too thin and smooth to hold and too big. Etc. and now a beautifully designed battery case. I came to apple because I found it much easier to use. This ability is slowly being removed.
    Come on Apple, wake up, we need you.

  30. nelmat - 7 years ago

    I appreciate that not everyone is that same, and that all opinion is just that, but my iPhone 5S and iPad easily last two days on a single charge (and the 6S battery lasts longer than the 5S if the experience of my friends is to be believed). I use my phone for business, and guess my use isn’t ‘excessive’ – but battery life really isn’t an issue for me, and I imagine that the same goes for many people. For those requiring extra juice, there’s now another option available. Choice is a good thing, so is acceptance that everyone uses the phone differently.

    There isn’t a ‘battery life issue’ per se, just the battery may not last long enough for those who live on their phones 24/7 – as they are more than entitled to do. For normal phone use – say an hour or two talking, an hour or two browsing the web, check Facebook and email a few times a day and a car journey somewhere using maps/GPS it does just fine, and is normally at around 20% at night when it goes back on charge. I don’t need a battery case, but appreciate that others do. It appears that Apple feel the same way and have bought this product to market for those who need it. It’s another choice, this is a good thing.