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Review: Weak battery aside, Apple’s iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case isn’t as dumb as it looks


After Mophie and several other companies created the “iPhone battery case” category, Apple’s Made for iPhone accessory team quietly began to limit what the cases could do. For instance, developers were told that they couldn’t charge both the iPhone and the case at the same time; instead they had to charge the iPhone first, then the case. And although some early battery cases used Apple connectors to recharge, that convenience was nixed by Apple, too. I covered the inception and growth of the battery case market, and heard numerous stories of last-minute scrambles to meet Apple demands, none of which appeared to be making the cases better for end users. Today, the best iPhone 6/6s battery cases are incredibly similar to one another, distinguished more by pricing and capacity than differences in features.

Years later, some of the advantages Apple denied to third-party developers have appeared in the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case ($99), Apple’s first battery case for iPhones. Roundly mocked for its rear “hump” and unfavorably compared to best-selling $40 alternatives on raw battery power, Apple’s latest design clearly isn’t for everyone. But despite the criticism, Apple isn’t stupid, and even if it isn’t winning beauty or capacity awards, the Smart Battery Case’s few special features give it a leg up on certain competitors…

Key Details:

  • Apple’s first battery case for any iPhone, after Mophie + others
  • No buttons, power indicators largely on iPhone’s screens
  • Weak battery capacity given both numerous rivals + its price point
  • Case looks like Apple’s iPhone Silicone Cases, plus a large hump

After years of seeing gently, organically curved iPhone battery cases, there’s no denying that the Smart Battery Case looks different — and somewhat weird. Clearly based upon Apple’s iPhone 6/6s Silicone Case, the design effectively just grafts a battery hump onto that case’s back, and a male/female Lightning connector chin onto its bottom. No tapering smooths out the battery’s presence; it’s just there. Yet it doesn’t feel terrible in the hand, particularly if you rotate the iPhone into landscape orientation, where the left and right of the Smart Battery Case feel atypically thin. Nor does the battery hump snag as much going in or out of pockets as might be expected, though this may vary based on what you wear. Like the Silicone Case, the Smart Battery Case protects the iPhone 6’s side buttons, but not the ringer switch, which is left open.


Two colors of the Smart Battery Case are available. The dark Charcoal Gray one I tested certainly goes well with Space Gray iPhone 6 and 6s devices, while an almost clinical-looking white rubber alternative is made for silver and gold iPhones, which have white faces. According to early reviews, the white one begins to look somewhat ratty within days, so the gray version may be a better pick. That said, Apple’s soft rubbery exterior and microfiber lining seem destined to show wear faster than the hard plastics used in most battery cases.


Apple ships each Smart Battery Case in a plain-looking box with documentation, but no other accessories, such as the Lightning cable you’ll need to recharge it, or the 3.5mm adapter you may need to connect your favorite headphones through the very thin, deeply-recessed headphone port channel. Every other iPhone battery case at least includes one of these items, if not both, but Apple’s theory is apparently that you’ll already have the Lightning cable, and its own headphone plugs are tiny enough to sneak into the recessed port. At least some Beats headphones, however, don’t fit the hole, so you may need to spring for a separate 3.5mm headphone adapter.


Assuming you supply that Lightning cable — and a power source more powerful than the one included with the iPhone 6 or 6s — the Smart Battery Case can simultaneously charge the iPhone and battery at fast speeds. Using an affordable Anker PowerPort adapter, I was able to recharge the iPhone by 25% and the battery by 26% in 36 minutes. As noted above, most if not all of the Smart Battery Case’s competitors have been restricted by Apple from performing this same feat. That’s possibly because Apple hasn’t trusted third-party developers to properly manage the potentially differential changing flows of “high speed” and “trickle speed” energy to the iPhone and case batteries; regardless of its own low-power condition, the Smart Battery Case appears to dramatically slow down its own recharging when the connected iPhone is trickle-charging.


The Smart Battery Case’s single best feature was hidden in iOS starting with version 9.1. When the iPhone is first plugged in to the case, or the iPhone and case are first plugged into a Lightning cable, the iPhone’s Lock Screen displays a new dual battery indicator, something no other battery case can do. One battery shows the remaining power in the case as a percentage, while the next shows the current charge level of the iPhone. Unless you disconnect and reconnect either the iPhone or Lightning cable, the dual percentages can only be found on Notification Center thereafter, not on the Lock Screen, which is unfortunate.


On the other hand, the Smart Battery Case has zero buttons of its own, and only a single light, so you can’t see how much power remains unless you attach your iPhone. The tiny light is hidden inside the case above the Lightning connector, and is there solely to indicate whether the case is fully recharged when connected to power without an iPhone. It stays red if charging, turning green if fully charged. Also apparently hidden within the case is some sort of passive wireless antenna, though Apple provides no documentation on the feature, and has long-required third-party developers to make their iPhone battery cases effectively radio transparent.


From my perspective, the Smart Battery Case’s major failing is its battery performance. With only 1877mAh of power, it delivers only a 77% recharge to a completely dead iPhone 6; the number will be slightly higher on the iPhone 6s, which has a smaller internal battery. However, Apple appears to have designed the Smart Battery Case to act in different ways based on the level of charge remaining in the iPhone: if the iPhone’s battery is full, it can run off Smart Battery Case power rather than draining its own reserve, but if the iPhone’s battery isn’t full, it refuels itself to 100% from the accessory. In theory, this could reduce wear and tear on the iPhone’s internal battery by reducing the number of discharge-recharge cycles you’d normally see from a battery case, though in practice, people will need to make sure the iPhone’s well-charged before putting the case on.


It goes without saying that you have dozens, perhaps hundreds of different iPhone 6 battery case options, and no one’s forcing you to choose Apple’s iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case if you don’t like the price, the way it looks, or the battery performance. Given the $99 asking price and 1877mAh cell, it would be near the very bottom of our guide to the best iPhone 6/6s battery cases, and I wouldn’t be inclined to recommend it to most people.

That said, if the Apple name or the unique dual battery Lock Screen feature are of interest, you like the way it looks, and you’re willing to pay a premium for the package, this isn’t a bad battery case. Apple clearly could have done better, and hopefully, it will learn some lessons from this model for next year’s inevitable iPhone 7 sequel — or better yet, improve the “smaller” iPhone’s internal battery so that accessories of this sort are no longer necessary.

iPhone 6/6s

More From This Author

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  1. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    After seeing this video, I actually think Apple did a brilliant thing designing it:

  2. The integration with software is awesome and including Lightning is great but it’s still hideous looking, has less capacity, and present no monetary advantage. I don’t care what Apple says to try and make this seem more acceptable, if I see you using this instead of a Mophie, I am probably going to assume you can’t think for yourself and follow Apple blindly.

    • rogifan - 7 years ago

      Good thing is Apple sells Mophie’s in their B&M and online stores so nobody has to buy this.

    • just-a-random-dude - 7 years ago

      Wow, way to generalize people with a closed-minded response. There are people with needs that can be accomplished just fine with this case and this case is better in its size compared to many cases that are much better in both capacity and prices but that’s not what some people want. For some people, they just need 50% more, not 100% and they want the smallest possible with hassle-free case use, which this case is the best at.

      There’s no one case that fits everyone. To simply say everyone should have a Mophie case and nothing else means you’re just as blind as you think everyone else is.

    • Hm, a golf club analogy comes to my mind. There are these game improvement irons that have a really thick topline. And then there are the tour designs for advanced golfers, forged irons, small blades and thin toplines. Manufacturers of golf clubs often try really hard to make a game improvement iron look sleeker, more thin from the top. In this analogy, the Mophie is the game improvement iron that is not ashamed of its chubby appearance. The Apple case on the other hand brings also some sort of game improvements, but it tries to maintain the sleek looks from a lot of angels, Not from the back, obviously, but look at it from a half front, half side angle. That is a clever idea. It is also about user experience. A consequence of the weird design is that the phone with the humpy case does not feel as big as a Mophie while holding and using it (compared to an iPhone with silicon case). Leaven the question aside if I like the design or not, Apple made design choices for a reason and someone who appreciates these reasons does not “follow Apple blindly”.

    • bb1111116 - 7 years ago

      Two words; Lightning cable. Having to bring two cables with me is not convenient. Every second I would switch a car iPhone charger from a Lightning Cable to a USB car charger is wasted effort when one cable would work with this case and an iPhone without the case.

      There are other reasons to use the Apple battery case but what I think is clear is that choosing this iPhone case is not an issue of following Apple blindly.

  3. I picked up one in the Soho Apple Store, and its actually pretty good, it doesnt make the phone too tall, and it feels nice. Wish it had more juice, but its pretty good, looks better in person too.

  4. rogifan - 7 years ago

    I swear there must be a race to see which tech site can post the most stories about this battery case. I’m sure there’s a certain level of bemusement inside Apple HQ.

  5. salesus - 7 years ago

    I’m about 90% sure the design was for the battery to not interrupt the phone’s signal. The bulge doesn’t cover the two antennae stripes on the back of your iPhone.

    • modeyabsolom - 7 years ago

      That’s a good point, I didn’t notice that.

    • alexandereiden - 7 years ago

      True, but the case adds extra antenna and front-facing speakers as well.

    • alexandereiden - 7 years ago

      It also adds passive antenna to boost your signal and counteract the interference caused by the battery due to magnetic and electric fields produced by the current flowing through the battery.

  6. Gregory Wright - 7 years ago

    All of you squawkers out there will end up liking the case. People squawked leading up to the release of the iPhone 6+ – to big. Some squawked when the redesigned iMac was introduced – can’t upgrade it. Others squawked when the redesigned Macbook Pro was released – same complaint as the iMac. Well, you don’t hear the squawkers anymore.

    • freediverx - 7 years ago

      I’d like to handle one in person before passing final judgment. I’ve used Mophie battery cases previously, and while they’re great, they’re also extremely bulky and make for an uncomfortable grip on the phone. If this is significantly more comfortable to hold it would be a tempting product.

      That said, I do think it’s ugly and overpriced, considering the materials, performance, and lack of cable and mic adapter.

      • alexandereiden - 7 years ago

        Don’t forget the passive antenna and front-facing speakers that were added in the case.

  7. Tom Byrne - 7 years ago

    My Lumia does not need a battery fact deos not need any case virtually indestructible and unbendable

  8. rettun1 - 7 years ago

    Hopefully this review means the END of hearing about this accessory. Yes, the back isn’t flat, har dee har. Surely since apple didnt put all its design resources and manpower into making a single accessory, they and the rest of their products are doomed to eternal hell (for realz this time, I mean it!!1!)

  9. kjl3000 - 7 years ago

    Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 gets his final touches …

  10. Julian Johnson - 7 years ago

    Also as it is an apple product… it recharges off a closed macbook x/air/pro whether the phone is in the case or not

  11. yojimbo007 - 7 years ago

    Apple products should not look Dumb…….Apple is not just about Smart… Its also about great design…
    This hidiouse thing does not deserve the Apple logo!
    Same with the iPadPro keyboard.. Both dumb in and out.. Those unsightly folds…..No trackpad for heavens sake? Why.. Apple being dogmatic and stubborn about touch..? Its stupid.. The keyboard is there the thumbs want the trackpad real bad but yet apple say screw you. .. Lift your hands off and touch the screen ! .. .. Thats better .. Becouse Apple says so. .. BS!

    Its this kind of stuff riddled all over 2015 that need to be addressed and taken under control.
    Hope next year Apple will be back to its best again !

    • alexandereiden - 7 years ago

      Why do you think there is no trackpad? Because adding a mouse would complete the OS X and iOS merge, which will not happen, at least not for a while according to Apple Execs.

      I love my iPad pro and keyboard and whatnot. While I don’t know about the fabric, I am certain in the regard that Apple had it’s reasons, ones I cannot think of.

      • yojimbo007 - 7 years ago

        Marketing reasons.. And apple dogma

  12. Damning with faint praise.
    If you can even call this praise.

  13. James Kalas - 7 years ago

    I just like it because of lightening cable. Whenever I use more power it’s usually when I travel and I hate bringing another charger with me.

  14. Greg Kaplan (@kaplag) - 7 years ago

    Apple appears to have designed the Smart Battery Case to act in different ways based on the level of charge remaining in the iPhone: if the iPhone’s battery is full, it can run off Smart Battery Case power rather than draining its own reserve, but if the iPhone’s battery isn’t full, it refuels itself to 100% from the accessory.

    are there any other sources for this or only your observation? I suspected that the case and phone would better manage battery than the user (reason for no power toggle) but I don’t want to spout that unless someone with more experience can confirm.

    • alexandereiden - 7 years ago

      No, I have read and seen this for myself. When the phone is at 100% the case acts as if the phone (same as a mac does) is charging, therefore drawing it’s power from the Smart Battery Case, not the iPhone’s internal battery. This is safer than having something always change, as well as better for the battery and its life.

      • Greg Kaplan (@kaplag) - 7 years ago

        And this isn’t how every battery case on the market works? It just seems weird to call it out if it’s just the normal way charging with batteries works.

  15. alexandereiden - 7 years ago

    Well, you did forget to mention that the case adds front-facing speakers and also has extra passive-antenna in order to boost your signal and counteract the magnetic and electric fields interfering with with the radio waves going to your phone for wifi, bluetooth, cell service

    • Nick Jaquay - 7 years ago

      Um, no. No he didn’t. It’s not a front facing speaker but a hole for the sound to travel out the front instead of the bottom.

      I’d suggest watching the video all the way through before opening your mouth, k?

      • alexandereiden - 7 years ago

        Well yeah, of course it isn’t a speaker as that wouldn’t make sense. I didn’t word it properly. It just re-angles the sounds as you said. And I was talking about the article, not video.

  16. delegator - 7 years ago

    I don’t understand why anybody would label this a “smart” case when it is discharging its battery all of the time. The other battery cases clearly note that charging the phone’s battery when it is already over 90% charged is quite inefficient. By not including any controls, Apple is losing battery efficiency. Doesn’t seem very “smart” to me. Add to that the fact that it has essentially identical capacity to a Mophie case that costs 40% less, and this is just Apple milking their control over the proprietary adapter that they don’t let others license for the female connector.

  17. Peter M. Gross - 6 years ago

    Just posted a review of the Apple 6/6S battery case. 1*. Worked ok for about a year. Then became more and more difficult to connect to the charging cable. Now it won’t connect at all. Given the high cost, not recommended.