battery cases Stories December 10, 2015

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…

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battery cases Stories December 8, 2015

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…

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Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip

battery cases Stories April 11, 2015

Unless you pick the matte black versions, which look like most of the other iPhone 6 and 6 Plus battery cases I’ve tested, you’ll quickly be wowed by how premium Mophie’s newest Juice Packs feel in your hand. Glossy white plastic Apple accessories may have become passe years ago, but Mophie somehow got the look and feel just right — better, even, than the “unapologetically plastic” iPhone 5c.

The reason for that luxe feel? Mophie needs it, as the new Juice Pack Plus for iPhone 6 ($120) and Juice Pack for iPhone 6 Plus ($100) are currently the most expensive battery cases currently available for their respective iPhones. Though the company has never been shy about charging more for top quality cases, this year’s Juice Packs are hitting shelves well after numerous solid and aggressively priced competitors.

Below, I’ll discuss how Mophie’s price to performance equations actually play out for these Juice Packs, and whether they’re worth buying in light of other options…

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battery cases Stories March 26, 2015

Wired video abuses ultra-protective iPhone cases, two withstand slams, one even survives falling safe

Most cases will protect your iPhone during regular use, and many can handle accidental drops and a little abuse, but very few can withstand deliberate punishment. An amusing new Battle Damage video from Wired uses abusive tests to crown the “toughest iPhone case ever” from four different ultra-protective models: Griffin’s $50 Survivor,* LifeProof’s $80 Fre, Lunatik’s $125 Taktik Extreme, and Otterbox’s $50 Defender. The iPhone 5 units inside the Griffin Survivor and LifeProof Fre don’t make it through the first test, a hard smash of the encased iPhone on a hard floor, but Lunatik’s Extreme and Otterbox’s Defender go onto a second test: attempting to withstand a 50-pound safe while standing in a completely vertical position.

Unless you’re planning to drop a safe on your upright iPhone, the smaller and more affordable Defender seems like a smarter choice. But only Lunatik’s metal-reinforced Extreme survived the safe-dropping test; an iPhone 6 version hasn’t yet been released. Most people will do just fine with regular iPhone cases (or great iPhone battery cases), but if you want something that can protect against Looney Tunes-like antics, check out the video for some nice camera work and screen-shattering fun.

[* Note: Wired claims that the Griffin Survivor case shown in the video is Survivor Slim, but it looks more likely to be Survivor + Catalyst, a now-discontinued $80 model that was marketed as waterproof. Thanks, Nick!]

battery cases Stories January 28, 2015

It’s a great time to buy an iPhone 6 battery case. Last year, there were zero Apple-certified options, but today, there are a handful of good to great choices at various price points. They may look similar to each other in the picture above, but the sea of black shells masks some important differences in iPhone protection, battery recharging capabilities, and pricing. We now have two top picks for the iPhone 6, as well as two completely different top picks for the iPhone 6 Plus. Note that the iPhone 6 versions typically work with the newer iPhone 6s, and the iPhone 6 Plus versions work with the iPhone 6s Plus; both of the “s” models have slightly smaller batteries than their predecessors.

Which battery case should you buy? The most recent update to this piece on October 6, 2015 added another new option! Read on for all the details…

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battery cases Stories December 10, 2014

Earlier this week, I walked through a great collection of iPad, iPhone, and Mac products that I’d strongly recommend. Today, I’m here to help you choose an excellent spare battery for any portable Apple device. You can trust me because I’ve been testing Apple batteries for over a decade, conducting hours-long tests to learn how each new Apple device consumes power, and how quickly each battery replenishes a given device. If you want to learn more about why I’m recommending the specific batteries below, I discuss key factors worth considering at the bottom of this guide.

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