Smartphones these days are big battery consumers. The larger the screen and the more active you are, the more you rely on having a big, hefty battery. There are many smartphones that allow you to simply swap out a used battery with a fully-charged one. The Apple iPhone, unfortunately, is not one where you can easily change a battery on the fly (although you can replace the battery). Luckily, there are now iPhone battery cases that provide protection and some extra juice to get you through the day. This review talks about 4 iPhone 5 battery cases by MyCharge, XPAL Power, Mophie and Belkin.
UPDATE 9.13.13: Unfortunately, I did not receive the ODOYO Power+Shell EX iPhone 5 battery case in time for this review. Be sure to check out my stand-alone review of the ODOYO as it is a clear winner!
To kick things off, you can watch my video review below which touches on each of these cases and the good and bad things. The video is also directly available on YouTube.
If written word is more your thing, start with the quick comparative matrix below and then there are mini reviews for each case.
Juice Pack Air
|Battery||2000 mAh||1500 mAh||1700 mAh||2000 mAh|
|Weight||2.9 oz.||2.9 oz.||2.68 oz.||3.2 oz.|
|Dimensions||2.5 x 0.6 x 5.1 in.||2.4 x 0.6 x 5.4 in.||2.60 x 0.63 x 5.54 in||2.56 x 0.69 x 5.50 in|
MyCharge Freedom 2000
Product URL: http://www.mycharge.com/products/freedom-2000
This is probably the most unique of all of the iPhone 5 battery cases as well as the shortest (5.1 inches long). What makes it unique is the way that you charge it using the attached battery. There is a cable that you pull out from the back and plug in to the Apple Lightning connector. While all of the other battery cases will only charge the battery and iPhone via a micro-USB connection (none of them allow for sync – you need to set up a WiFi iTunes sync in order to do this), the Freedom 2000 allows you to plug in a Lightning Connector directly into the iPhone. You can also, charge the case battery AND the iPhone separately but simultaneously.
This is a hard case. The top of the case doesn’t really provide protection against sliding the iPhone face down so if you drop your iPhone and it slides across some rough concrete, you will definitely get some scratches on it.
This is one of the larger battery capacities (at 2000 mAh) so you can almost double the iPhone’s battery.
There is a button on the back that when you push it briefly, it will light up to display the battery level (e.g. green, red). By pressing and holding the button, you will turn on the battery charging (or turn it off if it is already on).
The open bottom allows for full speaker sounds to come out as well as easy access to the headphone jack without needing an extender.
It is easy to pop in and out of the case. Popping it out requires you to push the iPhone out via the camera/flash area (so be sure to clean the camera lens after you do that).
Pricing: $89.99 retail ($79.99 on Amazon)
XPAL Power PowerSkin
Product URL: http://www.xpalpower.com/powerskin/iphone5.php
The PowerSkin is probably the oddest of all 4 of these cases. It has a soft, rubber design which does make it easy to get in and out of the case. The no-slip rubber is good from a bump-protection and (obviously) no-slipping perspective if you have it on a surface. The top of the rubber case does extend slightly above the surface of the iPhone 5, but just barely, so it might or might not do well on an upside-down surface scratch test. Since the sides of the case are flexible, they might peel away a bit if slide for a longer distance.
The Apple Lightning Connect is built into the case and attached to the battery via a flexible cable. It’s easy enough to connect. The micro-USB connector is on the side which allows you to charge the case’s batter as well as the iPhone but does not allow for pass-through syncing. You will need to either remove the iPhone to physically sync or use a WiFi sync with it.
On the back, there is a single button that allows you to check the status of the battery as well as turn it on. In a brightly lit environment, it might be a bit difficult to see the (up to) 4 blue lights that indicate the level of charge in the battery. If you press and hold the button, you turn on or off the battery.
To access the headphone jack, you probably need to use the included headphone jack extender as the hole is pretty small and may not fit other headphones. The speaker holes are simple divots or dimples in the case design.
Personally, I didn’t really like the feel of the soft rubber that much. It probably would have been ok if it weren’t for the “sharp” edges of the case’s design. I would have probably liked it more if the edges were more rounded and softer to the touch.
Pricing: $79.99 retail ($79.99 on Amazon)
Mophie Juice Pack Air
The Mophie Juice Pack Air is probably the most refined case of the group, having been in the market the longest. The Mophie (and the Belkin) are the only 2-piece battery cases in the group. Previous versions of the Mophie had the top section as the smaller section, but this version for the iPhone 5 has the bottom part the removable section. The advantage of this is that you can leave the top (larger) section connected but be able to expose the Lightning Connector port for easy syncing. (You still can use the WiFi syncing obviously.)
The micro-USB port is directly on the bottom in the center next to the headphone jack hole (which you probably should use the included extender). The speakers are piped through from the bottom out to the front (and the holes have little screens – nice added touch). All of the buttons (power, volume and vibrate toggle) are built into the case so unlike the other cases, you don’t have to reach through a hole to access them (some of the other cases do have built in buttons for power and volume but not for the vibrate toggle).
Another different from the other 3 battery cases is the fact that you have a physical on/off switch for the battery. The other cases have you push and hold the button to turn the battery on or off. On the Mophie, there is a button that you can push to get the battery level.
Lastly, the Mophie has a bit more of a ridge on the top compared to the XPAL and MyPower cases which means that it should perform a bit better in a skid test. The material that is used for the case is very appealing to the touch – it feels soft but is actually hard.
There are other versions of the Mophie Juice Pack as well: the Helium (1500 mAh) and the Plus (2100 mAh). The Air is 1700 mAh.
Pricing: $100 retail ($83.98 on Amazon)
Belkin Grip Power
Product URL: http://www.belkin.com/us/F8W292-Belkin/p/P-F8W292
The Belkin Grip Power is physically the largest battery case of the group, and it is the other 2-piece case as well. It also is a 2000 mAh battery which means that you will get the longest power from it. It is slightly longer, wider and taller than the Mophie (although the dimensions I have for those two cases contradict it). Visually, it is clear that the Belkin is a bit larger in all “cases” (sorry).
Just like the other cases, there is a micro-USB connection on the side that allows you to charge up the battery (and the iPhone), but it will not let you sync. And, this case seems to me to be designed to stay on whereas the others inserting and removing the iPhone is a bit easier. You definitely need to set up iTunes WiFi sync with this case.
The bottom has two large holes for the speaker and the headphones jack as well. The Belkin does also come with a headphone jack extender.
I believe the Belkin probably offers the best drop and scratch protection of all of these 4 battery cases. It definitely is more raised on the front to protect the front screen.
The back has the traditional one button that allows you to see the battery level (quick push) and turn on or off the battery (long push). Belkin claims that the camera ring is anti-glare. The bumper that wraps around it does help its grippy-ness as well as absorb some shock.
This is the heaviest of the 4 cases, weighing a whopping 3.2 ounces. It definitely does feel a bit bigger and heavier than the rest…even its closest size competitor, the Mophie.
Pricing: $100 retail ($84.58 on Amazon)
The Bottom Line
These four iPhone 5 battery packs definitely are close competitors. They all off some protection as well as obviously have the ability to add hours of talk or Internet time to your iPhone. They all use micro-USB connectors for charging (just connect to your computer or a compatible wall-USB plug). And they are all pretty similarly priced between $80 and $100 dollars.
What separates them a bit is the following:
- Capacity – the more mAh’s, the more energy you can give to your iPhone 5 (from 1500 mAh to 2000 mAh)
- Size & Weight – you really aren’t talking that much weight here but size (and form factor) can really affect how much you like a particular case.
- Protection – I kept talking about how well the face of the iPhone would be protected. For me, this is pretty important and any case that has it flush means that your iPhone could get damaged should it skid across the ground.
- Look & Feel – honestly, this is very personal in nature and each person may view things from a different perspective. If you are going to be holding the iPhone (and case) a lot, you need to be sure that it feels right in your hand or pocket and that it doesn’t look “weird.”
For me, I felt that the Mophie Juice Pack Air beat out the others in the group. I liked the nice construction and engineering, how it felt in my hand and how it looked. I would probably elect to get the Juice Pack Plus to just have the extra battery capacity.
#2 and #3 in the list were very close together, but for different reasons. I would give the edge to the Belkin though, simply because it seems to protect the iPhone a bit better and had a high capacity. However, the MyCharge Freedom 2000 was the most unique design of the group, and I did actually like how you could easily connect the Apple Lightning Connector to the iPhone for a physical sync without having to remove the iPhone from the case. And it was the shortest of the group at 5.1 inches.
The XPAL Power PowerSkin came in at the end of the list, but is still a pretty good contender. However, I felt it to be a bit pricy for what you get, given that it had the lowest capacity (1500 mAh) of the group and the case itself was just a soft plastic. I didn’t particularly like the hard edges either.
Is there an iPhone 5 battery case that I didn’t review here and that you like? If so, leave a note in the comments and tell me why you like it!
Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: While they are a bit bulky, I view iPhone battery cases as a necessity!