The iPhone 6s has many things going for it, but a long battery life is not among them. Apple's looking to remedy that with a $99 case for its smaller smartphone that comes with a built-in battery.
The Smart Battery Case fits both the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6, with Apple promising 25 hours of talk time or 18 hours of LTE Web browsing. The case comes in either white or charcoal gray.
It's a bit of departure for Apple, which — with the exception of a few silicone and leather cases — tends to leave the business of making iPhone accessories to other companies. But the issue of battery life in the iPhone 6s proved too large for Apple to ignore.
In testing for our iPhone 6s review, Apple's 4.7-inch phone lasted 6 hours and 46 minutes. That's not only well behind the average battery life of the smartphones Tom's Guide has tested (8:12), but also trailing rival devices like Samsung's Galaxy S6 (7:37). Battery life is less of an issue with the iPhone 6s Plus, which lasted more than 8 hours in our tests, because it has a larger battery than the one powering the 6s.
While we haven't had a chance to test the new Smart Battery Case, its promised battery life should extend the battery life of your iPhone 6s. Both The Verge and the Wall Street Journal, which had early access to the Smart Battery Case, found it added more than enough juice to keep an iPhone 6s powered throughout the day, though The Verge notes that the case 1,877mAh battery pack isn't as powerful as battery cases from third-party providers like Mophie.
Design also figures to be an area of interest with aesthetic-focused iPhone users. The Smart Battery Case slips on over your iPhone 6 or 6s — many competing cases come in two parts that you assemble around the phone — but the battery pack sits in a noticeable bulge on the back of the case. For a phone whose calling card is a sleek design, the bulgy back of the Smart Battery Case offers a decidedly different look.
There are no indicator lights visible on the Smart Battery Case when it's holding an iPhone. Instead, battery status appears on the iPhone's Lock screen and in Notification Center. The case works with Apple's Lightning charging cable, saving you from having to carry around the additional microUSB cable that many third-party battery cases require.
The Smart Battery Case faces a competitive market. Some competing cases such as Mophie's $100 Juice Pack Air or Tylt's $80 Energi Sliding Power Case boast a larger capacity battery than Apple's offering while others — Mophie's $60 Juice Pack Reserve, for instance -- have a similarly sized battery but a lower price tag. It will be interesting to see whether iPhone users flock to an Apple-branded accessory or keep considering third-party battery cases.