One of the chief complaints about any smartphone is limited battery life. Apple has been more fortunate than other smartphone makers in that many third parties have created battery cases that extend the iPhone's battery life for hours. But now, Apple is getting into the business itself with the Smart Battery Case. This $99 accessory for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s has a few advantages over third-party solutions. But when it comes to the area that matters most — providing enough juice to last an entire day — how does it compare to competing products?
Design: My Humps
The iPhone Smart Battery Case has a noticeable hump where the battery resides. While this undoubtedly makes Apple's case less bulky than rival offerings, it's not as elegant as other cases, such as the Mophie Juice Pack Air, whose smooth backside has a more unified look.
The Smart Battery Case is covered in a soft-touch finish, which is not only comfortable to hold, but also helps to keep the iPhone from slipping out of your hand.
The top of the Smart Battery Case is made of a flexible material that bends back to let you insert the iPhone itself. Mophie's Juice Pack (pictured above), which is made of a harder plastic, has a detachable upper section, which makes it easier to insert and remove your iPhone.
I like that the Smart Battery Case has a Lightning connector on the outside; every other battery case I've seen has to rely on a micro-USB connector. This lets you use the iPhone with other accessories while it's still in the Smart Battery Case; with others, you have to remove the iPhone first.
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Weighing 3.5 ounces and measuring 5.9 x 2.8 x 0.5 inches, the Smart Battery Case is slightly heavier but a smidge smaller than the Mophie Juice Pack Air (3.6 ounces, 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.6 inches). Apple's case is available in either white or gray, while the Juice Pack Air comes in nine different colors: black, white, rose gold, gold, purple, green, blue, pink or red.
The Smart Battery Case doesn't come with a headphone jack extension. If you don't have this little accessory, which comes with just about every battery case, good luck trying to get anything other than Apple's own headphones into the iPhone.
Cleverly, when the iPhone is inserted into the Smart Battery Case, you can look in the Notifications pane to see the charge level of the batteries for both the iPhone and the Case. However, unlike the Mophie and other battery cases, there's no indicator on the outside of the Smart Battery Case, nor is there a way to turn off the Case when the iPhone is inside and use just the iPhone's battery.
Apple claims the Smart Battery Case's 1,877-mAh battery will last up to 18 hours over LTE when using the Internet.
On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (Web surfing over LTE with the brightness set to 150 nits), the iPhone 6s and the Smart Battery Case lasted a combined 18 hours and 50 minutes, before stopping at 6 percent. Without the case, the iPhone lasted 5 hours and 52 minutes.
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The Mophie Juice Pack Air has a 2,750-mAh battery that the company says will provide more than 100 percent extra battery life. We will update this review with those results, and reserve the right to change the rating of this review.
Is the Smart Battery Case a tacit admission by Apple that the iPhone doesn't last long enough? Maybe, but the excellent endurance offered by the Smart Case helps make up for that deficiency.
While I like that Apple's case has a Lightning connector and shows the battery life of both the case and the phone in the Notifications pane, its humplike backside kills the elegance of the iPhone. If you don't mind the looks, though, the Smart Battery Case will keep your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s going long after the day is done.