Review: A week with the Mophie Juice Pack Air extended battery case for iPhone 3G/S

mophiejuicepackair.jpg

The original “Juice Pack” from Mophie was one of the first cases for the iPhone that included a built-in battery, but it wasn’t really much of a case. It went halfway up the back of the phone, leaving a lump not just on the back, but along the bottom as well. All the hassle of a case—with only half the protection.

The new model, the Juice Pack Air, keeps the 1200-mAh battery but slips it inside a full plastic case. The chin is less lenoesque, as well. I’d go so far as to say that that in some circumstances it makes the iPhone more comfortable to hold.

And I’m someone who almost unilaterally hates iPhone cases. The iPhone is a really nice size, but its width is borderline too big. Without a case it slips into any pocket, including the front of my sexy jeans that I’m now too fat to fit into. (Thanks, Oregon!)

A switch on the bottom of the Juice Pack Air turns its internal battery on and off. With it on, the iPhone will think it’s constantly being charged up, using up the Air’s battery before it uses its own. You’d think you’d want to leave it on all the time then, except that even Mophie acknowledges that there’s a slight hit to the battery life compared to waiting until the iPhone is drained and recharging from the Juice Pack. Except for the most fretful, I expect you’d be happier just leaving the Juice Pack on and dealing with a little bit of loss.

I charged both the iPhone 3GS and the Juice Pack Air fully and got a full three days of use, including a few minutes of game playing, an hour of audio recording, lots of random web browsing and tweeting, and about two hours of phone calls before I (nearly) ran dry. Bear in mind, though, that the iPhone itself had battery for the better part of the first two days. (Complaints about the iPhone battery life tend to be, in my limited experience, complaints from people who can’t discern why playing a 3D game might take more power than, say, listening to music.)

As a case, the Juice Pack Air is nothing special. It adds most of its thickness in the back, which actually makes the iPhone feel like an old iPaq or something. It still fits in a front pocket, but it’s a bigger lump. Totally manageable, though. Its looks are nothing special, basic black plastic with no texture. A bit cheap feeling, actually, but solid. There are four little LEDs on the back that show the Juice Pack’s battery level when you push a button, a la the MacBook. (I wish they were smaller like the MacBook, but it’s not a big deal.)

One minor kink: the Juice Pack Air plugs into the iPhone’s Dock Connector at the bottom, but doesn’t have a normal pass-through, but instead uses a microUSB port. For most people that’s not a big deal at all—it still charges both the phone and the Juice Pack Air, as well as allows syncing—but if you use any accessories that need to stay plugged into the Dock Connector, you’ll have to remove the iPhone from the case.

The Juice Pack Air goes for about $75 on the street—not horrible, but there’s definitely a premium going on for getting an all-in-one unit. If you just want a spare battery, you can grab a cheapo 1000-mAh battery for ten bucks. (Or a similar 2400-mAh case for $26 that doesn’t look to protect quite fully.)

I guess what I’m saying is that the Juice Pack Air is probably too expensive—but if you’ve got your heart set on it, I can attest that it’s the first case that I’ve considered keeping on my iPhone in a long time.

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8 Responses to Review: A week with the Mophie Juice Pack Air extended battery case for iPhone 3G/S

  1. darren Hicks says:

    juice pack air available from mophieuk.com

  2. koichan says:

    On a similar note, i can also highly reccomend the
    iwalk external battery pack. (branded for iPhone, but works on nearly anything

    5400mah pack, good for around 4 full charges for my HTC Kaiser/TyTN2, but more importantly, allows it to run sat-nav apps non-stop in the car (or on my mountain bike mount)
    as running the 3G and GPS connections alongside a CPU hungry sat-nav proggy is hilariously mean to the battery life of the phone

    http://www.u2o-uk.co.uk/products/mobiles-pda-gps-mp3/u2o-iwalk-5400.html

  3. Cassidy says:

    @Hannes Famira: I’ve got the Incase Power Slider, and love it. I picked it up for $60 in the Apple store. One thing I really like about the Incase is that it’s got a really nice shape and texture. Feels warm and comfortable in the hand.

    This Mophie product sounds very similar. I’d love to see someone do a side-by-side comparison of the two.

  4. Ian Meyer says:

    I picked up a Juice Pack Air to use at WWDC, and it was great.

    I regularly kill my iPhone around 4-5pm from overuse, but the Juice Pack Air kept me going for a solid 5-6 more hours every day.

    I was pretty happy with it, but ended up taking it back because I don’t use my phone that much when I’m at home.

  5. ihaveseenenough says:

    My complaints about the iPhone battery stem not from games (I think I have two on there), but from email- if you use it like you’d use a Blackberry and have a busy day, the 3G’s battery is toast in seven hours.

    The cases didn’t do it for me, and I sent two Kensingtons spare batterys back because they didn’t work with the 2.0 software on the 3G (the iPhone refused, politely, to charge).

    I wound up with satisfaction from the Mobile Gum Pro- it’s a spectacular little bastard, a bit smaller than a pack of cigarettes, and packs a lovely 4400 mAh. I leave it in my man purse, and when needed, it’ll charge the phone from 10% to about 80% in roughly 20 minutes (and will do so about three times before it needs an overnight charge-up). And since it is not a case, you can charge any USB device (supply your own cable), iPhone or not. The hot girl across the table with a dead G1 will thank you.

  6. Mike says:

    1800 mAh Was the size of the batt in the original juice pack. Juice pack air leaves chrome exposed. I have incase slider with a 1300 mAh batt. I love it. Covers besel and bigger batt than the air. Only draw back is it may peel up face shields if they are not on perfect. Only shield i have found that works are the power support line. Also, my 3gs looses all signal in the case. 3g works fine because the case was designed for it. The 3gs was rearranged inside and somehiw the cell radio takes an extreme hit with the 3gs. I may break down and buy a juice pack air, but am not looking foward to the smaller 1200 mAh batt. My incases 1300 rocks. But again incompatible with my 3gs:(

  7. Has anyone experience with the direct competitor, the Power Slider?

    http://www.goincase.com/products/detail/power-slider-ec20009

  8. Rob Beschizza says:

    Joel, you’re back!

    I love how there is clearly a burgeoning field in technology, batterygami.

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