Apple's got their own Smart Case for the iPhone, but long-time iPhone life-extender Mophie does as well. AppleInsider pushes our iPhone battery to the limit to review the Mophie Juice Pack Access battery case.
The battery case market is heating up with additional models hitting the market each month. During the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, AppleInsider went hands on with Mophie's Juice Pack Access and got a great first impression. Now, after some testing, we are back with a fuller picture.
The master of batteries
Mophie is regarded one of the best external battery suppliers out there, retaining a spot on Apple's retail shelves for years on end as they debut new products.
The new Juice Pack Access is an iteration on their legendary battery case, with more refinements added year after year. These latest cases — available for the iPhone X/XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR — show a drastic departure in design. Instead of interfacing with your iPhone via the Lightning port at the bottom, Juice Pack Access powers up your iPhone with Qi wireless charging.
The case can draw power from a wireless charger and can power your iPhone the same way. This leaves the bottom completely open and accessible.
Had they used Lightning, it would have likely caused issues for accessories that need data. This means headphones, CarPlay, camera adapters all would likely not work had they gone that route. Now you can simply plug in any of those accessories like you always would without issue.
Your iPhone is inserted via the top which comes free. The case wraps around the sides of the phone, keeping it secure, adding drop protection, and putting just a small lip around the display to keep it off of whatever surface it is placed down on. In the early days of the Juice Pack, the the biggest fault point was the snaps holding the case together but on all these recent models they've vastly improved it to be secure and reliable.
When you place your iPhone and case together on a wireless charger, Mophie intelligently routes the power to your iPhone first before filling up the case battery. When this happens, there is a 2-3 second delay as the case accepts the wireless charge and then passes it on to the phone. It did have a tendency to get relatively warm in the process, warmer than we expected, but not near hot enough to alarm us.
The case is limited to 5W output, so if both the case and phone are drained, you're going to notice a slightly slower pace as your phone reclaims battery percentage points. Overnight this is a non-issue but in a rush, it won't do.
Luckily, Mophie also has left the bottom Lightning port exposed. This affords users the ability to connect any Lightning cable they prefer, up to and including a USB-C Lightning cable and Fast Charge.
As a second option, because of the passthrough charging, this case effectively gives the iPhone a USB-C port. It still can only deliver 5W of power because of the wireless charging from the case to the iPhone, but it does give users that alternate port.
Users can look at this in two ways. On one hand, you get the benefit of having support for two different cable types, ensuring you will always be able to charge your device.
On the other, you're left needing two charging cables if you want to power up both, quickly. You also always have to have the right one — if you aren't using the case or want to charge your phone you need Lightning. If you want to charge the case you need USB-C.
Using the Mophie case
We've been using the Mophie case for a bit now on our iPhone XS Max. Inside is a 2,200mAh battery which seems sufficient, if not slightly lower than we'd prefer. Mophie says it will extend an iPhone to 31 hours of talk time, 18 hours of video watching, and 16 hours of internet use.
Even though the battery was slightly smaller than we expected, it pays off in other ways. There isn't nearly as much added weight as we expected and the case itself is quite slim. On an iPhone XS Max it still isn't small, but not overly burdensome.
When held casually in a relaxed, one-handed grip the added heft causes the phone to slowly slide out of our hand due to the smooth nature of the case. It has a great feel but we do have to grip a bit tighter than normal while lounging on the couch.
The status LEDs on the back are far too bright for us. When we lit them up in a dim environment we felt nearly blinded by them, but this is also the only way to verify how much charge is remaining.
Another minor qualm we had was the finish of the battery case made it quite prone to fingerprints and oils. It made our case look dirty frequently with the black, so I think next time we'd opt for the blue or red that may show this less.
As a habit, we prefer using our AirPods or MW07 wireless earbuds, but there are times when we prefer our powerful Master & Dynamic over-ear studio headphones. We'd then come into the situation where we can't charge and listen simultaneously. Juice Pack Access negates this issue by allowing us to charge at the same time. It's a small thing but has a sizeable impact for those listening with a wire.
Apple recently released its own Smart Battery Case which leaves Mophie with stiff competition. Just the same, more choices are better for the consumer than fewer, and we're glad that Mophie and Apple are going head-to-head.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Where to buy
The Mophie smart battery case is available now from Mophie directly for the iPhone X/XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR for $99.95. It will come in black, stone, gold, and dark red for the iPhone XS Max andiPhone X/XS, and black, blue, and red for the iPhone XR.
Shoppers can also order the case on Amazon; however, there is a longer wait for the X/XS version.