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Introduced in December 2015, the Smart Battery Case entered the market as Apple's attempt at a portable and always-available alternative power source for the iPhone. The original model was released for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6, with the concept resurfacing for new models from the 2018 iPhone models onwards. 

Versions of the case are currently available for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max lines.  

The most recent release in the series was rated at 4 out of 5 in an AppleInsider review

Apple's Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 11 Apple's Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 11

Apple's accessory joined an already quite populated marketplace that already included battery case offerings from third-party vendors. However, Apple's design decisions give its own version a few significant benefits over its rivals. 

Core Design

The Smart Battery Case largely consists of a silicone case similar to others made by Apple, with a soft but grippy exterior texture that offers protection from drops and bumps. The case is lined with microfiber to protect the surface of the encased iPhone. 

The microfiber interior and Lightning connector inside the Smart Battery Case The microfiber interior and Lightning connector inside the Smart Battery Case

A window in the rear allows the camera bump to be exposed to the world, and at the bottom is a Lightning connector that slots into the iPhone's Lightning port. On the base of the case is another Lightning port, which is used to accept a Lightning connector for recharging and synchronization purposes. 

On the back is a prominent square hump, which is where the extra battery is contained. While other case producers attempt to hide the cells, typically by making the case larger, Apple instead opts to use as little physical volume as possible in the case's construction, resulting in a slimline case that is also lightweight. 

Battery and Charging

The battery within the hump supports the existing battery within the iPhone, and works without needing to be turned on or enabled via a button. 

The capacity has varied over the years, with the original holding 1,877mAh, equating to roughly 80% of the iPhone 6s' built-in battery. The later releases boast a boost of up to 50% of the battery life of their respective models, giving many hours of extra usage. 

The original Apple Smart Battery Case's prominent battery hump The original Apple Smart Battery Case's prominent battery hump

All models can be recharged via the Lightning connector in the base, which is capable of charging both the batteries of the case itself and the iPhone simultaneously. 

For the iPhone 11 generation of Smart Battery Case, Apple has included support for wireless charging, again recharging both the case and the iPhone at the same time when placed on a Qi charging pad. 

iOS Integration

Since the initial model, Apple has taken advantage of its control of iOS to offer an extra feature in its Smart Battery Case that cannot be provided by third-party vendors. 

Battery capacity indicators within iOS (via Apple) Battery capacity indicators within iOS (via Apple)

It is possible to see the amount of charge remaining in the Smart Battery Case on the iPhone itself. The charge amount is visible from the Lock Screen when it is being recharged, as well as from the Batteries section of the Today View. 

One major advantage of this is there is no need for Apple to include external indicators on the case itself. Other cases typically include lights and other elements to express how much charge is remaining on the internal battery. 

Camera Button

For the iPhone 11 Smart Battery Case, Apple included a new feature, in the form of a dedicated camera button. The addition is able to bring up the camera app whenever it is pressed, as well as acting as a shutter button. 

The position of the button puts it in the top right, under where the right index finger rests when held in landscape orientation. This mimics the button placement of other traditional point-and-shoot cameras and is much easier to press than the volume-up key, which can be used to trigger the shutter within the camera app. 

The camera button on the side of the iPhone 11 variant The camera button on the side of the iPhone 11 variant

To avoid accidentally triggering exposures while being carried in a pocket, the button is slightly recessed. 

An x-ray of the new case shows there are small wires leading to the button within the case, connecting it to a small circuit board used to connect the Lightning elements to the batteries. 

Battery Replacements

In January 2020, Apple launched a service program to replace faulty Smart Battery Cases designed for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR produced between January and October 2019. 

Affected cases will not charge, or will intermittently charge when plugged into a power source via the Lightning connector. There are also instances where the case can refuse to provide power to the inserted iPhone. 

Under the program, customers with affected cases can visit an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for a free replacement, or to contact Apple Support for assistance. 

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