Review: Apple Smart Battery Case for iPhone 6 & 6s

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2015
Apple's Smart Battery Case will certainly get the job done, but it includes some baffling design decisions, and just isn't a great value compared to third-party products.




First of all, to address the elephant in the room -- yes, the case just doesn't look as sleek as most Apple products, with a protruding battery "hump" that some people have likened to an iPod, a deck of cards, or even a tumor. It's like a mutant version of Apple's regular Silicone Case.

In practice, the aesthetic issue is overblown. A charcoal black version looked smooth and well-made to our eyes, though it's liable to show scuffs and lint over time. And ultimately, it's a battery case -- what matters is how long it lasts and how much protection it offers.




On the second point, the Smart Battery Case is engineered more to be light than rugged, but it does have a thick, grippy rubber exterior reinforced by plastic and metal. A raised lip helps guard the screen. Together these things are enough to protect against bumps and everyday wear and tear, and possibly a few drops if the screen doesn't take the brunt of the impact.

Battery life is decent, but not spectacular. Apple claims up to 25 hours of talk time or 15 hours of LTE data, compared with figures of 14 and 10 on a stock iPhone 6 or 6s. We tried the case with an iPhone 6, and found that in normal mixed use -- with activities like Facebook, music, Words With Friends, and Google Maps navigation -- we were left with a 12 percent charge on the case by the end of the day, about what you'd expect from an iPhone on its own.




One of the neater things about the case its close integration with the Apple ecosystem. It uses a Lightning port instead of micro USB, which automatically makes it more convenient for a lot of people -- especially those with Lightning docks. When you insert or remove a cable, it briefly displays both the phone and the case's power levels, and you can check that information again through an iOS Notification Center widget.

It'd be nice, though, if those separate levels appeared on the iOS lockscreen as well. Really there should be an external LED readout like other cases, which would do away with having to plug in an iPhone or swipe down on notifications just to gauge how much life is left.




On that note, some of Apple's other design choices are just bizarre. There is an LED charging indicator, but it's a basic on/off light, and it's located on the inside of the case -- a place you won't see most of the time. There's no switch to turn the case off and save reserve power. And if you want to connect 3.5-millimeter headphones or stereo cables, the opening for them is too deep and narrow in many circumstances. An exception -- naturally -- is Apple's own EarPods.




The case's flaws might be overlooked except that Apple is charging $99 for a bare-bones product. That's almost criminal when you can get a decent Anker case for $40 that has a 2,850 milliamp-hour battery. For just a dollar more than Apple, you can get Mophie's tougher (and often better-designed) Juice Pack Air. If you're willing to spend about $130, you can get a case from LifeProof that not only charges your phone but makes it nigh-on indestructible.

Conclusions



Putting it bluntly -- there's no reason to go with the Smart Battery Case unless you need something like it the moment you buy your iPhone and, mysteriously, no other option is available. It does what it needs to do, but at a high pricetag and with problems other casemakers solved years ago.

It's a shame, since the case's Lightning port and iOS integration is genuinely useful and sets it apart from the pack. Hopefully this is the harbinger of the technology coming to superior third-party accessories.

Score: 3 out of 5



Pros:
  • Tight iOS integration & Lightning port
  • Decent protection
  • Extra battery life enough for most of a day
  • Easy installation & removal

Cons:
  • Too expensive for included features
  • May be ugly to some
  • No external LEDs or controls
  • Makes 3.5mm port incompatible with some accessories

Where to buy



Apple's Smart Battery Case for iPhone 6 and 6s sells for $99 at online and brick-and-mortar Apple Stores.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 102
    the "baffling" design decisions aren't baffling. you just didn't understand why they did them. Gruber does:

    http://daringfireball.net/2015/12/the_curious_case_of_the_curious_case
    rogifan_oldtofinoProf_Peabodyidreyolderthaniam1983wonkothesaneredgeminipa
  • Reply 2 of 102
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    Weight?
  • Reply 3 of 102
    I disagree with most of the review. It isn't very pretty but part of that is just because it looks different. It is minimalistic which is in the spirit of Apple. It doesn't occupy more space than it needs to which means it will fit on most docks, it's easy to hold and as light as possible. One thing the review doesn't mention is that there is an antenna extension in the case which will make reception better (battery cases tend to interfere with reception). That alone will probably make the battery last longer than many other cases. To me it's a simple to use case that doesn't bother you with extra switches and lights - it just does it's job, switching intelligently between case battery and phone battery and you can use your existing charging cables.
    rogifan_oldtofino1983planetary paulredgeminipa
  • Reply 4 of 102
    the "baffling" design decisions aren't baffling. you just didn't understand why they did them. Gruber does:

    http://daringfireball.net/2015/12/the_curious_case_of_the_curious_case
    Gruber, Rene Ritchie and Jim Dalrymple get it. And since there are third-party options, which are even sold Apple stores, what's there to complain about. Buy something else if you don't like this option.
    tofinowonkothesanethepixeldoc
  • Reply 5 of 102
    tofinotofino Posts: 697member
    Use of the lightning cable is reason enough for me to consider this case over any other. How much can third party case makers really save to use that dreadful micro usb connector?
    planetary paulSoli
  • Reply 6 of 102
    This is a very weird (and pretty obviously biased) review IMO.  

    It goes on for a while about all the great features of the product, then it makes a single, wildly unsupportable claim ("... in normal mixed use ... we were left with ... about what you'd expect from an iPhone on its own."), then it depends into endless petty griping.  

    A review should be a review of the product on it's own that discusses the products merits and design decisions.  This is mostly just a long list of:  "It doesn't have ... (insert detail of competing product that the reviewer likes) BS."

    We get it, it's *different* from the other products.  Maybe do your job and figure out *why* it's different, what the design decisions that lead to this difference are, and whether they make any sense.  
    edited December 2015 tofinoredgeminipanolamacguy
  • Reply 7 of 102
    Nice review.

    The lightning port seems like the killer feature, aside from the obvious which is extra battery life and the protection of having a case.

    The headphone jack not working with some headphones like some of Apples own Beats headphones seems like an inexcusable oversight.

    Capacity and quality seem to be fairly decent, but perhaps the $99 price tag seems a touch high.

    It seems like Apple could have done a little bit better, but it's not horrible for a first shot.

    3 out of 5 seems about right. I think we should not hate on it, but maybe expect just a little bit more from Apple on this one.
  • Reply 8 of 102
    techlover said:
    Nice review.

    The lightning port seems like the killer feature, aside from the obvious which is extra battery life and the protection of having a case.

    The headphone jack not working with some headphones like some of Apples own Beats headphones seems like an inexcusable oversight.

    Capacity and quality seem to be fairly decent, but perhaps the $99 price tag seems a touch high.

    It seems like Apple could have done a little bit better, but it's not horrible for a first shot.

    3 out of 5 seems about right. I think we should not hate on it, but maybe expect just a little bit more from Apple on this one.
    Do all types of headphones work with other battery cases like Mophie? 

    I don't know why people keep complaining about lint. Put on a dark colored pair of pants and you're going to attract lint. Is any piece of clothing that is black or dark blue/gray a design fail? I have a stone colored Apple case for my 6S and it shows no dirt or lint.
  • Reply 9 of 102
    I give it 1/5 score.

    (the review, not the case)
    olderthaniamkpom1983awilliams87redgeminipamessagepad2100
  • Reply 10 of 102
    Well done, first media outlet to mention it not having a switch to turn the case off, I don't know who wants their phone hot and charging all the time.
  • Reply 11 of 102
    techlover said:
    Nice review.

    The lightning port seems like the killer feature, aside from the obvious which is extra battery life and the protection of having a case.

    The headphone jack not working with some headphones like some of Apples own Beats headphones seems like an inexcusable oversight.

    Capacity and quality seem to be fairly decent, but perhaps the $99 price tag seems a touch high.

    It seems like Apple could have done a little bit better, but it's not horrible for a first shot.

    3 out of 5 seems about right. I think we should not hate on it, but maybe expect just a little bit more from Apple on this one.
    Do all types of headphones work with other battery cases like Mophie? 

    They don't usually. Heck, I have a non battery case for my iPhone that doesn't really work with my Sony headphones, it's why I like how the Apple leather case has an open bottom. 
  • Reply 12 of 102
    satchmosatchmo Posts: 2,699member
    the "baffling" design decisions aren't baffling. you just didn't understand why they did them. Gruber does:

    http://daringfireball.net/2015/12/the_curious_case_of_the_curious_case
    Gruber, Rene Ritchie and Jim Dalrymple get it. And since there are third-party options, which are even sold Apple stores, what's there to complain about. Buy something else if you don't like this option.
    Not so sure about Ritchie and Dalrymple's views...those two are getting annoyingly fanboyish. At least Gruber dares to cross the line and admits it's a very 'un-Apple like design'.

    However, writing a lengthy article to justify something so 'ungainly', is excuse-making at it's best. When has Apple neglected aesthetics and beauty in it's products? How many times have we heard Jobs or Cook gush over the 'gorgeous' design of an iPhone or MacBook.

    I'm all for functionality and usability. Heck, I wish there was more of it from Apple. To start, give me an iPhone that isn't so slippery to the touch. But let's just stop with the bullsh*t and apologizing for clearly, a case that never should have been needed in the first place.
    sirlance99
  • Reply 13 of 102
    You knew it was bound to happen sooner or later: Apple would release a product that would have Steve turning over in his grave. And here it is: The Hunchback of Notre Dame Battery Case. Can you imagine the expletives that Steve would have screamed from his office if someone had dared suggest putting Apple's name on such an ugly piece of shite? I'm honestly astonished, and a little concerned, that Jony Ive signed off on this--it is so antithetical to the Apple aesthetic that has defined every aspect of the brand. 

    The "good" performance at a premium price seems par for the course for Apple accessories--but they generally win you over with beautiful design and functional touches that 3rd party accessories lack. Not so much here. Can't figure out how this even merited three stars. 
  • Reply 14 of 102
    bb-15bb-15 Posts: 141member
    "Too expensive for included features"

    It fits with the prices of the Mophie cases. 
    Also, Apple accessories can cost more than 3rd party options. 
    But with this case the customer gets more; a Lightning connector and a very easy to use design. 

    "May be ugly to some"

    That can be said about every piece of tech ever created. 
    One of the silliest comments in a professional review imo. 

    "No external LED or controls"

    Considering the very nice battery tracking software for this case, I don't see this as a major problem.
    Also without external controls/LEDs, the Apple case has a simpler, more rugged exterior design. 

    "Makes 3.5 port incompatible with some accessories"

    This is true of many 3rd party iPhone cases, including the one that I use on my phone.  
    - If it's that big of an issue, get an adapter. 

    redgeminipaigorsky
  • Reply 15 of 102
    charlesn said:
    You knew it was bound to happen sooner or later: Apple would release a product that would have Steve turning over in his grave. And here it is: The Hunchback of Notre Dame Battery Case. Can you imagine the expletives that Steve would have screamed from his office if someone had dared suggest putting Apple's name on such an ugly piece of shite? I'm honestly astonished, and a little concerned, that Jony Ive signed off on this--it is so antithetical to the Apple aesthetic that has defined every aspect of the brand. 

    The "good" performance at a premium price seems par for the course for Apple accessories--but they generally win you over with beautiful design and functional touches that 3rd party accessories lack. Not so much here. Can't figure out how this even merited three stars. 
    I'm fond of using the "Steve wouldn't approve ..." line myself, but you aren't offering any actual evidence of this here.  Steve Jobs would arguably be far more incensed by the gold painted laptops than this case, but you don't see anyone using the trope over those laptops.

    The gold laptops don't get the hate because most users "like," them even though they are pretty awful from a design standpoint and would probably make Steve Jobs barf.  

    People don't "like" the looks of this case (at least not right off), but Steve Jobs was all about design, not pretty objects and this case is actually a pretty neat little design.  
    redgeminipa
  • Reply 16 of 102
    The (Apple adapter is next) 29.99 :)
  • Reply 17 of 102
    I purchased two Apple Smart Battery Cases in spite of the "limitations". I have been using it for 2 days and it works well. I needed a case for my wife who does not understand MicroUSB and which direction the cable is plugged or what charging switches and LEDs on a battery case mean. The Apple Case eliminates these limitations of the so called better battery cases. Having the Lightning connector is important because it just works. The one negative is the lack of an audio jack extender like Mophie supplies with their cases. I had to order extenders separately. Mophie makes a high quality extender.
    rufworkleehericksredgeminipa
  • Reply 18 of 102
    I honestly don't mind the idea of this, but it's flaws make it useless. There are much better options available on Amazon, so there isn't really a reason to get it. Good review.
  • Reply 19 of 102
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,405member
    still can't delete, rather than edit a comment?
    edited December 2015
  • Reply 20 of 102
    I don't see anybody else mentioning this here and for a review this is a glaring omission, but there is a fundamental difference from the way that the apple battery case operates and how the other cases in this segment function: if both batteries are fully charged, the Apple Smart Battery Case will deplete it's battery before allowing the phone to deplete it's internal battery.  This puts the charge cycles on the external battery, which is cheaper and easier to replace than the internal battery.  This saves you money and keeps your $600+ device younger, longer.  Other options in this segment are designed to recharge your internal battery once it is depleted, adding additional charge cycles to your usage pattern.  
    planetary paulleehericksstarbird73redgeminipanolamacguymessagepad2100igorsky
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