Hands on with Apple's new Smart Battery Case for iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR

Posted:
in iPhone
Apple has released a new Smart Battery Case for the latest iPhones. Here are our first impressions of the newly updated accessory.

Smart Battery Case
Smart Battery Case


If you're familiar with Apple's previous Smart Battery Cases -- released for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 -- you'll be familiar with the new lineup. This time around, the accessory is available in black and white for the XS, XR, and XS Max. A first for the larger sized iPhones.

Instead of just updating the size, Apple went a step further and completely redesigned it to look better and be more capable than the previous iterations.






The exterior is still made of soft silicone that is easy to grip but makes it more difficult to pull out of tight pockets and has an affinity for collecting a bit of lint. A soft microfiber lining blankets the interior to help cradle your phone. Most of the case is solid, but the top portion is flexible, just as it was before. The top bends back making it dead-simple to slip the phone in or take it out.

The lower portion has a different shape than the previous model. It drops the chin that used to sit below the bottom of the phone, now fitting much tighter. The battery on the back also extends all the way to the bottom rather than stopping part way, creating an odd bump.

Smart Battery Case Lightning port
Smart Battery Case Lightning port


Apple still stuck with a Lightning port on the battery case, a choice we prefer for this accessory class. This means regardless if you have the case on or off, you only need one cable. Apple has also upgraded the charging speed so that if you use a USB-C to Lightning cable and a USB-C PD charger, it will power up much faster. If fast charging isn't your thing, use Qi wireless charging.

Smart Battery Case wireless charging
Smart Battery Case wirelessly charging


A lot of misinformation went around in the hours before the cases landed in consumers hands regarding the capacity. To set things straight -- these new cases are the most powerful Apple has ever released.

Smart Battery Case
Smart Battery Case


They have a smaller 1369mAh battery internally, but instead of a large single cell as in years past, they've put two smaller cells and wired them in series. This lets them keep the amperes the same, but double the voltage, netting 10.1Wh of power. The last model Apple released for the iPhone 7 was only 8.98Wh.

We will be putting the new Smart Battery Case through its paces over the next few days for our full review, but if you are eager to get your hands on one you can pick it up now for $129.99.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,223member
    Thanks for the write up. I’ve found that silicone, while soft and durable, makes a poor material for cases. It tends to be too grippy. This not only makes the phone difficult to slide in and out of a pocket, etc but it also tends to grip your hands too much and in someways it paradoxically seems to make it easier for me to drop my phone. Not unlike tripping because the bottom of your shoes are really sticky.
    berndog
  • Reply 2 of 21
    lennlenn Posts: 36member
    Looks nice but too expensive just like every other iPhone accessory Apple sells.
  • Reply 3 of 21
    Does it have passive antennas like previous battery case?  That would be a nice addition/enhancement...that alone maybe worth the investment!  
    edited January 17
  • Reply 4 of 21
    MplsP said:
    Thanks for the write up. I’ve found that silicone, while soft and durable, makes a poor material for cases. It tends to be too grippy. This not only makes the phone difficult to slide in and out of a pocket, etc but it also tends to grip your hands too much and in someways it paradoxically seems to make it easier for me to drop my phone. Not unlike tripping because the bottom of your shoes are really sticky.
    In my experience with my 6s, the case was just the right about grippy. Have you tried this particular case? Perhaps not all silicone cases have the same feel (in fact, I'm sure that's the case).
    mobirdemoellertoysandme
  • Reply 5 of 21
    I'm most concerned with durability of the silicone case. I have a silicone case for a 6s (just traded it in for an XS yay!) and the corners wore away over the years. I'll post a pic. On the lower left you can see one corner chipped away, mostly from dropping on my desk. You can (almost) see the microfiber sticking out where there used to be silicone. Also in the upper right you can see a nick on the edge, I have no idea how that happened. It appears this mostly happens on the bottom of the case, since that's usually how I'm holding it when I drop it. 

    It looks like the bottom of the new battery case is rigid, but I am curious if it is flexible at all. It looks like it is rigid, maybe it has a metal housing inside to mount the lightning port. The upper part was shown to be flexible in the demo video, but it looks thicker than my old 6s case. I wouldn't mind replacing a $39 silicon case but the $129 battery case better be a lot more durable.
    Also it is important that the battery case keeps the screen from touching the table when it's face down. Apple paid some attention to this in my old 6s case, it has maybe a millimeter gap, so if it falls face down it's less likely to damage the screen. I hope the rim is a bit larger on this case than my old one.
    BTW, I like the silicone surface, it feels good in my hand and it's grippy enough that I like how it helps stability in gaming. It is not at all difficult to pull out of my pocket.
    edited January 17
  • Reply 6 of 21
    i liked the old case with one important issue... after not too long but outside the warranty the nice silicon rubber coating got damaged and peeled on one corner.  never been dropped just war and tear.  so i would be VERY worried about the new one.  frankly if i pay the apple premium i don't want to have something looking very scruffy only a year later
  • Reply 7 of 21
    mike54mike54 Posts: 314member
    Why is they put the two batteries in series to double the voltage? Is this battery case constantly charging the internal battery? If so, isn't the significantly higher voltage not good for the internal battery? USB chargers are not rated at that voltage. What are the implications of doubling the voltage the way this phone uses it? (not just on current, we know that P=VI). Could someone please explain from a technical perspective.
  • Reply 8 of 21
    Bought two of these (Max) and received them yesterday. Here are my initial impressions:
    -They are a little harder to remove than previous versions, maybe there is a break-in period. Material feels great.
    -There is a lip on the bottom of the phone for some reason, a departure from other Apple silicone/leather X/XS cases, so the swipe up home gesture felt funny for a few tries.
    -Despite the capacity controversy, they seem to be only capable of charging half of the phone’s battery capacity in my usage, so one case will get me from 0 to 50%. I have the phone in low power mode with the screen off when charging for this test.
    -Perhaps my biggest disappointment: I just replaced all my Mophie flat pucks and 29-watt iPhone lightning docks with the amazing new Logitech stand Apple worked with them on, and have them all over the house. Typically I used to leave one or both batter cases charging when not in use. The cases appear to charge in this stand (case LED turns amber), but at a very slow rate (8 hours got the case from 0 to 20%; just the case, without the phone). The Apple support article says if the case charges slowly, make sure the Apple logo is centered on the puck. The odd thing is, the Apple logo on the case seems to be right about in the middle of the phone, in other words it’s in the same position as the sweet spot of the phone. Nonetheless, I had to bring out the pucks again and it took several attempts to get it positioned just right to charge at a decent pace. Looks like I must go back to the lightning dock with 29-watt USB-C adapter and cables, but if the case only ups my iPhone 50%, not sure it’s worth it. The iPhone 7 case nearly got the phone fully recharged.
    -It feels amazing in the hand!!
    Madtigerroundaboutnowraulcristianlarz2112repressthis
  • Reply 9 of 21
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,699member
    Madtiger said:
    Does it have passive antennas like previous battery case?  That would be a nice addition/enhancement...that alone maybe worth the investment!  
    And would that be the 4x4 attennas that are in the XS and Max?

    only other thing would be to have a second USB-C charging port so that you could borrow your friends cable if you forgot yours.
  • Reply 10 of 21
    metrixmetrix Posts: 245member
    This may be the ugliest thing Apple sells, calling a spade a spade
    raulcristian
  • Reply 11 of 21
    B-Mc-C said:
    Bought two of these (Max) and received them yesterday. Here are my initial impressions:
    -They are a little harder to remove than previous versions, maybe there is a break-in period. Material feels great.
    -There is a lip on the bottom of the phone for some reason, a departure from other Apple silicone/leather X/XS cases, so the swipe up home gesture felt funny for a few tries.
    -Despite the capacity controversy, they seem to be only capable of charging half of the phone’s battery capacity in my usage, so one case will get me from 0 to 50%. I have the phone in low power mode with the screen off when charging for this test.
    -Perhaps my biggest disappointment: I just replaced all my Mophie flat pucks and 29-watt iPhone lightning docks with the amazing new Logitech stand Apple worked with them on, and have them all over the house. Typically I used to leave one or both batter cases charging when not in use. The cases appear to charge in this stand (case LED turns amber), but at a very slow rate (8 hours got the case from 0 to 20%; just the case, without the phone). The Apple support article says if the case charges slowly, make sure the Apple logo is centered on the puck. The odd thing is, the Apple logo on the case seems to be right about in the middle of the phone, in other words it’s in the same position as the sweet spot of the phone. Nonetheless, I had to bring out the pucks again and it took several attempts to get it positioned just right to charge at a decent pace. Looks like I must go back to the lightning dock with 29-watt USB-C adapter and cables, but if the case only ups my iPhone 50%, not sure it’s worth it. The iPhone 7 case nearly got the phone fully recharged.
    -It feels amazing in the hand!!
    TBH, yours sounds like it's defective, possibly. I don't have any data for you, honestly, but the experience you're having just doesn't sound "right".  
  • Reply 12 of 21
    Is it fully water resistant like the phone?
  • Reply 13 of 21
    It feels like the same material as the previous battery pack -  I like it.  Seems they ship them all without charge so recommend charging it first before inserting the iPhone.  Really like the wedge shape as it slides in and out of my pocket easily.  Narrow end first means it is always right side up when taking it out, and also allows the phone case to be charged while in my pocket (I have a large battery pack in an outer coat that I sometimes used when the phone was getting low on power.

    Overall, I like it. But I will probably still use my Totalee clear case for evenings out.
    JFC_PA
  • Reply 14 of 21
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 295member
    lenn said:
    Looks nice but too expensive just like every other iPhone accessory Apple sells.
    In line with the cost of similar Mophie wireless power cases so, not really. 
    repressthis
  • Reply 15 of 21
    JFC_PA said:
    lenn said:
    Looks nice but too expensive just like every other iPhone accessory Apple sells.
    In line with the cost of similar Mophie wireless power cases so, not really. 

    Don't bother about Lenn. He's just here to get a rise out of anybody.
    repressthis
  • Reply 16 of 21
    Red! Make these in red!
    repressthis
  • Reply 17 of 21
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,223member
    mike54 said:
    Why is they put the two batteries in series to double the voltage? Is this battery case constantly charging the internal battery? If so, isn't the significantly higher voltage not good for the internal battery? USB chargers are not rated at that voltage. What are the implications of doubling the voltage the way this phone uses it? (not just on current, we know that P=VI). Could someone please explain from a technical perspective.
    It doesn't really matter - there's a voltage regulator in the charging circuit, so they can have the voltage at whatever they want. Haven't you wondered why you can plug the USB cube into the wall and then plug a USB cable into it without getting 120V delivered to your phone?

    The total power contained in battery is the same whether you have 2 batteries in parallel or series. Depending on the other circuitry, putting them in series may be more efficient or have other advantages. You can be certain this was thought of in the design process, though.
    tht
  • Reply 18 of 21
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,223member

    JFC_PA said:
    lenn said:
    Looks nice but too expensive just like every other iPhone accessory Apple sells.
    In line with the cost of similar Mophie wireless power cases so, not really. 
    Maybe both - it's not out of line with the cost of the Mophie, but is definitely expensive. To be fair, it has a lot of nice features to integrate it with the phone that make it more than an extra battery slapped on the back. Also, I was in Best Buy a few weeks ago looking at cases for my new Xs and was shocked at what they were charging. 'basic' cases that were just a single piece of molded plastic were going for $30 and better cases were upwards of $50. And that's without any battery. In that context the price isn't so unreasonable. Or at least isn't out of line.
  • Reply 19 of 21
    I’m really impressed with my Max version.  I plugged my phone in with the battery case on yesterday and both were at 10%.  Within 20 mins the phone was at 45% and the case at 40%. I use a 30 watt ravpower usb-c pd charger. 
  • Reply 20 of 21
    Was supposed to get mine today but there was an “unexpected delay” delivering it to my local Apple Store. Next time, I’ll just get it delivered to my home—never had a delay that way.
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