The Mophie Juice Pack Helium is a battery case for the iPhone 5 that will boost its energy levels from zero to 70-75 percent when you need it most.
iPhone 5 owners have been waiting for a compatible Mophie battery case since the Apple smartphone showed up at the end of last year. That wait is now over.
I was a happy owner of Mophie’s Juice Pack Air for my iPhone 4S, but when I upgraded to the iPhone 5 I had to live without the extra battery backup.
As Jung noted: “Everything new worth having is paid for by the loss of something old worth keeping”.
The range of cases for the iPhone 5 is much narrower than it is for the 4 or 4S, and even more limited for feature cases such as the battery case. We had to wait so long for an iPhone 5 battery case because accessory makers have struggled to get supplies of the phone’s new Lightning charger.
Even Apple admits that battery life on any of its iPhones isn’t ideal, and many of today’s wizzy apps really do drain the iPhone’s own puny battery.
Unless you’re frequently near a power source – and have remembered your Lightning charge cable – that low-battery warning is going to cramp your iPhone usage.
Mophie is the most respected of mobile battery accessories, and offers a full range of external and battery cases for today’s smartphones and tablets. There are other iPhone 5 battery cases available. We also like the Powerskin Battery Case for iPhone 5 and Mophie has now also released a more powerful but pricier Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone 5.
The Mophie Juice Pack Helium for iPhone 5 costs £69.95. The slightly chunkier Mophie Air will set you back closer to £90 but does offer a bigger battery boost..
Mophie Helium battery case review: Battery boost test
While Mophie claims the 1,500mAh battery case will boost your fading iPhone with an 80 percent charge, in our real-world tests we got between 70 and 75 percent – still good enough to get you to the next charging opportunity.
Mophie claims that users benefit from up to six additional hours of talk time, 30 more hours of audio playback, seven extra hours of video playback or seven hours of WiFi internet use (six hours with 3G and 4G).
We got all the way from London to San Francisco on one charge and part of the extra energy boost from the Mophie Helium. For long-haul flights or very busy iPhone days you really do need a fast way to back up your battery power – and the Juice Pack works a treat.
Mophie Helium battery case review: Case size
The compromise is in the size of the case. While it’s Mophie’s thinnest yet – 13 percent thinner than the old Juice Pack Air for iPhone 4/4S – you’ll notice the difference between an unclad iPhone and one bearing a battery pack.
The Juice Pack Helium weighs 68g (2.4 ounces), which is marginally lighter than the other iPhone battery cases. It's also slightly shorter than the Mophie Air for iPhone 5.
Packing an extra battery always adds to depth somewhat, and the Helium measures just under 15mm, compared to the iPhone 5’s 7.6mm.
That said all but the thinnest silicon cases will bulk up your phone, and after a day or two you kind of forget the difference. When you have to resort to grabbing power from the Mophie battery you couldn’t care less.
One aspect of the Helium that we prefer to the old Air is that you remove the smaller bottom of the case to expose the Lightning connector when you want to dock it in a speaker, for instance. Previously you had to detach a much larger part of the case. The newer Air for iPhone 5 works in the same way as the Helium.
The case also offers better protection. There are a few very small silicon nibs for shock and internal scratch resistance. The iPhone is slightly recessed in the case, which should protect the screen if dropped – although a full-face case would offer better crack protection in such catastrophies.
Another improvement on the old Air battery case is the single opening for the Ring/Silent switch and volume buttons, which makes adjustments even easier. There are clear and easily accessed cutouts for the camera and on/off button. That said, we prefer the new Air's button overlays to these deeper cutouts.
Mophie has also improved the audio quality of the case. Sound is now redirected from the bottom of the phone to the front resulting in richer sound quality.
The headphone cutout does present some problems, though. Now that the headphone port is at the bottom of the iPhone next to the Lightning port where Mophie stores most of the battery’s circuitry the length of the cutout is longer than used to be the, ahem, case.
This is not a problem if you use Apple’s EarPods or headphones with a straight, thin plug, but it won’t fit thicker or angled jacks. To counter this Mophie includes a bendy pass-through headphone extension. Every other iPhone 5 battery case we have tested does the same.
The Helium case is available in cool gunmetal Dark Metallic (available from February 25) or Silver (available in March), and is a made of a soft-touch grip plastic. I’d have liked a white model to go with my white iPhone 5, and a black one would keep the other properly dark. The Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone 5 is available in black, white and red.
Mophie Helium battery case review: Alternatives
Mophie is pretty much first to the game with a battery case for the Apple iPhone 5 but there are external batteries available that offer a different solution.
The 2,500mAh uNu Ecopak Snap-On Protective Case and Detachable Extended Battery fits the iPhone 5 but is not a one-piece solution, being an external battery pack that slots into a case and requires you to carry around your Lightning cable.
If bulking up your iPhone is too much to bear you should consider one of Mophie’s non-case external batteries, such as the 2,500mAh Mophie Powerstation mini (£50), 6,000mAh Mophie Powerstation Duo (£90) or 6,000mAh Mophie Powerstation Pro (£105). These battery packs are lightweight enough to live in your bag and provide a charge when necessary without bulking up the iPhone itself. The Pro and Duo can boost an iPhone over two times on one charge. They don’t, however, offer any case-like protection or remind you to carry them with you.
Mophie Helium battery case review: Charging
The bottom section of the Juice Pack Helium slots into the iPhone 5’s Lightning connector. What you see once the case is on is a handy microUSB slot that you use to charge but not sync the iPhone. As microUSB cables are more plentiful and cheaper than Lightning chargers this makes recharging easier away from base.
If you want to sync your iPhone you need to either slide off the bottom section to get to the Lightning port or sync wirelessly with the case still on.
If you flick the power switch to green the iPhone uses the battery power from the Juice Pack Helium first before switching to its own internal battery. Alternatively you can drain the iPhone’s battery and later use the Helium’s extra charge to power up the iPhone.