iPhone 5’s battery life getting you down? There’s a growing number of iPhone 5 battery cases, and we’re reviewing the best here.
The iPhone’s battery life isn’t something Apple shouts about when launching new models. See: iPhone 5 review
Apple claims that its smartphone battery can handle up to 8 hours of talk time, 225 hours on standby, up to 8 hours internet usage on 3G (and up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi), up to 10 hours of video playback and up to 40 hours of audio playback.
It all depends on the apps you use. Some are energy efficient. Others drink battery juice for fun. Apps that use Location Services are particularly power hungry. Check out Location Services under Privacy in your iPhone’s Settings. Cameras, Maps and social apps are the obvious offenders but you’ll be surprised at the games and so forth also constantly tracking your whereabouts and draining juice.
Serious app users, tapping commuters and long-haul travellers are going to use up a full iPhone battery charge between leaving home and getting to another power source. See: iPhone case reviews
Some form of battery back up is called for. You can buy external battery packs that plug in to recharge an empty or low-charge mobile. We like the Mophie PowerStation batteries and the quirky Powerskin Pop’n.
Better still are battery cases for the iPhone 5. Market leader Mophie recently released the Juice Pack Helium, and has another, the Juice Pack Air, on the way.
Rival Powerskin now offers the Powerskin Battery Case for iPhone 5, with a more powerful model, the Powerskin Pro, due in May.
Like the Mophie Juice Pack Helium, reviewed, the Powerskin battery case packs 1,500mAh of power into its iPhone casing. The forthcoming Powerskin Pro and Mophie Juice Pack Air both promise 2,000mAH of extra energy.
Powerskin battery life
Powerskin claims that its 1,500mAh battery case can extend smartphone usage to 70 percent – meaning it at the first sign of a low battery (usually signalled at 20%) you should be able to take it almost back to full power.
That’s enough, however, to get you through the long-haul flight and back to base. We’re looking forward to testing the 2,000mAh iPhone battery cases to see how much extra juice they offer.
Powerskin battery case
The Mophie battery cases feature a hard case shell. The Powerskin instead has a softer, gripping silicon case that makes it much easier to slip the iPhone in and out of.
While softer than the Mophie case it still feels like it will protect the iPhone in a short fall.
With the Mophie I’d be concerned that the case itself would crack in an awkward drop. Because it’s softer silicon I’d think the Powerskin would survive. Of course it’s the iPhoen you want to live through a drop or bash, and I’m confident both cases would do their job in most minor accidents.
While the Mophie Helium leaves most iPhone buttons and ports exposed the Powerskin features pass-through volume and On/Off buttons – meaning the case cover these buttons but it’s easy enough to operate them through the soft silicon.
Both iPhone cases cover the built-in speakers and microphone, but with no obvious effects on either.
Both are also rather stymied by Apple’s decision to mount the headphone jack on the bottom of the case near the Lightning connector (as opposed to the iPhone 4/4S, which had the headphone port at the top).
The iPhone’s headphone jack is recessed, by nearly half an inch, from the outside of the case. Apple’s EarPods or other headphones with a straight, slim headphone plug are fine. But if your headphones use a thicker or angled plug it won’t fit. Powerskin includes a three-inch pass-through headphone extension that lets you use any headphone plug with the case. Obviously it’s something you have to remember you want to carry around with you if you use your iPhone as your music player. The same is true of the Mophie Helium.
Charging the iPhone via the case
You charge up the Powerskin battery case via the included microUSB cable. Inside the case there’s a Lightning connector that plugs into the iPhone’s charge/sync port.
When you’re nearly out of juice you charge the iPhone’s battery from the case by pushing the charge button on the back of the case for a few seconds. You can halt the charge in the same way. There are four charge indicator lights to show you how much energy remains in the battery case.
It has an on/off function so you can top up your phone whenever you want with as much power as you want and save the power in the battery case for later.
When the battery case is plugged in with the iPhone in, the phone always takes priority – so until your iPhone is fully charged the Powerskin will not charge.
The Powerskin is designed with a 5V 1A input & output - this means it will charge the battery in your iPhone up to 80 percent within around an hour and then slow down and charge the last remaining 20 percent within around the same time. This allows the phone to run full cycles of charge and discharge, which preserves the actual life of the battery in the long term.
It is the same principle as if you left your phone plugged in all day even when it's at 100% battery - the battery will progressively hold less and less charge.
The Powerskin will switch off the charge to your iPhone completely once it has reached 100% charge and start charging the battery case itself under the same principle, first 80% will charge quickly and the remaining 20% will take a little longer.
The best thing to do is to leave them both overnight and you'll have a fully charged phone and battery case in the morning to be used during the day.
Do you need a battery case for your iPhone?
I know people who have a battery case but never use it as the internal battery gets them through the day with no problems.
You should know whether a battery case would help you if your iPhone often struggles to make it through the day.
People who need a lot of power for long journeys (often with children!) might find such a case handy, too.
If your battery lasts all day most of the time but you want the security of extra power at your disposal you could also consider one of the battery packs: such as the 2,000mAh Powerskin Pop'n (£60), 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.
Powerskin battery case vs Mophie Helium
While we’re big fans of the Mophie Juice Pack Helium we preferred the softer silicon case of the Powerskin, which made taking the iPhone out much easier for syncing purposes. It also feels like it will survive a short drop better than the hard-case Mophie – although the Mophie might prove more robust in protecting the iPhone itself. We do have confidence in both to protect the iPhone within in most minor incidents.
The Powerskin is very slightly shorter and less wide than the Helium, and just feels a little less bulky, which will be important to many. The Mophie is £10 cheaper, which will also be important to many! However we have seen the Powerskin selling for as little as £40 online, so look around.
With either case you quickly get used to the extra bulk, although it feels a little unwieldy at first.