The Smart Battery Case not only protects your iPhone but holds an 1877mAh cell that can completely refill a spent 6 or 6s. The top of the case folds back so that you can slot in your iPhone using an elastomer hinge design (according to Apple’s website) and it boasts up to 20 hours of video playback. Collectively the skill set of this new case sounds great, so why is it getting so much hate?
It boils down to two very important fundamentals, the first being its design. Apple’s built a reputation for creating powerful hardware wrapped up in slick, minimalist aesthetics; most apparent in flagship products like the Mac Pro and of course, the latest iPhone. One look at this new accessory however, and you can tell that something’s gone horribly wrong.
Apple’s Smart Battery Case looks like the standard silicone variant on Apple’s website, but with a chin to rival Jay Leno and a rectangular tumour growing on its back. The awkward stepped design not only suggests that there’s an old iPod Classic tucked underneath the silicone, but judging by the positioning it makes for an ergonomic nightmare too.
Adding insult to injury, the LED power indicator is on the inside of the case, so you can only check it when your iPhone isn’t mounted inside and although swiping down from the notifications panel lets you glance at the battery levels of both phone and case, powering up the backlight, unlocking the phone and swiping down is a whole lot more faff than being able to check a little LED on the back. It makes just about as much sense as the company’s new Magic Mouse, which for some reason charges from its underside, rendering it unusable whilst you power it back up.
There’s also no control over how the case delivers its power; slot in your iPhone and it’ll start charging immediately, which isn’t necessarily the most useful feature for those who want the option to choose when that extra juice is required. To top it off, the privilege of owning an official Apple accessory such as this will set you back a cool $99 or £79.
For a price tag that high, there are a number of other alternatives in the same battery case space worth considering, the most obvious being Mophie.
The company’s entire business was founded on selling battery cases for various iterations of iPhone and it’s reached a point where they’re so ubiquitous that people now use the term ‘mophie’ as a shorthand for any smartphone battery case – just as ‘iPod’ was adapted to refer to any digital music player and ‘hoover’ any brand of vacuum cleaner.
Mophie’s Juice Pack battery case lineup starts at £50 and goes all the way up to £130, but for that you get a slick, rounded case that’s far less jarring aesthetically or ergonomically than Apple’s take on the same product. They also boast four bar LED charge indicators on the back that you can check by pressing a button and that same button also lets you power the juice pack on or off independently of the phone.
The base Reserve model ensures you’ve got a bit of extra battery for emergency situations, its most popular product, the Juice Pack Air pulls off the same job as Apple’s Smart Battery Case – fully charging a 6 or 6s from flat, but comes in way more colour options, whilst the H2OPRO adds waterproofing and the Ultra edition boasts an extra charge and a half of life.
Mophie has since expanded into battery cases for other smartphones and external chargers too, not to mention the fact that they’re already on Apple Store shelves. The Apple Smart Battery Case is a good example of how not to design an iPhone accessory and this time, we’d suggest the design team go back to the drawing board and use Mophie for inspiration going forward.