A New Battery Case from Apple

As popular as the iPhone 6 is, it has one huge weakness, one of the shortest battery lives of any  smart phone. That’s because Apple has prioritized thinness over run time. As an iPhone 6 user, it’s hard to get through the day without needing to charge my phone. Often the battery is dead by 2 or 3 pm.

Now Apple has introduced its own snap-on battery case, much like the cases from Mophie and many others that have been available for years. Battery cases or power cases, as they are often called, contain a second battery that can as much as double the run time.

The Apple version that works on the 6 and 6S has some unique features, but again battery life is not one of them. It extends the normal battery life by about 80%. Apple’s case is a compromise between providing sufficient added power, while not making it as builky and heavy as the other cases.

Many of the reviews that are now appearing from the Wall St. Journal, The Verge, and Engadget, assess the Apple case as simply an over-priced version of a Mophie case with a smaller battery. But after using the product for a few days, most of the reviews completely miss the point. These reviews take a very simplistic approach: How does the product compare with others based on what the reviewers deem to be important, namely battery size versus cost. But, in my opinion, this is not what should be important.

If I were Apple’s marketing chief, my design brief to the engineers would be to come up with a solution that is able to get a heavy iPhone 6/6S user through the day without running out of power. You want to insure that a user away from home or office need not search for a plug until he is home in the evening. At the same time I’d ask for a solution that minimizes the case’s bulk and weight and makes it as convenient as possible to use. In other words, find the right balance.

In my use of the product, Apple has managed to “thread the needle” and come up with an optimum solution. The added battery capacity solved my problem of running out of power in the middle of the afternoon, and took me to late in the evening instead mid afternoon. A larger battery that lasted to midnight or 3 am would not provide me any added benefit.

By using a smaller battery, Apple eliminated the huge appendage of other cases that often doubled the phone’s thickness and made it hard to hold and slip in a pocket.  The Apple case maintains the thickness of the phone in a moderately sized case around its perimeter and adds thickness to the middle of the back only. That makes the phone as easy to hold and grasp as an iPhone 6 with just with an ordinary case.

The Apple case is also much simpler to use than other battery cases.  It uses a lightning connector instead of a USB connector, allowing you to use one cable to charge the combination or either alone.

There is no need to manage or worry about which battery to use. Like other cases, the connector on the case charges both the phone’s battery and its own battery simultaneously. In use, the case’s battery discharges first, eliminating the need for a user-selectable switch. Battery life of both batteries is precisely displayed on the display, eliminating the need for LEDs used by other makers.

Unlike the competitors’ case made of hard plastic, the Apple case is made of silicone rubber that provides a firm grip and is easy to put on and off. It provides a raised ridge around the screen that is better able to absorb a drop.

So, no, the Apple case does not have the biggest battery, but it does offer the maximum utility for what I would define that a battery case should be: Enough power to get a heavy user through the day and evening, in an easy to hold package that makes it much more likely you’ll keep the case on the phone all of the time. Another example of Apple thinking differently.

Apple’s new SmartCase comes in gray or white and costs $100.

by Phil Baker