The iPhone Xs, Xs Max and XR aren’t in any need of assistance in the battery life department, but for the most demanding users, a battery case can be the most compact, efficient and hassle-free way to prolong your battery life.
Retailing at SGD 199 (MYR 539 / USD 129) for cases compatible with all 2018 iPhones, this release marks the first time Apple has released an iPhone battery case since the one for the iPhone 7 in 2016.
We’ve only had the chance to test out the Smart Battery Case for the iPhone Xs Max, but most observations can be extrapolated to the other models.
With our use of the iPhone Xs Max, it’s clear that the Smart Battery Case is targetted at a specific group of users. For cross-country bikers, adventurers, and professionals who work round the clock, the longest of battery lives still aren’t enough.
Portable charges (or power banks) present the best option in terms of cost-to-capacity ratio, but are often unwieldy or even present a hazard with looping wires that can snag or send your expensive device hurtling to the floor.
In terms of benefits, the Smart Battery Case stands out in a few, distinct regards. It’s compact as a battery pack can be, with a solid grip over the phone that means it won’t fling itself away from your phone leaving it defenseless the moment it hits the ground. The bottom two thirds of the case is completely rigid, with a flexible silicone hinge the top third to bend out of the way to slot the phone in.
It does add significant heft, though in a much better configuration than its previous iteration. Instead of a hump right smack on the back of the device, the bulge sits much lower, occupying the bottom three-thirds of the back of the device.
This means that although you slim and sleek iPhone is now transformed into something more like a brick and is decidedly more uncomfortable to hold for long periods, the soft touch silicone mitigates it to a large extent, and provides much more grip and security in the hand.
In more way than one, the case is a perfect fit. It is fully integrated with iOS, displaying useful charging information on the Today View (the leftmost interface, accessed by swiping right on the home screen). Wired and wireless charging also displays the battery bars for both your phone and the case on the Lock Screen.
On paper, the 1,369mAh battery (same for the Xs and Xs Max) seems a trifle – barely half the battery life of the smaller iPhone Xs. For the iPhone Xs Max, I found the battery added about 70-80% more battery life – my usage barely nipping into the phone’s battery after a full day (13h) of heavy usage. By itself, the case provides an added 10-11h of battery life, which is nearly the 12-13h I usually get on my device a la mode.
In addition to that, the iPhones do not incur any functional penalties with the battery case on: Qi wireless charging works perfectly with an in-built coil on its rear, and Apple Pay works as per normal. Speaker volume was also not affected despite audio having to be channeled through cutouts on the bottom.
However, used to the bottom cut-out that Apple offers on its iPhone X-series phone cases, having a rigid lip on the bottom edge of the phone did interfere with regular use of gesture navigations initially.
Spec sheets can be deceiving, especially with iOS devices. These products are often designed with users in mind, and this is a good example of their commitment to UX. With full integration with iOS, the only real penalties are the bulk and heft that it adds, the slight penalty to ergonomics, and the not-so-cheap pricetag. In return, users get an almost-doubled battery life, full access to wireless charging and payment, and a secure fit that can withstand drops.
For those who value cost savings over a hassle-free, tangle-free existence, a wide variety of portable chargers can be had for a fraction of the cost, some more expensive ones even providing power delivery (PD).