I had been looking for a good iPhone portable recharger solution. All of us have encountered the situation when our iPhone battery is closing on 19% and we experience that sinking feeling that our phone is running on empty. I checked out two products that are made by Mophie, a California-based company and developer of the Juice Pack Air, the first ever “Works With iPhone” portable battery case to be certified by Apple. I tested the Juice Pack Air for the iPhone 3GS and the Juice Pack Air for the iPhone 4.
The iPhone 4 model of the case has a rubberized matte finish on the outer plastic shell, with an aluminum colored band on the edge. It has the same U-shaped top piece to lock in the phone. The “sound redirect” feature of the iPhone 4 case is a more elegant set of hyphen shaped holes located at the bottom of the case. In both Mophie case models, the sound from YouTube videos and iTune tracks was effectively funneled to the front of the iPhone. Of course, you can always plug in headphones, as the stereo mini-jack is not obstructed by the case.
Both portable charger models have similar features that match up to the default iPhone feature set: the stereo mini-jack, power button, speaker, mic, camera lens, etc. The iPhone case for the 3GS mimics the shaped contours of the older generation of iPhones. There is a power switch at the bottom of the case (present on both 3GS and 4 models) that allows you to put the unit on charging or standby status. Plugging the unit in with the included USB cable will charge both the phone and the case.
The two models also both have an LED status indicator that marks exactly how much power remains in your unit with the press of a button. There were a couple times when the charger stopped working (on both models). The indicator would not light up, requiring me to unplug the unit and plug it back in. On the iPhone 3GS unit, the only feature I was frustrated with was the constricted opening for the volume button and ringer switch. The volume button only requires horizontal manipulation, so no problems there, but the ringer switch had scarcely enough room to allow you to flip it on and off. In fairness, this is due as much to the curved side contours of the 3GS that makes flicking the switch challenging at times.
The iPhone 4 case has an external power button, largish external volume buttons and an LED status indicator on the bottom of the case. The top button on the iPhone 4 case sometimes locks the power button down, with the unfortunate side effect of taking pictures at will (as pressing the power button doubles as the external camera switch in iOS 5).
The charge time for the Mophie cases is the same as the standard charge time for the iPhone. The 3GS case has a battery capacity of 1200 mAh, which will provide users with an added talk time of up to 4.5 hours on 3G, an expanded internet use of up to 4.5 hours on 3G (up to 8 hours on Wi-Fi) and up to 27 hours of audio playback. One very important caveat here is that the units are rechargeable for over 500 cycles. After 500 cycles, the fully charged capacity of the Juice Pack Air will be less than 75%. The 4 case has a battery capacity of 1500 mAh which translates to an additional talk time of up to 6 hours on 3G, up to 5 hours of internet Use on 3G (9 hours on Wi-Fi) and up to 36 hours of audio playback. The iPhone 3GS (and the portable recharger) took about 3 hours to fully charge up with the Mophie USB charger and the iPhone 4 only took 1.5 hours to charge.
In the final analysis, the units performed extremely well. The value and convenience of an additional power source for your iPhone is obvious. With the phone fully charged, you have the comfort of having a fully charged battery for when your phone needs it the most. The cases are stylish in appearance, and perhaps most importantly, do not add any obtrusive and bulky weight. I found the reasonable price, full feature set, and excellent performance all strong reasons to recommend this product. Check out more Mophie products on their website.
Disclosure: I received two review samples of this item.