When you have an iPod instead of an iPhone, it’s not vital that you always have power. But it is very irritating to be listening to music or watching videos and have the thing die on you, isn’t it? Several companies offer emergency chargers for iPods, but many of them seem to be little bricks that plug into the iPod’s docking connector when you need the power. They aren’t designed to be always on the iPod, so you have to remember to keep them charged up and keep them with you. Mophie has a series of iPod and iPhone chargers that combine emergency battery backup in a sleek, protective, hard-shell case. Julie offered me the chance to try out the Mophie Juice Pack air for the second-generation iPod touch. I happily agreed, and I soon had a Juice Pack air in hand.
Mophie lists three colors for the Juice Pack air: red, gunmetal gray, and blue. I received the blue one, but the color is actually purple, in my opinion. There seems to be a definite reddish metallic sheen to the plastic case. The case has a rubbery texture, and it’s very easy to get a secure grip with this case on the iPod touch. The air is 2.63” x 5.24” x 0.57”. My digital kitchen scale shows the air case weighs 2.25 ounces. The touch feels noticeably bigger and heavier in the hand with the air case. It’s not uncomfortable to hold, however.
The cases’s rechargeable Smart Battery has a 1000 mAh capacity. Mophie says the battery essentially doubles the battery life for your iPod touch. There is a standby switch on the air. When it’s switched off, the air’s battery is a reserve battery. When your iPod’s battery is drained, switch the air on and you have another full charge. You can use the touch as normal while it’s using the air’s battery, or you can simply let the air charge your touch.
If you prefer to always keep your touch’s battery at full charge, leave the air’s switch in the “on” position. The Smart Battery technology is designed to drain the air’s battery first, leaving you with a fully charged battery in the touch. However, Mophie says that using the air this way results in less reserve power. Constantly keeping the touch’s battery topped off isn’t as efficient as waiting until the touch’s battery is drained before using the air’s battery.
The documentation said that the air case should arrive fully charged, but the one I received needed to be charged. To charge, you connect the air to a USB port on your computer via the included USB-to-micro USB cable. You can also use any wall-plug USB power adapter rated for iPods to charge the Mophie. The manual said it should take 2-3 hours to fully charge the air; it took about 2.5 hours to charge mine using a USB port on my laptop. Charging status can be monitored with the four blue LEDs on the back of the case. When I first plugged it in, the leftmost LED started blinking. Eventually, that one went steady and the next LED started blinking. When charging was complete, all the LEDs were on steady.
There is a button beside the four LEDs. Pressing it turns on the battery monitor. If all four LEDs light, you have a full charge. You can use this to check the stand-by power at any time.
Putting the case on is a snap. The top of the case slides off. You slide your touch into the body of the case, making sure that the 30-pin connector in the case fully connects with the iPod’s connector, then slide the top back into position. There is also a 3.5mm connector in the bottom of the case that plugs into the touch’s headphone jack. There’s a 3.5mm jack on the bottom of the air case so you can still use your earbuds while the touch is in the air case. However, because something is plugged in to the touch’s headphone jack, the little speaker is disabled. I often use my iPod touch without earbuds. I don’t like that my speaker is disabled by the case.
The power and volume rockers are covered with plastic tabs that have been almost completely cut out of the case. A small attachment point remains so that the little tab can move enough to depress the button below it. These tabs work very well; they are easily depressed and the iPod always responded. The bottom of the case has the mini USB port for charging and synching with iTunes. There is a 3.5mm earphone jack and the stand-by slider also on the bottom.
When I put the case on my iPod, the touch’s battery was about 70%. I tried switching the air case on, and iPod’s battery icon changed to indicate it was charging. I put the air back in stand-by and continued to use my iPod for about 30 minutes after I got the 20% battery level warning. When I flipped the air on, my iPod started charging immediately. I continued to use the iPod for a few minutes, then I turned it off and left the Mophie on. I checked the Mophie’s battery level periodically. When the air finally showed a depleted battery, I found that the iPod had a 98% charge, according to the battery monitor in the System Activity Monitor app I use. The battery in the air case got a little warm while charging my iPod, but it was never hot.
You can charge the air case and the touch simultaneously with the micro USB cable. You can also sync the touch with iTunes using the micro USB cable. I had no problems with using iTunes with the touch in the air case.
The Mophie Juice Pack air is a nice case with a bonus backup battery – or is it a useful backup battery with a bonus case? In any event, it’s a nice protective case that doubles your battery life. The only downside I see is that the speaker doesn’t work while the iPod touch is in the case. That little speaker is so muted and weak that probably no one but me ever uses it any way. If you have a 2nd generation iPod touch, you’ll find the Mophie Juice Pack air is useful addition to your touch.