I tend to keep my iPhone 5 charged, but both my husband and daughter tend to let their batteries die. I’m tired of paying cell phone bills for phones that aren’t even available to call part of the time, so I decided to do something about it. I couldn’t get a separate battery pack, because I know they wouldn’t get charged. The solution had to be something that didn’t require any extra steps. I had reviewed a mophie juice pack for my 2nd-gen iPod touch when I first started writing for The Gadgeteer, so I thought that a mophie case would be the way to go for our cell phones. (I say “our cell phones”, because I can’t be the only one who doesn’t get a new case!) Luckily, mophie offers the juice pack air for iPhone 5/5s in four colors, so I ordered three cases in different colors directly from mophie.
The juice pack air cases come in black, white, gold, and red plastic. I ordered all but the black color. The white and gold covers are glossy and slick, but the red cover has a soft-touch, slightly rubbery feel. The cases measure 2.58″ X 5.55″ X 0.63″ and weigh 2.7 ounces. The cases all have a plastic band around the sides of the case. The band on the white case is silver; it’s gunmetal on the red case, and a darker gold on the gold case.
The juice pack air comes with a booklet, a headphone adapter, and a microUSB charging cable (not shown).
The mophie juice pack air pulls apart, so it’s a breeze to install. Just slide the iPhone into the upper portion, then side the bottom portion into place. You can see the Lightning connector in the bottom piece. You won’t charge the case with a Lightning cable, though. The included microUSB cable charges both the case and the iPhone, so you won’t require two cables for charging and won’t have to remove the case, either.
You’ll notice two gray, metal grills on the bottom of the small piece. Little chambers in this piece redirect the sound from the speakers on the bottom of the iPhone and out these grills. If anything, I believe the sound from my iPhone 5 is louder in the juice pack air case than without it.
You can see that the iPhone is certainly bigger in the case, but the extra battery life compensates for the extra bulk.
The mophie name is embossed in the bottom front of the case. The back of my red case is also marked with (mophie)RED branding, but you can see that both are subtle markings. The white and gold cases only have the mophie logo on the front; their backs are unmarked.
The lithium-polymer battery is apparently stored in the top section of the case, and the bottom portion has controls and status lights for the backup battery. Press the button on the left, and the white status LEDs light up to show the amount of charge in the backup battery. (They also come on during charging.) The standby slider on the far right turns the battery on when your phone needs a charge.
The opening for the camera is large enough that it doesn’t interfere with taking pictures. On all three cases, the camera opening is rimmed with a matte black plastic, so the case doesn’t cause flash flare, either.
You can see that the mute slider, volume buttons, and the power button are covered by the case. I have no trouble with the volume buttons or mute slider. The power button cover on the white and gold cases seem to stick up higher than the power button cover on the red case does. I guess this is just a manufacturing variation, but it means that the power button on my red case isn’t quite as easy to find and press.
You can see that the power port and the headphone jacks are recessed into the bottom of the case. The included microUSB cable fits into this recess without any problem. I always backup and sync my phone wirelessly, but you’ll have to remove the bottom of the case to access the Lightning connector if you want to cable up to your computer to access iTunes.
The headphone jack may be a problem for many headphones on the market, but mophie includes an adapter if your headphones won’t fit the opening. Yes, that’s an extra cable, but you can just leave it plugged into the end of your headphone cable.
The case covers up a lot of the iPhone 5, and it protects the sides and back of the iPhone. Of course the screen is left uncovered, and nothing interferes with using the touchscreen.
The battery in the mophie juice pack air is a 1700mAh lithium-polymer battery. It should double the iPhone’s battery life, but I haven’t gotten quite a 100% charge from the juice pack air. I normally wait until my phone’s charge is between 10-20%, then I flip the standby switch on the back of the case to make it charge the phone. I normally end up with about a 95% charge when the backup battery is too drained to light up the status lights. Instructions from mophie says that the iPhone needs extra power to take its internal battery from 80% to 100%. They say you’ll get the maximum from the backup battery if you switch it on when your phone’s battery is at 20%, then switch it off when the phone reaches 80%. When the phone’s charge again drops, you can switch the backup battery back on to extract the rest of the reserve power. I can’t be bothered to do that, so I give up a little of the reserve power for the convenience.
I’m basing this on my observations, but it seems that the phone’s battery is charged first, then the backup battery is charged. A couple of times, I’ve seen the message that the accessory isn’t approved for the iPhone 5, and I think that happens while the battery in the mophie case is charging. My phone is 100% charged when I see that message, and simply unplugging and replugging the cable clears the message and restarts charging the backup battery. I always plug the microUSB cable into my Apple iPhone wall charger, but I don’t know if that has anything to do with seeing that message. And by the way, mophie says the internal battery can charge through 500 full charge cycles before the battery may drop to less than 75% of its original capacity.
I haven’t noticed any loss of signal strength while my iPhone 5 is in the mophie juice pack air. It’s definitely bigger and heavier in my hand, but not much more than some cases I’ve used – and those didn’t have a built-in backup battery.
I like the look and function of the mophie juice pack air cases. It’s nice to just flip a switch on the case and start my iPhone charging up wherever I am. It’s nice that I almost never try to reach my family members only to find their phones are dead. (I did have to remind my daughter once that the mophie isn’t just a pretty gold case, and that there’s a built-in backup battery.) At $99.95, the price is in line with the cost of other name-brand battery cases. It certainly functions well enough to justify the expense, especially when you consider that you get both a protective case and a backup battery for that price.
UPDATE (Jan 2015): I used this case on my iPhone 5 right up to the day I updated to the iPhone 6 Plus. The mophie worked great and never let me down. I always had a boost for my iPhone’s battery when I needed it. I loved that the backup battery charged when I charged my phone, so I never had to remember to charge a second device. My husband and daughter are still using their mophie cases on their iPhone 5s. I’m anticipating the pending release of a mophie battery case for the iPhone 6 Plus in February. I’m tired of lugging around a giant backup battery in my bag.