As one of the more popular battery cases for the iPhone, there was great anticipation for the debut of the Mophie Juice Pack for iPhone 5. Given the changes from the 30-pin dock connector to the Lightning connector, there were challenges for all accessory manufacturers given Apple’s strict standards for meeting the guidelines in their Made for iPhone program. The iPhone 5 also introduced a new, larger display ultimately required a complete redesign of their product. How does it perform in everyday use and what battery life boosts can you expect? Read on for our full Mophie Juice Pack Helium case review for the iPhone 5.How does this thing work? The Mophie Juice Pack Helium has a rechargeable lithium polymer battery inside. The two piece slider case has a lightning to micro-USB connector on the bottom of the case. Using the included micro-USB to USB cable, you can actually charge the case without the iPhone. Once you put the case on, you’ll for the most part half to part ways with your Lightning cables, handing over the charging process to micro USB cables. For some folks who have a good supply of cables and possibly car chargers, this will pay off your you. If you’ve already invested heavily in Lightning cables, than it’s not so great. When connected, the micro USB connect will charge both the case and the iPhone 5.
The Mophie Juice Pack Helium does not transfer data through its micro USB port. If you are not syncing over WiFi, you would have to physically remove half the case each time you would like to make a cabled connection to your Mac or PC. For some, that’s quite understandably a deal breaker. It’s hard to fault Mophie, as I’m going to guess that Apple would never approve an accessory that allow data syncing through a connection other than Lightning.
On the back of the case is a switch to move from standby mode to charging. There is also a recessed button that when pressed will show you the battery level of the case using the four bright white lights on the back.
I conducted a few battery tests, but nothing you would consider scientific testing. My best results came when I had a complete charge of the Mophie and the iPhone was at 15 percent battery life. I recently turned off most of my notifications, so it had a fighting chance. The results were decent, if you consider a jump from 13 to 82 percent, but not what still short of my expectations. Mophie says that under a best case scenario, you can see up to an 80 percent charge and you’ll get up to 500 full recharges at which you might see a drop off.
Tip: According to Mophie, the iPhone requires more power to charge past 80%. To get the maximum benefit from the Juice Pack, you should engage it when the iPhone is below 20 percent battery life.
The promise of almost doubling your battery life is certainly desirable, but this also has to serve double duty as a case. The iPhone 5 fits quite nicely, with the bottom half easily sliding into place, reminiscent of the InCase Slider. There was a slight, but noticeable gap on the right side. There is a very minimal lip around the display, that should in practice keep your display from touching a surface if placed flat.
To provide for the necessary space needed for the microUSB to Lightning connector, the Mophie case extends about a 1/2 inch from the bottom of the iPhone. The iPhone 5 is taller by nature as compared to previous versions and this additional 1/2 inch makes for a considerable change when interacting with the iPhone making it increasingly difficult to hit upper level quadrants of the screen.
If you’ve used a Mophie Juice Pack in the past, you’ll be pleased to find out that the Helium case is their thinnest to date. I’m guessing this is partly due to the longer iPhone allowing for them to spread out the battery cells. In any event, this case still feels incredibly large in use. The 2.44 ounces is more than half the weight of the iPhone 5 (3.95 ounces) without a case. Compared to other cases, including the Otterbox Defender which is a heavy duty case, the Mophie Juice Pack Helium was significantly heavier than others tested. The height, weight and overall dimensions of the Helium felt like such an extreme departure from svelte, super-light iPhone 5. Make no mistake, with power there is compromise.
As we’ve seen with other cases that are deep, the controls can be difficult to access and the Mophie joins that group. The case has wide opening, so it’s easy enough if you using two hands. One handed controls while using my thumb was a bit more challenging. Due to the 1/2 inch at the bottom at the case, it requires a dongle to use the 3.5mm headphone jack. I suppose the easiest way around this is to keep the adapter connected to your headphones. This strategy might not work if use a similar 3.5 audio cable to access your music in other places such as your car.
I didn’t drop test the Mophie. There are a few things to consider. Given the size of the case, I’d say the iPhone would fare well in a drop. The concern is with the Mophie itself. Priced at $79.99, now you have to be concerned with the case no longer functioning.
Mophie Juice Pack: Pros & Cons
- Great soft-touch feel
- Offers roughly 3/4 of a full charge
- Convenient standby mode conserves power
- Data syncing through case not supported
- Heavy, long
- Buttons hard to access using one hand
- Using headphone jack requires dongle
There is no such thing as enough battery life and for some, it might be difficult to power up throughout a work day. There are power bricks which are fairly good options, but that require carrying around what is ultimately a second device. There is no debating the ease of having power built-in to your iPhone case, but in the case of the Juice Pack Helium, that comes with several compromises. Despite not hitting the maximum rated recharging in our tests, I found the Mophie case for iPhone 5 to be a slick, albeit bulky solution to extending battery life day in and day out.