Seemingly out of nowhere, Apple created a battery case for the iPhone 6/6s. It may seem weird that Apple would release a new type of product unannounced, and it may also seem weird that the company chose to enter the competitive market of battery cases. But given Apple’s track record of trying out new things, and the fact that anything with that logo will sell, maybe this isn’t that surprising. Sure, you could speculate that Apple created the Smart Battery Case to supplement the unimpressive battery life of the iPhone 6s, but don’t mistake this as an admittance of failure. It’s more likely an attempt by Apple to branch out into a potential new market—right in time for the holidays. But is it worth your money?
This case is designed to be forgotten about. Just put it on and enjoy the extra battery life. There are no indicator lights that show the case’s battery, and no on/off switch that will initiate charge, instead the case acts like it’s part of your battery. If you put your phone in the case when it has less than 100 percent, the case will start to charge it. When the case’s battery is gone, your iPhone will use its own battery. How do you know what percentage the case is at? Pull down the Notification Center and an icon will appear near the top telling you how much juice is left in your phone and case. It’s a cool little detail that shows off Apple’s inter-device compatibility, but it’s also the only way you can gauge the case’s battery. The case has a Lightning port for charging, which means you can plug in your iPhone in its case and charge both at the same time. This adds to the illusion that your case becomes one with your iPhone, and you never have to take it off.
Besides performance, the material is quite nice. The silicone is super soft and feels like much higher quality than a lot of cheap silicone cases on the market. The case also manages to walk the middle ground between the slipperiness of a naked iPhone 6s, and those high-friction cheap silicone cases that are hard to pull out of tight pockets. It isn’t too bulky either, like a lot of battery cases out there, so you might get accustomed to the way it feels in your front pocket (depending on how tight your skinny jeans are).
OK, so there’s no ignoring that hump. Apple was so focused on making their new iPhones as sleek as possible that it seems comical that their battery case has a strange-looking growth on its backside. Personally, it reminds me of an Almond Joy, except Almond Joys are delicious.
But even if you get over the hump, the performance of the case isn’t that great. The 1,877 mAh battery won’t even give you a full charge from zero percent. Even if you don’t need that much charge, it puts the Apple case at a distinct disadvantage compared to other battery cases. And compared to other battery cases, this one is not cheap. The Smart Case sells for $99, which can get you a Mophie Juice Pack Air case with much better battery life (and no hump). Or you can buy a Mophie Juice Pack Reserve for $60 that has a comparable 1,840 mAh battery. It may seem harsh to keep bringing up Mophie, but you have to consider your options.
The lack of buttons and indicators on the battery case also mean you don’t have any say in when your phone should be charging. If you’re used to other battery cases, this lack of control may be unsettling. If you like to your battery case on and off to give it a little bit of juice when needed, this case isn’t for you. But if you just want a case to put on once and never think about, then maybe this is worth the $99.
6/10—A solid product with some issues