The Mophie battery packs for iPhones have become so ubiquitous that the ‘Juice Pack Air’ seems a bit redundant these days – e.g. my wife will say “Have you seen my Mophie?” Which is a mark of both design and quality, and one that’s well deserved – the Mophie Juice Pack Air products for each successive iPhone model do exactly what they claim, with the possible caveat of price, especially for this, the latest version for the iPhone 6.
Coming in premium silicone-coated cardboard packaging (think ‘soft touch’), the Mophie certainly looks the part, here in gold to match our iPhone 6 in gold. Mind you, once the pack’s on the phone, almost nothing of the original phone colouring shows through – just a small patch around the camera on the back! So the application could also give you a change in iPhone colour for a day out, which might be refreshing?
The Mophie concept involves, essentially, wrapping the iPhone in a battery and has been fine tuned over the years. The big downside is the increase in length and thickness, of course – around an extra 15mm in length and taking the thickness up to 14mm. But consider that an iPhone 6, encased in this Mophie, will last roughly twice as long in terms of battery life. Suddenly on a big trip out for the day, there’s no need to worry about running out of power by tea time – you’ve got power to spare until you get home late in the evening.
And it all works too. The iPhone 6 battery is around 1800mAh, while the Mophie, as tested here, delivers a true 2100mAh at 5V – now allow a little of that lost in heat and other transfer inefficiency and you’ve still doubled your original battery life. AND your iPhone 6 is protected at the same time, should you drop it. In other words, decide that you can live with the extra bulk when out and about and you’re sorted in every way.
Made of coloured plastic of course, for weight reasons – a metal accessory would interfere with RF signals and would be far too heavy, the Mophie still feels pretty solid and, unlike previous Mophies, it’s the top bit that comes off too allow iPhone insertion. In previous models, the bottom charging section mated up with the main battery section and presumably there were occasional faults, so here the top portion is just a plastic push-fit design and there are no electrical connections to play up after a few hundred dismantlings!
Inside the Mophie is a soft-touch back, to help prevent scratches and provide shock absorption, with a Lightning connector to receive the iPhone. The output from the latter’s mono speaker is channelled well through a right angle bend and out through a front aperture and grille – with a corresponding ‘fake’ grille on the left for cosmetic reasons(!)
One issue with all the Mophie Juice Pack Air designs is that the 3.5mm audio port becomes too recessed for many headphone jack designs, but happily the company still provides a short (around 6cm) extension adaptor, which should solve any issues – provided you don’t lose it. Spares for this are readily available online, don’t worry.
Down each side are button covers that fit loosely over the iPhone’s real buttons – I have to say that these then were quite stiff to operate and I’d like to have seen a little more tolerance in the design, with the caveat that the cased phone buttons might then be too easy to press by accident, so it really comes down to personal preference.
Finally, the battery itself, built into the back shell, a microUSB charging port (of which more in a moment) and a line of buttons and LEDs. The first can be pressed to check the battery status (0-25%, 25%-50%, and so on), shown on the LED array, plus a switch to enable the charging of an encased iPhone. Although you’d think that charging should be automatic, I can think of several scenarios where you might want to charge the Mophie before the iPhone itself, in which case the switch gives you that option.
The use of a microUSB port is slightly curious – Mophies have always gone down this route and I’m tempted to suggest that this is a good thing because iPhones are a minority in the wider world and there are roughly five times as many microUSB chargers as Apple proprietary chargers, i.e. to get you out of a charging bind. But there’s also a legal reason apparently, in that Apple doesn’t allow anyone else to make or fit ‘female’ Lightning ports. You just had to know that Apple’s lawyers would be in there somewhere…(!)
Finally, there’s the matter of price – £90 in the UK or $99 in the U.S. Gulp. This is up to eight times the cost of a generic standalone emergency charger, but has to be balanced against the pure convenience of not having to carry around the charger and Lightning cable, plus being able to use the iPhone 6 while charging without unsightly cables and weight dangling underneath. Given Apple’s target market with the iPhone 6, it’s a fair bet that premium prices can also be charged for well-designed accessories and I’d be surprised if this didn’t do as well as previous Mophie Juice Pack Airs*.
* As a side note, we recently sold my wife’s old Mophie for the iPhone 4S and got 60% of the original cost, even though it was almost two years old, so as with the iPhone itself, this premium accessory does hold its value.
Thanks to MobileFun’s iPhone 6 charging line-up for the review accessory.