I’ve had the good fortune of testing out a Mophie rechargeable external battery case, the “Juice Pack Air“, designed to work with the iPhone 3GS, for the past few months now. This combination iPhone case and external battery pack allows you to recharge your iPhone on the go, even if the iPhone is completely dead. Initially I did not realize how useful the Mophie unit could be – until it came through to save me in a pinch on several occasions, when I would have otherwise ended up with a dead iPhone. Ever since, the Mophie is something I always keep within reach, be it in a backpack or the glovebox.
The Juice Pack Air is Mophie’s slimmest and lightest model to-date, and works like this: placing an iPhone into the case plugs it in to a standard iPhone/iPod connector plug. When switched off, the Juice Pack Air simply functions as a typical iPhone case would, protecting it from bumps and scratches. When your phone running low on battery power, you simply flick the switch located at the bottom of the Mophie device and your iPhone begins charging.
I was thoroughly impressed with the Juice Pack Air’s capability. Charging my iPhone 3GS from the completely dead state (phone off), a fully charged Mophie delivered enough charge to wake up my iPhone and to leave it with a 72% charge on the iPhone battery. The best part? You can be on the move, talking on your iPhone or carrying it in your pocket – while it’s charging. This is a much better solution than a car charger or carrying a wall-mounted charger with you.
The Mophie Juice Pack Air does seem to add quite a bit of thickness to the overall dimensions of the iPhone when set inside the case. But, the design of the tapered top results in it being fairly unnoticeable in the pocket, which was a pleasant surprise. The Juice Pack Air is made of sturdy plastic material, and its overall fit and finish is of quite high quality. In a world of shoddy iPhone cases, this one feels like a sturdy, quality case that will protect your iPhone from inadvertent wear and tear. In addition to being lightweight and sturdy, the Mophie also provides a better grip for typing on the iPhone 3GS, which I’ve always felt was a little slippery due to the rounded edges.
The iPhone 3GS fits snugly into the Juice Pack Air, so snugly in fact, that I had to remove the backside of my Zagg Invisible Shield in order to fit it into the Mophie. While I did like having the added protection of the Zagg shield, I figured it was a worthwhile tradeoff in order to have the charging capability of the Mophie in a pinch.
The Mophie Juice Pack Air charges via a USB-MicroUSB cable. One of my only gripes about the Mophie is that they don’t use MiniUSB, of which I have many extra cables laying around. However, despite the cable connection type, the Mophie case allows you to not only charge the external battery pack, but you can charge and sync your iPhone while connected via the provided cable – which is super convenient.
The Juice Pack Air has 4 bright blue LED lights on the back of the case that indicate its state of charge while plugged in. You can also press a small button to show how much battery power the Juice Pack has while disconnected from the charging cable, which is nice. There’s a small switch at the bottom of the Juice Pack Air that allows you to turn and off the charging capability – so that you can use it as a case but save the juice for later, which is very convenient. I do wish that the switch on the bottom were a little easier to switch on/off, since I have short fingernails (as most guys do), sometimes I found it a little tricky to flip the switch.
My Mophie took just over 3 hours to reach full charge. One thing to note is that the LED indicators are darn bright, so you’ll want to face it downward if you’re plugging it in and going to bed (mine actually was bright enough to make me get out of bed to do this).
Syncing and charging the iPhone while docked to the Mophie case was flawless on all occasions. Though, I did have a couple “this accessory is not made to work with iphone” error messages during one week of using the Mophie, and it seemed that the iPhone/iPod connector wasn’t making a stable connection as the phone kept charging and then stopping and charging again. I think that this may have been due to some fine pocket lint either in the bottom of my iPhone or on the Mophie, because this only happened a few times during one trip, and hasn’t occurred again since. It is worth noting though, that some products that promise the same functionality as the Mophie does, have had reports of malfunctioning or even damaging iPhones. So, do your research before you buy a similar product from another maker, knowing that not all of them are reliable and safe to use with the iPhone like the Mophie has been for me.
The Juice Pack Air comes in 4 shiny colors: Black, White, Purple and Red. It can be purchased at Amazon for $60.Disclaimer: I was provided a test unit from Mophie for this review.