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You might not want it, but you might, and you definitely know someone who would. This is Apple's first entry into the battery case market, with a silicon protective cover that also charges your iPhone. The iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case -- which also works for the previous iPhone 6 model, but not the Plus versions -- is not exactly pretty, and it doesn't do a great deal, but what it does, it does well. Moreover, it brings a handy solution to the problem of low battery power that many iPhone users see frequently enough that they're reading this.
Perhaps we'll get phones that last as long as they used to back when they were just for calling people someday, but in the meantime there are myriad solutions. It's just that up to now, each one has been from a third-party company, rather than Apple itself. You can see why: Apple can hardly launch the iPhone 6s, say it has great battery power, and then talk up how essential an extra battery is. Yet it is essential for some, and if this were the ugliest device in the world, it would still be useful -- because it charges your iPhone on the go.
It is pretty ugly. How it works is clever, though, hence the Smart name. You slip your iPhone into this wraparound case, and the moment you do, the case's battery starts recharging the phone's one. There's a regular Lightning charging port on the bottom of the case, and if you plug that in to the mains then both the case and iPhone get charged. Then you take it all away like a very thick phone, and use it as you ever would. The case's battery gets used first, that's what is run down before your iPhone's own one.
That means the phone holds its charge for the longest time possible. You shouldn't find yourself in a situation where you remove the case, and the phone's battery is already dead. That will happen, this isn't a magic solution to battery power woes, but it reduces the chances. The Smart Case is claimed to boost your phone up to a total of 25 hours talk time or 18 hours web use.
Another way to look at these figures is that the battery doesn't fully recharge your iPhone: it probably gets it to about 80 per cent. That's from zero, and in our testing we were always using an iPhone that had at least some charge in it, so we regularly saw the number go back up to 100 per cent. Nonetheless, the case can't provide the same full charge you get from leaving the phone connected to the mains all night. Consequently, whatever the percentages and the talk time, regard this as giving you just about a second day's regular use, but no more.
You can see how much charge you have in two ways. First if you connect or disconnect any powered Lightning cable, such as your stand, or if you pull the iPhone out and push it back in again, you briefly get a new pair of icons on your lock screen. One shows the charge left in the case, one in the phone. You can't get back to that screen without disconnecting or connecting, but you can swipe down to get Notification Center. You may have to choose to add Battery to your Notification Center items, but if you do, it will show you the charge left on case, iPhone and, if you have one, also your Apple Watch.
We're surprised that there's no such display in the Battery section of Settings: it's as if this battery case doesn't exist. Yet that is probably the key selling point of this. While other battery cases have this same convenience of just being on your phone, they don't have Apple's ability to connect deep into its own hardware and software. Consequently, with every other battery case you have to switch it on with a button or read the charge that's left by some indicator on the case itself.
With Apple it's as if there isn't a case, there's just a fat iPhone that lasts longer. Call it a fat and ugly iPhone with a great grip and a lot of protection, that lasts longer. That's the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case. We don't like fat and ugly Apple products but, oh, we do like better battery life.
Who is iPhone 6ds Smart Battery Case for:
Nearly everybody needs longer battery life on their iPhones, but not everyone can be bothered to schlep through third-party offerings and think about external batteries, plus their wires. For them, the convenience and smartness of this Apple battery case is pretty compelling. Even if that's the only context in which you'll hear the word "pretty" about this product.
Who is iPhone 6ds Smart Battery Case not for:
If you already have a Mophie-style battery case, or you carry around a powerful external like an Anker E7 or suchlike, then there's little to see here. Remember, too, that this specifically works with the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6s: it would be a brave man or woman who would bet on being able to keep it with the iPhone 7.
"...the problem of low battery power that every iPhone user on the planet has every day."
Not EVERY iPhone user runs low on battery power and certainly not EVERY day.
It's dangerous to deal with absolutes such as you have.
In routine use, I don't run anywhere near out of battery power on my iPhone 6s, but there are certainly times (mostly while traveling) where I feel like a battery pack can be handy, as my access to plugs is limited. I've tried the large battery packs, and they have their purposes but are cumbersome to carry. Something like this, for *occasional* use, might fit the bill nicely.
Nice review. I am a heavy iPhone user and, yes, in many occasions, I do need to recharge twice a day. Despite it's butt ugly, I am going to get one. Love the fact it integrates two baterries into iOS software plus it uses Lightning cable (no extra cable to carry around). Nice.
Last edited by coffeetime; Dec 11, 2015 at 02:35 PM.
At a few times my iPhone had a few percentage battery juice left, the airport charging station was all occupied, the airplane seat did not have USB port, and worst my only plane ticket was on the phone (using Wallet app, LOVE IT). That's was a close call. I had an emergency backup battery once but lost it. Not crazy about third party case because they are all chunky. I think Apple Smart Battery Case is the thinnest and lightest of all despite it's.... never mind.
Last edited by coffeetime; Dec 11, 2015 at 05:20 PM.
Speaking for myself, if I had to nitpick this thing it would be much less about the design and much more about how much I'd prefer a battery in it that charged the iPhone to 100 percent instead of 80 percent. I find it kind of amusing that the same people who claim they would be happy with a thicker iPhone but more battery life have now seen what that would look like ... and they REALLY don't like it!
We're all missing the point, again, I think. Yes WE, as the general MacNN crowd, can tailor settings to squeeze out extra time from the battery. Charles and I both roll with backup batteries, and so does William, the reviewer of the case.
Susie, new college student at State U, missing her friends, and not that tech savvy may not want to shlep a nasty-looking external; battery around, and just doesn't care that getting lock-screen notifications of everything Jimmy, and Paul, and Kimmy do from Facebook might be a problem with the battery life.
THAT'S what this is for. THAT'S where the money is for Apple, right now. For that scenario, this is utterly perfect.