Posted by Simon Jary 25 November 2013
Choosing the best battery case for the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c?
Which is the best battery case for the iPhone 5 or its later models, the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c? We’ve reviewed the latest battery case that boost your Apple smartphone’s energy levels. [Updated June 10, 2013: Mophie Juice Pack Plus added to comparison. Updated: September 17: do the Mophie cases fit the new iphone 5s and 5c? Updated November 25, 2013: added Phonesuit Elite 5 battery case.]
Which Mophie battery case is best: Juice Pack Air, Juice Pack Helium, or Juice Pack Plus? Or should you consider the rival Powerskin Battery Case for iPhone 5, or the Phonesuit Elite 5? It has also announced a new battery case, the Mophie Space Pack, that has the battery boost of the Air and offers extra storage of up to 32GB. This will be available from "spring 2014", costing from £139.
Every iPhone user dreads the little red bar and low-battery warnings, and a drained iPhone is no good to anyone. A battery case not only protects your iPhone but ensures it stays in full use all day.
Which battery case fits which iPhone 5?
All the cases reviewed here are compatible with the iPhone 5.
Which battery case fits which iPhone 5s?
All the cases reviewed here are compatible with the iPhone 5s.
Which battery case fits which iPhone 5c?
Due to the 5c's marginally different case design none of the cases reviewed here are compatible with the iPhone 5c.
iPhone 5 battery power case comparison
Technical bit: It’s complicated but battery life is measured either in mAh (milliampere-hour) or Wh (Watt hours). The higher the numbers the longer a battery will last. Although the standard number quoted by manufacturers, alone the mAh figure doesn't tell you how much energy can be stored by a battery – so it’s worth looking at Wh as well.
Mophie Juice Pack Helium for iPhone 5/5s: 1,500mAh and 5.55Wh.
Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone 5/5s: 1,700mAh and 6.29Wh.
Mophie Juice Pack Plus for iPhone 5/5s: 2,100mAh and 7.77Wh.
Powerskin Battery Case for iPhone 5/5s: 1,500mAh and 5.6Wh.
Phonesuit Elite 5 Battery case for iPhone 5/5s: 2,100mAh and 7.7 Wh.
Powerskin is working on a 2,000mAh Pro version.
So the Mophie Juice Pack Plus and Phonesuit Elite 5 boast more boost than either the Helium, Air or the currently available Powerskin battery case.
So what’s all this power mean in terms of restoring power to your iPhone when its battery runs low?
Mophie claims one charge from that the Juice Pack Plus will give you up to an additional 10 hours of talk time (compared to 6 with the Helium, but the same as the Air), 10 extra hours internet use on 3G/4G (Air: 8 hours; Helium: 6 hours; Powerskin, 6.5 hours) and 12 hours using wi-fi (Air: 11 hours; Helium: 7 hours; Powerskin, 8 hours), up to 50 additional hours audio playback (Air: 40 hours; Helium: 30 hours; Powerskin, 32 hours) and up to 12 extra hours of video playback (Air: 11 hours; Helium: 7 hours).
In our own tests the 1,500mAh Juice Pack Helium and Powerskin case both gave the fading iPhone battery test a boost of around 70 percent. With the more powerful 1,700mAh Juice Pack Air for iPhone 5 that power boost is closer to a full 100% charge. Mophie claims a 120% charge from the Plus, but we didn't get much more than a full 100% recharge in our own real-world tests, which, as expected, was the same for the equally 2,100mAh-rated Phonesuit Elite 5.
iPhone 5 battery case design
The three Mophie battery cases for iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s look very similar, and are of a high build quality.
The case on each is split into two parts with the smaller section at the bottom of the phone, making it easier than older Mophie cases to separate for wired syncing with your computer.
In some ways we preferred the Powerskin’s softer silicon case for ease of removing the phone from the case when required. It also feels a little less bulky than the Mophie cases, but side by side there’s not much in it. The silicon case is, however, more prey to scruff marks than the harder Mophie shells.
The Phonesuit Elite 5 has a very nice to feel rubber skin, and is less bulky although marginally heavier than the Mophie Plus.
The extra battery boost of the Juice Pack Air and Plus comes at the price of a little more bulk than the Helium – not much, but noticeable side by side.
The Plus is very slightly larger (6.68cm wide, 14.2 long and 1.78cm deep) than the Air battery pack (6.6cm wide, 14.1cm long and 1.6cm deep), but you can hardly notice the difference. Both weigh in at 76g.
The Helium is slightly more- svelte at 6.32 x 13.95 x 1.5cm, and weighs the least at 69g. The Powerskin is shorter than both the Mophies, measuring 6.35 x 12.95 x 1.65cm. It weighs the most at 81g, but only a set of fine scales would notice the extra heft.
The Phonesuit Elite 5 (below) is smaller than the Mophies, and while it's not by much it is noticeable. It measures 6.2cm wide, 13.8 cm long, and 1.55cm deep. It weighs 79g.
(In inches that’s 2.63 x 5.6 x 0.70 for the Plus; 2.6 x 5.54 x 0.63 for the Air; 2.49 x 5.49 x 0.59 for the Helium; 2.5 x 5.1 x 0.65 for the Powerskin; and 2.4 x 5.43 x 0.61 for the Phonesuit.)
Once in your pocket there’s nothing super noticeable about these slight size and weight differences. If we had to choose which feels the least bulky it would be the Powerskin or the Phonesuit, despite them actually weighing the most of the three.
If you really don’t want to bulk up your iPhone then maybe a battery case isn’t right for you anyway.
You could consider one of Mophie’s non-case external batteries, such as the 2,500mAh Mophie Powerstation mini (£50), 6,000mAh Mophie Powerstation Duo (£90) or 6,000mAh Mophie Powerstation Pro (£105). These battery packs are lightweight enough to live in your bag and provide a charge when necessary without bulking up the iPhone itself. The Pro and Duo can boost an iPhone over two times on one charge. They don’t, however, offer any case-like protection or remind you to carry them with you. We also like the Phonesuit Flex Micro Battery Pack, which includes a Lightning connector so you don't need to carry round a cable as you do with the above Mophie battery packs.
All of the iPhone 5 battery cases place the battery’s circuitry at the same place as the headphone port. In all cases except for the Phonesuit this necessitates lengthening the cutout for the headphone port, which is fine for straight, thin plugs like you get with Apple’s EarPods and most headphones but not so great for thicker or angled headphone jacks. Each therefore comes with a pass-through headphone extension. The Phonesuit Elite 5 can handle angled and straight headphone jacks.
iPhone 5 battery case protection
The Mophie’s harder case feels more protective than the Powerskin and the Phonesuit but we’re confident that the silicon and rubber cases still offer decent protection for most everyday bangs, knocks and drops. Indeed as they're softer they're more likely to survive a hard-surface drop than the more rigid Mophie design.
iPhone 5 battery case colours
The Juice Pack Air and Plus are available in black, white or (Product) Red. The Juice Pack Helium can be had in Dark or Silver Metallic colours.
The Powerskin Battery Case is available in black only. The forthcoming Powerskin Pro has black, white, pink, red and titanium colour options but isn’t yet available. The Phonesuit Elite 5 comes in Metallic Black and Ice Silver.
iPhone battery case prices
The Mophie Juice Pack Helium, pictured below, costs £69.95.
The Mophie Juice Pack Air, pictured below, costs £89.95.
The Mophie Juice Pack Plus, below, costs £109.95.
The Powerskin battery Case, pictured below, costs £64.99.
The Phonesuit Elite 5 Battery case, pictured below, costs $135 including shipping, which works out at around £85.
Do the Mophie iPhone 5 battery cases fit and work with the iPhone 5s and 5c?
Mophie hasn't confirmed yet whether its battery cases for the iPhone 5 will also work with the iPhone 5c or 5s. As far as we can tell the only reason that an iPhone 5 case won't fit the new 5s is if the new fingerprint sensor is covered up in any way. This won't apply to the iPhone battery cases on test here, so they should fit. The iPhone 5c is made of plastic so there may be fit issues there. As soon as we've tried these cases on the new iPhone models or Mophie confirms one way or the other, we will let you know here. The Phonesuit Elite 5 Battery Case was launched after the iPhone 5s and so fits fine, and has a wider camera cutout that suits the new phone well.
See also: iPhone 5C vs iPhone 5 comparison review.
Which Apple iPhone 5 battery case is best for you?
We liked all five iPhone 5 battery cases we tested. The three Mophies are very similar and look great, with the Juice Pack Plus boasting larger battery capacity at the cost of a slightly bulkier case. We did have an issue with the ring/silent switch on the Plus, which we found fiddly. The Phonesuit's cutouts are deeper and require a little more effort but are quick to get used to.
While marginally heavier and deeper than the Mophie cases the Powerskin battery Case for iPhone 5 and Phonesuit Elite 5 felt slightly less bulky, probably because they are shorter than the Mophies. We also liked the silicon casing of the Powerskin, which made taking the phone out easier than uncoupling the Mophie cases. And the rubber-feel of the Phonesuit was also liked. With wireless syncing you needn’t ever take the iPhone out of the case but many of us still prefer the faster wired syncing with our computer.
If you’re a heavy app user – and some apps use more battery power than others, particularly location-based apps – then you’re likely to be frustrated by the iPhone’s rather feeble battery life, and a battery case offers much-needed protection plus the reassurance of an extra recharge wherever you are when battery levels drop low.
Of the three Mophie cases we’d suggest the £109.95 Juice Pack Air for super-heavy app users or long-distance travellers because of its near-full charge. Yes, it is slightly more bulky but not to any significant concern. The big difference is in cost. The Juice Pack Helium is £40 cheaper than the Plus and £20 less than the Air. If battery rundowns aren’t affecting you so much then the £69.95 Helium is certainly worth considering for its cheaper price alone.
A slight niggle with the Juice Pack Plus' Mute switch overlay switch and the closeness in real-world battery tests make the Juice Pack Air our favourite of the Mophie cases.
If you prefer a softer silicon case the Powerskin is a great alternative, and is also priced at the lower end. The Phonesuit Elite 5 costs a little more than the Powerskin but offers a higher charge. We think it's a real challenger to the Mophie cases.
Mophie also makes a Juice Pack battery case for the Samsung Galaxy S4.