Overcoming Those Battery Life Blues

We may love our iPhones, but many of us are less enamored with its battery life. The iPhone 3G is powered by a 1150 mAh rechargeable battery, which would keep a standard cell phone going strong for days. However, the iPhone is not your normal everyday cell phone; it’s more of a handheld mini computer whose complex engineering and powerful capabilities require a bit more power and drains the battery faster. Users are beginning to realize this and the complaints about battery life are dying down. But that doesn’t change the fact that power users rarely get through the day on one full charge.
Fortunately, third-party developers have stepped in to provide backup battery solutions. These external batteries range in price from $39 up to $99 and vary in performance, aesthetics, quality and usability. Which one’s right for you? This article reviews five of the best solutions from the perspective of “the four P’s.”

  •  Power: The first thing to look at is the capacity of the backup battery, rated in Milliamp hours (mAh). This is a technical term used to describe how much power a battery will hold. As mentioned, the Lithium ion battery built into the iPhone 3G has a 1150 mAh capacity.
  • Portability while in use: All the backup batteries are small, but some are more portable than others. The differences here relate to use with the iPhone.
  • Price: In today’s economic times consumers are conscious not only about the hard price—which is easy to determine—but the personal value of the accessory—which is harder to quantify.
  • Pass through: Here we will discuss the ability to sync your iPhone with you computer while the battery backup is in use. This capability may or may not be a deal breaker to some consumers. 

There are two popular styles of external batteries currently on the market. Case style batteries are batteries that are built into some form of case that slips over the iPhone. The three case style batteries I review are the Morphie Juice Pack, the Incase Power Slider, and the Tekkeon myPower case. Extremity-style batteries stick off or hang out of the bottom of the iPhone while connected to the 30-pin connector. The Richard Solo 1800 and 3G Juice are the two extremity-style external batteries I look at.

Mophie Juice Pack

Purchase at: mophie.com 
Mophie Juice Pack

  • Power: The Mophie Juice Pack is a case style battery pack with an 1800 mAh capacity that claims to provide up to 350 minutes of standby time, 6 hours and 12 hours of talk time on 2G and 3G respectively. The developer also claims Internet usage of 6 hours on 3G and 7 hours on Wi-Fi, audio playback of 28 hours, and video playback of 8 hours. In my tests, I used my iPhone without the Juice Pack until its battery level went to 10%. Then I slipped it into the Juice Pack and was able to use it for another three hours. When the Juice Pack’s LED lights indicated that it was exhausted, I disconnected it. My iPhone was fully charged.
  • Portability while in use: The Juice Pack slides on to the back of the iPhone leaving the top of the phone exposed. It makes the phone slightly thicker and longer, but the combination still slides nicely into your pocket.
  • Price: The Juice Pack retails for $99.95 and is available on the developer’s Web site. It’s a bit pricey, but the styling and portability are very desirable.
  • Pass through: With the Juice Pack attached, you can power/charge your iPhone and sync simultaneously. You can charge the Juice Pack separately.

Incase Power Slider

Purchase at: goincase.comIncase PowerSlider2

  • Power: The Incase Power Slider is a case-style pack with 1350 mAh battery capacity. Incase claims that it adds 330 minutes of standby time, 5 hours talk time on 3G and 10 hours of talk time on 2G, Internet usage of 6 hours on 3G and 6 hours on Wi-Fi, audio playback of 26 hours, and video playback of 7 hours. My own tests seem to confirm that Power Slider doubles my power.
  • Portability while in use: The Power Slider acts as a full case, covering the iPhone completely but leaving the screen exposed. It adds some thickness and a little weight, but fits easily in your pocket and you hardly notice that an external battery is attached.
  • Price: The Power Slider retails for $99.95 and is available on the developer’s Web site. Again, it’s a bit pricey. But if you consider that you’re getting an attractive case as well as a backup battery, the cost seems more reasonable.
  • Pass through: As with the Juice Pack, you can charge and sync your iPhone while it’s attached to the Power Slider. However, you need to put Slider in sync mode first, by pressing the sync button on the back of the unit.

Tekkeon myPower for iPhone 3G

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Purchase at: tekkeon.com

  • Power: The myPower is a case-style pack with 1500 mAh battery capacity. Tekkeon claims that it doubles the iPhone Battery Life, and my tests confirm this estimate. The myPower battery bypasses the iPhone battery and powers the iPhone directly. Hence, it cannot be used to recharge the iPhone’s battery. However, if the iPhone is in the case, and you connect the case to its power source, the power source will recharge both batteries.
  • Portability while in use: The myPower case is made of a synthetic material that has the look and feel of leather. The battery itself is embedded in the case and adds about 1/2 inch to the overall length of the iPhone but virtually nothing to the overall thickness. This unit fits nicely in your pocket and unless someone told you, you would never guess a battery was integrated
  • Price: The myPower retails for $69.95 and is available on the developer’s site. It’s a bargain when you consider that the cost of a synthetic case and separate backup battery would probably double this price.
  • Pass through: As with most case style battery packs, you can charge and sync your iPhone and the myPower battery pack while the iPhone is in the case.

Richard Solo 1800

Purchase at: richardsolo.comRichard Solo 1800

  • Power: As the product name suggests, this extremity-style battery pack has a capacity of 1,800 mAh, which is more than enough to fully recharge an iPhone with a nearly depleted battery. With the 1800 attached, you can charge both the external battery and iPhone simultaneously using the AC power adapter or dual USB car charger that ship with the product. In addition, the 1800 can charge any iPod with a 30-pin connector.
  • Portability while in use: This external battery attaches to the Dock connector on the bottom of the iPhone, almost doubling the length of the iPhone. It’s difficult to put the iPhone/battery combo in your pocket while connected and awkward to use it when making phone calls.
  • Price: The Richard Solo 1800 retails for $69.99 and is available on the developer’s Web site. Thrifty shopper can find online discount codes to bring the price down a bit.
  • Pass through: You cannot sync your iPhone when it’s connected to this portable battery.

3G Juice DeLuxe

Purchase at: 3gjuice.com

  • 3G Juice DeluxePower: The 3G Juice DeLuxe is another extremity-style battery pack with an 1,800 mAh capacity. It’s marketed by a Dutch company, but can be ordered online and they will ship to the U.S. It will fully charge your iPhone in about 2.5 hours. I tested it with an iPhone with less than a 10% charge; it fully charged the iPhone and had some spare power left over. As with the Richard Solo product, the Juice can charge any iPod that has a 30-pin connector. Unfortunately, the port used to charge the Juice is located next to its 30-pin connector, which means that you cannot charge the Juice while it is connected to the iPhone. The manufacturer tells me that this will be changed on the next version of the battery.
  • Portability while in use: As with the previous battery, this one connects to the bottom of the iPhone and increases the overall length. Fortunately, it is not as long as the Richard Solo 1800. The iPhone/battery combo is still a bit awkward to put in your pocket, but more comfortable to use when holding it in your hand.
  • Price: The 3G Juice DeLuxe retails for $53.95 (42.94 euro) and is available on the developer’s Web site. As with the previous product, you can find online discount codes to bring the price down a bit.
  • Pass through: As with the previous product, you cannot sync your iPhone when it’s connected to this portable battery.

Which portable battery is for you?

I list two types of portable batteries in this article. The one you choose depends on your power needs, your own personal style, and the price you’re willing to spend. The case-style solutions are nicer looking, less obtrusive, and allow your device to sync. The extremity-style batteries are less expensive, have 1,800 mAh capacities, and work with the iPod touch. But they also stick out from the bottom of the device and make it harder to use. In addition, you can’t sync your device with these batteries attached. I use the Mophie Juice Pack because of its simplicity, styling, and power.

Third-party portable batteries extend the usability of the iPhone.
Spring 2009
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