Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Mophie Juice Pack Air - Review

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a Juice Pack Air additional battery for my iPhone 3G. Whilst I love my iPhone, I'm not in love with it; it isn't surgically attached to my ear and I have plenty of other distractions to help me to fill my day. I generally work from home and there are docking stations in strategic positions around the house. In other words, I'm a fairly average user and battery life generally doesn't give me a huge cause for concern...except when I'm travelling. As a consultant I do spend a fair amount of time on the road, and on those occasions I have got caught out once or twice.

So, on the basis that prevention is better than cure I decided to invest in the Juice Pack Air. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the gadget, it is effectively a case incorporating a battery extender which clips around the iPhone, providing approximately twice the battery life of the iPhone. I'm not going to repeat technical specifications here, if you need them check out the Mophie web site http://www.mophie.com/juice-pack-air-p/1059_jpa-ip3g-blk.htm.

I ordered my Juice Pack Air over the internet from solutions inc. (based in Hove in the UK) at a cost of £63.00 (including VAT) plus a couple of quid for postage and it arrived by recorded delivery a couple of days later.

The first thing you notice on picking up the box is the Apple-like attention to packaging. The box itself is sturdy and feels as if it has been packaged by Apple themselves.

The Juice Pack Air itself is a two piece affair. The iPhone slips into the larger part which forms a sleeve around the body of the phone. A standard dock connector sits at the bottom of the sleeve and the iPhone simply slots onto it. It is quite a tight fit and it's not immediately obvious that the iPhone is fully secured. The second part of the pack slips over the top of the iPhone providing all round protection to the top, bottom and sides of the phone, with cut-outs for the important iPhone controls. The face of the iPhone is not protected, and the Juice Pack Air fits flush to the fascia. This means that a screen protector cannot be fitted and held in place by the Juice Pack Air. This may bother some people, but I personally prefer direct access to the phone's touch screen.

The top and bottom sections of the Juice Pack Air don't form a completely seamless fit, which is slightly disappointing, but something that you get used to quite quickly. Removing the case and its integrated battery is simply a matter of reversing the fitting instructions. However this is more difficult than one might expect. Although the top slides off quite easily, it is quite difficult to get purchase on the lower part of the case. Clean, grease-free hands are a definite requirement, but it's almost certain that you'll get grubby paw prints over the face of the phone when you try to remove it. Have a cleaning cloth handy!

A tiny switch on the bottom of the Juice Pack Air engages the battery and allows the flow of power to the iPhone. The battery is designed to use power from the Juice Pack Air before starting to drain the iPhone's internal battery. However, the recommendation is to allow the iPhone to drain before switching to the Juice Pack to provide the maximum amount of charge available. Four LED lights on the back of the case provide a visual indication of the amount of power available in the Juice Pack Air. These are displayed by pressing a small button to the side of the array of lights.

Charging the Juice Pack Air is done through the supplied micro-USB cable and connector at the base of the case. I would have preferred a mini-USB port as this would have meant one less type of cable to carry around. The supplied cable could have done with being a bit longer as well, but that isn't a big deal.

All in all, I really pleased with the Juice Pack Air. It certainly provided me with all the power that I need on a long day out, with little access to other power sources, and still had some to spare. There is some extra weight and bulk added to the iPhone, but this all but disappears after a short while. The texture of the plastic case is similar to the back of the iPhone, and attracts smudgy fingerprints in the same way, particularly on the black version. However, this is a small price to pay for the benefit of having a phone that now helps me make it through the night as well as the day. Highly recommended.

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