Review: No-Name eBay iPhone 5 Battery Case

An external battery pack has been a staple of my iPhone accessory kit since the iPhone 3G. Regardless of how power efficient Apple makes a new iPhone, how many features I disable or how dim I make the screen – I need many more electrons than any realistic sized iPhone battery will give me. In day to day use I find the iPhone battery sufficient, but if I’m going to be using maps, say on holiday, or Tweeting like a teenage girl at an event, an external battery pack is a must.

Due to the new lightning connector on the iPhone 5, it’s taken almost 5 months for an external battery case to appear! I’ve been using a generic USB battery pack (essentially a lithium polymer battery in a plastic case with a USB port on it), which gets the job done, but it’s cumbersome for iPhone use. You’ve gotta have the battery pack in one pocket, a cable running across your body, then the iPhone in the other pocket and it sucks. The battery case however contains everything in a neat package, that makes your iPhone fatter, but it is so much more practical.

The brand everyone knows here in Mophie. They *just* released an iPhone 5 case called “Helium”, which will retail here for at least $80. Mophie makes nice stuff, don’t get me wrong, but $80?! That’s a lot of cash, when you consider that up on eBay, iPhone 5 battery cases are retailing for as low as $19 (including delivery!).

Some of them are pretty crap – look at this one here:

and this one:

Even though these are cheap, and I assume work, what a goddamn hack. I passed on those, waiting until something more appropriate is released by Shenzhen’s finest. A few weeks ago, this guy hit eBay:

I ordered it immediately and it arrived yesterday. I was kinda impressed by the packaging, despite the plastic being all scratched, it’s way more pro than the usual Shenzhen fare of a crumpled cardboard box.

Inside is just the battery case itself and a tiny micro USB cable. Would it have killed them to include a longer one? This cable is useless unless you’re charging the device directly near a USB socket on a laptop. Luckily micro USB cables are cheap as off eBay, and I have a couple of spare cables already, but this short cable isn’t very useful.

The case itself is not bad quality. The rear is a rubbery/felt feeling plastic – which I loathe, but most people wouldn’t care. The iPhone itself just slides in, with a nice fabric preventing any scratches.

Once the iPhone is in, there’s a silver power button on the bottom which turns the charger on and off. There’s a series of blue LED numbers, 100 – 75 – 50 – 25, which denote the level of the battery.

The case leaves the top exposed, so the unlock button, volume and mute switch are easily accessible (unlike the previous generation of Mophie cases)

There’s some grills for audio, which does muffle the sound a bit, but at least they thought of cutting some holes for the speakers – I’ve seen iPhone cases without em…

Unfortunately, there’s a few quirks. The case seems to stop charging the iPhone when the iPhone is full, instead of powering it indefinitely. I prefer to leave the case on and let the iPhone power from the case first, so that when the case is depleted, I can ditch the case into a bag and lose the bulk.

It also won’t charge the iPhone *and* the case, whilst plugged into a USB power source. It is nice being able to plug the case & phone into the same charger and have them both done, rather than having to use two chargers, or two cables into the one charger.

The other lame thing is the headphone socket. It’s nice it has a headphone socket, but many headphone plugs won’t fit. The Apple EarPods fit perfectly, but all the other headphones in my house don’t fit in the socket.

Other than these small (and slightly irritating) points – the case works fine. My iPhone was at under 10% this morning and the case, fully charged, got it back up to 100% with 25% left on the case itself.

So for $25, it’s hard to complain about this battery case. If you’re the type of person who wants everything to work perfectly, spend the extra cash and get the Mophie Helium. But if you’re a cheapskate like me and can live with the imperfections knowing that you saved $50, this eBay special is fine.