Mophie cures iPhone battery woes

Putting my money where my mouth is, I headed to the Apple store in Emeryville and picked up a Mophie Juice Pack Air

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a critical post about, among other things, of the iPhone's battery life. Since then, reports have poured in of new iPhone users who are displeased with the device's longevity, indicating that the new 3GS does little to alleviate the problem.

Putting my money where my mouth is, I headed to the Apple store in Emeryville and picked up a Mophie Juice Pack Air for US$80.

The Juice Pack Air is an add-on battery pack that doubles as a case for your iPhone. It comes in two pieces. You slip your iPhone into the bottom piece, which uses and covers the Apple connector. The top piece then slides on to encapsulate the iPhone. It adds an additional 1200mAH of battery power to your iPhone, effectively doubling its life. For an extra $20, the standard Juice Pack provides an additional 1800mAH.

It does add a little size. The Mophie makes the iPhone 0.4 inches longer, 0.2 inches wider, 0.27 inches thicker, and 2.66 ounces heavier. When I first put it on, it felt a little bulky and heavy. After a weekend, I was used to the additional heft. When talking on the phone, I thought the extra depth actually made the phone a little more comfortable to hold. All in all, I think the compromise is fair.

Offsetting the bulk a little is the fact that the Mophie doubles as a case, which is helpful since most other iPhone cases won't fit over it anyway. The front of the Mophie is flush with the iPhone, offering slightly less protection than my old case, which wrapped around the front slightly.

Conveniently, the Mophie charges the iPhone first and discharges it last. This allows the pack to be removed when it's empty, shedding a few ounces but leaving you with a fully charged iPhone. The Juice Pack Air can also be charged independently of the iPhone. Four LEDs on the back indicate its battery level.

Suddenly my iPhone world is a little saner. I may as well have had a 2G iPhone all this time since I've basically been running it with 3G turned off and with the screen a little dimmer than I like in order to stretch the battery life. Despite those precautions, my iPhone has conked out, leaving me high and dry, on more than a few occasions.

Today, I breathe a sigh of relieve knowing that I can use my iPhone the way I like without having to dive for a charger at the nearest opportunity. I can now leave 3G on and still go 24 hours between charges.

One thing I've always disliked about the iPhone is the Apple connector. It seems that virtually every other manufacturer has gone with micro-USB and Apple stands alone with its proprietary connector. Last month, Apple signed an agreement to support micro-USB on cell phones in Europe so future iPhones may be different.

The Juice Pack Air covers the iPhone connector and replaces it with micro-USB (cable included). The USB connection provides all the same functionality of the Apple connector and suddenly I can use the same cord that my Bluetooth headset and other mobile devices use. This makes me happy.

If you've already purchased a flurry of Apple iPhone cables to use at home, at work, in the car, and an extra for your laptop case, you might not like the switch to micro-USB.

You'll also be less than thrilled if you own one of the myriads of music docks that capitalize on the iPod/iPhone connector. To use these devices, you need to remove your iPhone from your Mophie, a minor drag.

I've taken my phone in and out of the case a dozen or so times over the weekend. Disappointingly, when I removed the top of the Mophie this evening, the thin piece of plastic surrounding the power button chipped off. Perhaps I was a little rough with it, but the Juice Pack Air fits snugly and takes a little muscle in removing it. Seeing as the Web site sells a replacement top for $8, I imagine I'm not the first to break it.

All in all, I'm happy with my purchase. The Mophie Juice Pack Air is little pricy and slightly bulky, but that's a small price to pay to end my iPhone battery misery.

Michael Scalisi is an IT manager based in Alameda, California.

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Michael Scalisi

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