Apple’s Lightning connector certification process has been painfully slow, which has held up popular accessories like battery cases from hitting the market. Mophie is one of the first companies out of the gate with an iPhone 5 battery case—the Juice Pack Helium ($79.95 direct). The Helium won’t quite double your iPhone 5′s battery life, like many of the battery cases made for iPhone 4/4S, but it is sleek and lightweight, nicely complementing the svelte iPhone 5. If you’re an iPhone 5 user who’s scrambling for an outlet by midday, it’s definitely worth the investment.
Design and Features
The Juice Pack Helium draws from the design aesthetics of Juice Packs past, which is a good thing, as Mophie’s products have been of high quality. The case is available in silver or dark metallic, and is made from a sturdy plastic coated in a pleasantly grippy soft touch material. The Helium is the thinnest and lightest Juice Pack, at 0.59 inch thick and 2.4 ounces, but the case itself is a bit long at 5.49 inches—that’s taller than gargantuan 5.4-inch Samsung Galaxy S III, and if you have pants with shallow pockets that could prove a bit problematic. There are cutouts for the camera lens, the Power and Volume buttons, and the headphone jack. The latter is deeply recessed, but Mophie includes a long and skinny 3.5mm extender that you can attach to your favorite headphone pair. The Power button is also a bit too recessed, but it’s only a minor inconvenience. On the inside of the case, there are small silicone bumps that help keep the iPhone 5′s scratch-prone aluminum back safe.
The case has two parts: The bottom section houses the Lightning connector on the inside and a micro USB port on the outside for charging, while the top portion houses the actual battery pack. The two pieces securely snap together, and installation is as easy as sliding an iPhone 5 into the top section and snapping the bottom on. I like Mophie’s choice to use a micro USB port for charging and syncing, as micro USB cables are plentiful and affordable, while Lightning cables are expensive and currently only available through Apple. This design is head and shoulders above the Unu Ecopak, which is really just an iPhone 5 case with a detachable battery pack. There’s no Lightning connector built into the Ecopak, so you have to carry your own cable with you.
On the back of the bottom half of the Juice Pack Helium are four status LEDs along with an Indicator button that enables them, and a standby switch for activating the flow of juice. Plugging in a micro USB cable allows pass-through charging of both the iPhone 5 and Helium case, but you’ll need to sync your iPhone using Wi-Fi instead.
Performance and Conclusions
Mophie chose a smaller 1500mAh battery for the Helium, compared with the 2000mAh battery found in the Juice Pack Plus for the iPhone 4/4S. It makes for a slimmer case, but it doesn’t add quite as much extra power. Mophie claims the Helium should add about 80 percent battery life to the iPhone 5, or 6 hours of talk time. In our tests, making a continuous call with LTE enabled with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off, the Juice Pack Helium added 6 hours, 20 minutes of talk time to our dead iPhone 5. (The iPhone 5 alone lasted 8 hours, 40 minutes on the same test.)
The Unu Ecopak features a beefier 2500mAh battery, but only added 7 hours of battery life. The Helium also outputs at 1 amp, opposed to the 0.5-amp output of older Juice Packs, so it’ll charge your phone faster. In my tests, I found that the Helium fully charged the iPhone 5 in about two hours, which is on par with Apple’s standard wall adapter.
The Juice Pack Helium is one of the first iPhone 5 battery cases available, and it sets the bar high. In our tests, it extended the iPhone’s battery by more than 6 hours, boosting the overall battery life to 15 hours total—plenty to get most heavy users through the day. And it’s not terribly bulky like many other battery cases. Right now, your only other option is the Unu Ecopak, which is a case with an attachable battery that requires you to add your own Lightning cable. We’ll test more iPhone 5 battery cases as they become available, but for now, the Mophie Juice Pack Helium is your best bet.
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