Given the multitude of choices when it comes to iPhone 4 and 4S battery cases, the current void of iPhone 5 equivalents nearly five months after launch is surprising. Chalk it up to Apple’s stringent Lightning connector certification process, but those looking for a little extra juice do have a few options. The Unu Ecopak ($79.95 direct) is sort of a battery case for the iPhone 5. I say sort of because it’s really just an iPhone case with an attachable external battery. It doesn’t connect directly to the iPhone 5—you’ll have to provide your own Lightning cable—making it only slightly more convenient than carrying around a standard portable add-on battery.
Design and Setup
The Unu Ecopak consists of two pieces, a simple snap-on case and an iPhone-5-sized detachable battery pack. The snap-on case is a thin piece of plastic that adds minimal bulk, but also sacrifices some protection in the process. It’ll protect the aluminum back of the iPhone 5 from those dreaded scuffs and scratches, but there’s no impact absorption and no protection for the glass screen. The top and bottom edges are exposed, while cutouts allow access to the Volume buttons and Mute switch. Around back are three cutout slots for attaching the battery pack. The battery pack has a full-sized USB port, micro USB port, and LED indicators along one edge, with a Power button on the side. The case and battery together nearly double the thickness of the iPhone 5 alone. The cases comes in seven bright colors, and the battery pack is available in silver, black, or white.
Attaching and removing the battery pack is as simple as lining up the slots on the case with the pegs on the battery and snapping the two together. Unlike your typical iPhone battery case, the Unu Ecopak does not actually connect directly with the iPhone 5. Instead, you’re required to use your own Lightning cable to connect the phone to the USB port on the battery. Unu failed to include a Lightning cable and unless you can find a very short cable, the design seems far too cumbersome. There is one benefit of using a bring-your-own-cable design: The Unu Ecopak battery can charge any USB powered device, assuming you carry your cables around with you.
Performance and Conclusions
In our tests, the Unu Ecopak, with its 2500mAh battery, was able to add 7 hours of talk time to our AT&T iPhone 5. That’s not quite up to Unu’s claim of doubling the iPhone’s battery life—it turned in 8 hours, 40 minutes on its own in the same test. And since it’s basically just an external battery, it’s worth comparing with a standalone battery option like the Iogear GearPower Mobile Power Station, which carries the same list price but offers more than double the battery capacity (6,600mAh).
The Unu Ecopak is more of a stopgap solution for iPhone 5 owners in need of extra juice. Apple’s Lightning connector certification has been painfully slow, and while a lot of battery cases have been announced, there just aren’t many available at the moment. The Ecopak circumvents the Lightning problem all together, but it’s really just a convenient method for carrying around a spare external battery pack rather than a battery case. It comes close to doubling the battery life of your iPhone 5, but unless you don’t mind carrying around an extra cable everywhere, I’d wait for the true battery cases to start clearing Apple’s Lightning certification.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc