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When news broke that Apple had released a battery case for the iPhone 6s, there was a flood of criticism and negative feedback all over the internet. Most of the criticism was about the design of the case, which in all honesty, looks like a product that must have escaped Cupertino before Jony Ive had a chance to throw it out the window.
But, after spending about a week with the case, I can understand why Apple made the decisions that it did and I’ve actually come to appreciate the design. Spoiler, it all has to do with practical everyday use and not about the way it looks.
Who is this for?
Maybe more than any other product Apple has released this year, including the iPad Pro, I’ve really struggled with this question. For an iPhone buyer who considers great battery life a necessity, the iPhone 6s Plus already has fantastic battery life. The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is that this product is for the person who puts a premium on battery life but just cannot live with the gargantuan size of the iPhone 6s Plus.
Doesn’t this mean that Apple is admitting there is a need for more juice in the iPhone 6s? We will never get a confession from Apple but I don’t think we need one. At the end of the day, my gut says that this product is more for Apple than for anybody.
I’ve heard a bunch of different explanations about why the case exists over the last week. Some say Apple is just reusing old batteries that were laying around a factory and others suggest the company saw an area where they could make a little extra cash during the holidays, both of which seem plausible to me. But at the end of the day, Apple is not going to make a product that doesn’t bring some kind of benefit to its customers and the iPhone Smart Battery Case does have some appealing features.
Over the last few years we have seen Apple make a transition from offering few products that appeal to the general consumer to making many more products that appeal to more niche demographics. Think iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. There are differing opinions about whether that is a good or bad change, but the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case is yet another example of a niche product that iPhone 6s power users who are dead set on the 4.7” screen size will find useful.
The internet was set ablaze with criticism over the design of the iPhone Smart Battery Case when it was released last week. As I mentioned earlier, after spending a week with the case I no longer have a problem with the design because I understand why Apple stuck “Mount Cupertino” on the backside. No, the big hump is not as aesthetically pleasing, as most of the Apple products we have become accustomed to, but digging in a little deeper sheds light on the direction the company seems to be taking.
In the past, Apple’s products were all about that aesthetic appeal. Some still are. The Magic Mouse, for example, has been the subject of negative criticism for years for being one of the most ergonomically unfriendly mice available, but it looks so sleek. It finally seems like Apple is making a design transition and is considering both the practical use of its products along with the aesthetics.
Over the last week, I’ve read many articles that suggest that Apple doesn’t care about design anymore. I think quite the opposite is true. The iPhone Smart Battery Case is an almost perfect mesh of Apple considering both design and practical usability in a product. The reason that Apple included the big hump on the back of the case is obvious. It’s there to make the case feel much thinner when it is being used, and it succeeds.
When holding the phone like I normally do when I’m texting, surfing or whatever, I don’t even notice the big hump. This case feels like one of Apple’s thin silicone cases. Sure, there are drawbacks, like trying to navigate the phone while it’s laying on a desk, but despite the drawbacks I’ve become a fan of the design.
All and all, I don’t think Apple has its eye off ball when it comes to design. They rather seem to be considering practical usability along with aesthetics, which has been missing in the past.
One of the only design cons I’ll mention, which is almost unavoidable it seems in the world of battery cases, is that the headphone jack is too deep for some styles of headphones. Of course, Apple’s EarPods will work with the case but 90-degree connectors and thicker connectors may not be able to fit.
Although most battery cases I’ve seen have the same problem, Apple’s most notable competitors in this space, which I’ll get into more below, include an adapter with their cases. It would be nice if Apple did the same, especially since some of its own Beats headphones don’t fit, but we all know they never miss an opportunity to sell something separately.
More than any other area, the Smart Battery Case really shines in its functionality. The case comes with neither a power on or off switch to fiddle with nor any other bells or whistles. Instead, you simply put on and the case’s “smart” functionality takes care of the rest. Apple touts this simplicity as a feature, but depending on your preference, you may consider it a drawback. Most every competing battery case allows you to at least turn it on or off. But, let’s take a look at what makes this case smart.
The Smart Battery case has one major benefit that helps it stand out among every other competitor. Because it is a first party accessory Apple has been able to include features exclusively on it’s own Smart Battery Case.
In the past, Apple has axed certain capabilities of other battery cases that are now features of their own battery case. For example, other battery cases cannot simultaneously charge both the iPhone and the battery case. Apple has required that other cases charge the iPhone first before the battery case can be charged.
Apple has also nixed the capability for other cases to use Apple’s lighting cable for charging. This means that if you are using any other battery case, you must use two different cables to get the case and your iPhone juiced up. Of course, both of these convenient features are included with Apple’s own battery case.
Another notable feature is the passive antenna in the case, which will help maintain and even increase your cellular signal. This may seem like a simple feature, but it is actually more intuitive than you might think. The better your cellular signal, the less power your iPhone has to use. So, not only will this help your signal, but it will also save a little extra battery in the process.
The case has better integration with the iPhone’s software than any other battery case available, another benefit of being a first party accessory. When you put the case on, a second battery meter appears on the menu bar next to the current one so that you can see both how much battery your iPhone and the Smart Battery Case have at the same time. This extra battery indicator shows up in some other places as well, such as on the lock screen and the notification center.
In true Apple fashion, they created the case to be as simplistic as possible in the way that it operates, and I’m not sold on the functionality yet. Most external battery cases allow you to turn them on and off so that you can choose when you want to juice up your iPhone. The Smart Battery Case, however, has no on or off functionality.
The smart part of the case, is that is it functions differently based on the amount of battery left in your iPhone in order to maximize battery. If your iPhone is 100% charged, it will run off of the case rather than draining its own battery. When your iPhone isn’t full, the case will simply charge it up. The idea is that running off the case battery will reduce some wear and tear from the iPhone’s internal battery.
Another smart feature is the ability of your iPhone to know when it is hooked up to the case as opposed to being plugged in to charge. The reason that’s important is that there are many power hungry features that activate when an iPhone is plugged in.
The iPhone can tell when it is just hooked up to the case and won’t start running backups, background app refreshes or any other background tasks that eat up battery. However, when you plug the case in, the iPhone will recognize that and turn on those extra features.
It’s worth mentioning the small light on the inside of the case just above the lightning connector. This light indicates when the battery is fully charged. Of course the only time you can see it is when you’re charging the case without the phone in it. The light remains red while charging and turns green to indicate when it’s all juiced up.
Click over to Page 2 to learn our final thoughts.