I tried to resist. I really did. A few days ago, however, I caved and picked up the iPhone XS Max Smart Battery case and I wanted to share a few thoughts. For those interested, I chose the black one, because I’m not an animal.
If you want the TL;DR for this review, let me just say that the case is no longer on my iPhone. If, however, you want a little more information, read on!
First things first, as you have probably worked out yourself from pictures, the Smart Battery case is pretty darn ugly. Unlike many people, I don’t actually mind the hump design where the battery itself is housed. I can see what they were going with there, but there’s more to the case that makes it a little ugly than that. I really love the sleek design of the current generation iPhones, with its bezel-less screen and thin, yet sturdy frame. This case, in one fell swoop, takes all of this pleasant aesthetic away.Image courtesy of InputMag.dk
The case is, understandably, thick at the back. This is, of course, to be expected. The frame on the other hand, around the band of the phone, adds some considerable bezel-like areas to the screen as is raised a lot more than the Apple Leather cases that I would usually use. There is also a lip at the bottom of the case, absent from the standard cases. This is due to, I imagine, the charging port and to enhance the grip of a heavy case. This bottom lip adds an issue you’ll often see in third party cases, in that it restricts the swipe up from the bottom motion that’s now requires to navigate the X range of devices. This is not ideal.
I mentioned earlier that I usually use an Apple Leather case for my phone. I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve really got used to the feel of it. I’ve always avoided the silicone ones, because I had assumed they’d be almost sticky and hard to get out of your pocket. The Smart Battery case utilises this same material and it’s actually the opposite to what I expected. It feels almost difficult to keep from slipping from your hand. This is, I would assume, due to the disable extra weight of the device thanks to its little battery backpack it’s carrying around. Don’t even get me started on the lint and fluff the case picks up. A couple of days into ownership and it looks a bit of a state already!
So, aesthetically, it’s no Mona Lisa. That being said, however, this devices gives you one of the few examples of where Apple has opted for Function over Form and it certainly is functional. On my completely unscientific test, the battery case added over 14 hours of standby time. I took the device and phone off charge at about 11pm, so bear in mind a chunk of that time included the phone resting completely idol. I don’t, however, get all that much sleep so this only would have accounted for about 4 hours.
It really was pretty incredible getting to about 3pm I’m the afternoon and still having a phone at 100% charge. The hardware also integrates with the iPhone seamlessly and displays the charging level of both the phone and the battery case when you connect to a charger, and in the battery widget, which is a lovely touch. The battery icon is permanently green, because it’s essentially being charged by the battery case. This is such a tiny point, but I found it a little distracting seeing the charging icon on the battery all day.
In terms of delivering what you want, a large boost to battery life, you can’t fault this case. The looks are not important, in the grand scheme of things, because I believe the point is to just use the case as and when you need a boost, rather than it being your main case. This being said, however, the way you have to fold the top section down a bit to yank the phone in and out doesn’t strike me as being very good for the silicone and even after pulling it out just once it feels a little worn.
All in all, I’d say I’d you really need an extra boost of life in your phone, you’d get no better quality and integration than Apple’s own case, though I wouldn’t recommend using it every day. Unless you like your phone feeling like a brick phone from the 80s that is. Each to their own, however. Given the price, I can’t justify the case sitting in my drawer for the majority of the year so it will be going back to Apple, but I will consider picking one up again should the need for longer battery life become more frequent for me.