📱 Review – iPhone Smart Battery Case

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.

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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.

Get A ‘Real’ Camera

This post is a follow-up / addition to a post written a couple of weeks ago, called The Best Camera …. Feel free to check that article out beforehand, for a little more context).

I love photography. I love looking at beautiful works of art, on sites such as Instagram or EyeEm . On occasion, I also very much enjoy trying my hand at photography myself. While I may not be very good at it , it doesn’t stop me enjoying it. It’s my hobby.

According to Dictionary.com, the word hobby is defined as:

An activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.

Keep this in mind, it’ll be important later.

The last real camera I owned was a Canon EOS 500D . While, even at the time, it was not the newest, most powerful or generally impressive of devices, it did an admirable job, and it made me feel like a real photographer while I used it. The thing is, quite often, I found my time with the camera neither pleasurable or relaxing, so could my time using the camera really be called a hobby? My main issues with using it are as follows:

  • Any time I took the camera out had to be a planned trip, generally specifically designed to use the camera. I had to make sure it’s somewhere I can go to with a bag , or where I had time or the ability to stop and change lenses etc. and it had to be somewhere worth going so I can get some decent shots.

  • The Canon camera wasn’t huge, or particularly heavy, but it does need careful handling, to avoid bumps or dust. Heck, it feels like you could do some sort of damage to a SLR with a stern glance.

  • Most images you see in magazines or newspapers have been edited. The best photos on 500px and similar sites have been edited also. So, even after parts 1 and 2 above have been taken care of, there is still a general need to do some kind of post-processing. The images need to be uploaded to a computer (or iPad in my case), copied into Lightroom (or similar), edited and then finally shared. Again, more of a chore than anything else.

A big part of photography is the composition, which can still very much be learnt whilst using an iPhone. An image doesn’t have to be 100+ megapixels in size, or pin sharp with perfect composition to be a work of art. As Ansel Adams once said:

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

I often share an iPhone image to Twitter, or other social media sites, only to be greeted by the words: ‘If only you took your proper camera.’ I’m always a little thrown by this statement. Not because I’m particularly upset or concerned by the comment, but, I guess, I just don’t get it. There seems to be a feeling around that the camera makes the photo, not the photographer. The following image, taken with an iPhone, by the very talented Kim Hankskamp illustrates my point perfectly:

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Image by Kim Hankskamp (http://kimhanskamp.tumblr.com)

Kim’s image was awarded 1st place in the ‘People’ category in the 2013 iPhone Photography Awards, and is extremely reminiscent of a well known image of Sharbat Gula, a young Afghan girl. The image was taken by National Geographic Society photographer Steve McCurry and is undoubtedly a work of art. The image was taken in 1984, so the chances are the original negative wasn’t amazingly high resolution, yet it’s quality cannot be denied. The same can be said, in my opinion, about iPhone images. If the composition of the shot is to your liking, then the image is art. Whether anyone but you likes it is not the point at all.

My 3rd point, mentioned above, when discussing the aspects of SLR photography that frustrated me a little, was the editing required to get the most of the images. Another thing I love about iPhone photography is just how easy it is to get some very decent editing done, and these days there are some truly amazing, ‘desktop quality’ editors out there. My main workhorse is the app Darkroom which is an extremely powerful RAW editor for iPhone (there isn’t currently an iPad counterpart unfortunately). This article would be an epic to put War and Peace to shame if I listed all of the great Photo Editing options you have available to you right from the device you’re shooting from. Believe me when I say you will not be disappointed with the vast majority of the options available to you.

The camera doesn’t take the photo, the photographer does. I’m not particularly good at taking pictures with an iPhone or an SLR, but I know which one I enjoy more as a hobby. My ‘eye’ needs to be improved, there’s no question in that. This is, again, something that I can do just as well with an iPhone as I can any other, more specialist equipment. This is, of course, only my humble opinion, and the point of this article isn’t to try and convince anyone in one direction or another, though as always it’s fantastic that we have choices.

Am I less of a photographer because I use an iPhone? Quite possibly, at least in some measurements, but I can safely say that if the iPhone (or any other smartphone I may choose, don’t email me …) wasn’t such a powerful, capable camera, among many other things, I wouldn’t be a photographer (I use this term very loosely, by the way. I appreciate I am amateur to the nth degree) at all. I would not have literally tens of thousands of photos of my daughter growing up, which I treasure, or some other more traditional photos that I’m extremely proud of.