Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone [Review]

Over the holidays, I picked up a Mophie Juice Pack Air for my iPhone 3GS thanks to a great deal on Boxing Day ($48 @ London Drugs).
Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone
I’ve been considering one of these types of battery packs for my iPhone for awhile. I already have the Griffin Power Jolt which works really well when you just need a little more juice but sometimes you’re away from an outlet for longer than you’d like. The Power Jolt only gives you about 25% of your battery back on an iPhone 3G/3GS whereas the Mophie gives you one full charge back effectively doubling your battery power.

The form factor of the Juice Pack Air is very similar to the iPhone…it’s a similar shiny hard plastic case that completely envelops the iPhone. I kind of wish it wasn’t so shiny as for a case, it doesn’t offer any slip protection like most cases do. I’d prefer a matte finish or even a rubberized coating. All the iPhone’s buttons and switches are still accessible except the dock connector:

Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone

In its place is a micro USB port and a slider switch. The Juice Pack comes with the necessary micro USB cable that facilitates charging the Juice Pack and allows you to sync your iPhone while in the case. I wish it was a more common mini USB cable but at least it’s not a proprietary plug/cable although I don’t believe I have any other devices (or cables) that are micro USB so it’s one more cable you need to carry and hope you don’t lose. At least Mophie sells replacement cables inexpensively on their website.

The switch allows you to control when the iPhone receives its charge from the Juice Pack. You can charge it up and leave it in standby mode until you need it.

Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone

As I mentioned earlier, everyone on the iPhone is still available to use, including the camera as you can see above. The photo should also give you a good idea of how much extra bulk the case/battery adds to the iPhone. I have to say, when I first held a Juice Pack, it seemed bulky but after having this one for a couple of days, it’s really not a big deal.

The Juice Pack has a ‘fuel gauge’ and button on the back of the case:
Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone

This is similar to Apple laptops that display how much power is left in the battery. While charging, these light up and blink to indicate how far along the charge is. Press the button at any time and you’ll know how much juice is left in the case.
Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone
The only real shortcoming this device has is the inability to charge the iPhone battery directly through the case while plugged into your computer (or similar USB power port). You can only charge up the Juice Pack and then charge the iPhone by depleting the Juice Pack. I would have preferred to be able to charge up both (sequentially is fine) so that you have both fully charged up before heading out. The way it is now, you have to charge them separately. Removing the iPhone from the case is easy enough but it would be easier if you didn’t have to.

I don’t plan on using the case all the time, just on those days that I know I’ll be out for an extended time and don’t want to worry about my iPhone dying while using it heavily.

UPDATE (Jan 7, 2010): Thanks to C.K.’s suggestion in the comments, it does appear that the syncing while in the Juice Pack Air issue is related to a bad cable. I swapped cables and it worked fine. Contact Mophie’s support to get a replacement. Mine is on it’s way.

11 Comments

  1. Kevin Haggerty says:

    John – are you sure it won’t charge up the iPhone as well while in the case? I’ve got one of these as well, and I seem to remember reading you could do just that – or effectively do that – leave the switch on the juice pack air turned on and you should be golden.

    I have to admit, I haven’t actually tried it.

  2. John says:

    You could be right Kevin…I left both plugged in overnight. Once you plug into something, the charge function stops on the iPhone and only charges the Mophie…perhaps once it’s fully charged, it allows the iPhone to charge but when I got up the next morning, my iPhone was at 4%. I’ll try it again with the switch set different and see if it changes anything. The manual is pretty sparse in this area unfortunately.

  3. Good review. I got the same thing for Christmas! You’re correct about the Mophie not charging when being charged / passing through a charge to the iPhone. That is the one disappointment of the device. That and not being able to use the little micro USB port to sync with iTunes. El Lame.

  4. JP says:

    I find with the 3Gs there is no need for the battery pack. I am a chronic data hound on Twitter, Facebook, the web and email and take a ton of photos each day and have no probs with power. Now my 3G on the other hand sucked and made me think twice about actually using the iPhone. it looks to add a substantial amount of bulk to an already big phone as well.
    I’ll admit I have a car and desk charger so it does get a fair bit of charging throughout the day.

    Thanks for the review. Very detailed as always John!

  5. chris says:

    Regarding the lack of slip protection, that’s what the red one is for. ;)

    Also, the site says that “You can use the included USB cable to charge the juice pack airâ„¢ and iPhone simultaneously or charge the juice pack airâ„¢ on its own.”

  6. John says:

    Chris: Do you have one? Mine definitely does not charge or allow me to sync via the micro USB cable regardless of the switch position. I’m wondering if it’s a 3GS issue or perhaps I have a faulty unit…although C.K. seems to have the same issue. I read a comment about possibly the GPS being on can cause too much drain to charge at the same time…but even in Airplane mode, I get nothing.

    JP: I too am usually near a desk or car charger but not (usually) while on a plane or when I’m out and about (on foot)…just like the 6gb dataplan, this device means I don’t have to think about power anymore for 100% of my use cases for it. It’s really not that bulky…still easily fits in a jean pocket without looking like I’m happy to see you.

  7. chris says:

    No, I don’t have one. That’s what the site says (the last paragraph under the Features tab here), so you may want to take yours back and swap it for another.

  8. John, I discovered something interesting today… I just got a new retractable cable USB to USB mini for my Kindle 2, and on a whim I thought I would see if it fit in the Mophie juicepack. It does AND it enables simultaneous charging of the juicepack and the iPhone 3GS while the switch on the Mophie is set to the off position AND (ZOMG) I can actually sync my iPhone over the connection. ONE CABLE TO RULE THEM ALL!!!

    So, in summary, I think the cables the Mophie shipped with were crap and a new cable makes things wonderful.

  9. John says:

    C.K. – I just realized that the LG Eve loaner phone I have right now also uses a microUSB cable and like your Kindle cable, allows the Mophie to work as intended – charging/syncing while in the case! Time to find out if Mophie is replacing these cables.

  10. C bastien says:

    Having the same syncing charging problem, Mophie wanted me to send pak back to them so they could replace. I just exchanged at best buy, and have same problem with new one out of box today. suggested to mophie they send me an updated cable. standing by…….

  11. John says:

    I got my replacement cable yesterday from Mophie and everything works now.

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