I’m always slightly dubious about after-market paraphernalia for my Apple iPhone. I’ve had odd experiences in the past with crackly desk chargers and dodgy cables. Though to be honest, name-brands aren’t immune to poor design, as Belkin recently found with their iPhone 5 desktop charger where you had to supply your own cable and it would be pulled unceremoniously out when you lifted the phone from the cradle.
What it comes down to is this: do I want to plug $800AU of kit into a $50 powerpack? Is it worth the risk of damaging my phone (which I’m still paying for through Telstra) for the sake of having extra power in an emergency?
If I was still using my Android phone, this might just be a higher consideration; the power-consumption on that baby was astonishing if you had all the cool gadgets running. The iPhone though holds charge pretty well.
Out of the box
I have to say I had some initial worries upon receiving the battery pack.
The first thing is that it’s an External power pack for iPhone 5G, except there isn’t a 5G iPhone. Not yet anyway. The internal manual had what I assume were translation typo’s; this is a device most likely from mainland China. On the other-hand, so is the iPhone so they’re in good company.
Interestingly, this external power pack has a passing resemblance to the Morphie Helium Juice pack, available on the Apple store. There is, though, a difference in price. The Morphie retails for $89.95, while the external power pack I have is on Mobilezap (who supplied the item) for $53.49. The nice thing about this one is that it has indicator LED’s on the front which count down the percentage of charge left in the pack, from 100 down to 25. The Morphie has these on the back as single dots. Also, the Morphie requires what appears to be a micro USB cable for charging while the external pack I’m reviewing uses the lightning cable that comes with the iPhone. Less cables = good IMHO.
The weight of the external power pack is 73grams, which doesn’t sound like much, but together with the physical dimensions, basically double the size of the phone; it feels like my old-school Nokia to be honest rather than the svelte Apple device that Steve Jobs and Jonathon Ive spent enormous amounts of time and effort designing.
A little online research gave me some reviews which gave me a little more confidence my iPhone wouldn’t be reduced to a doorstop if it was plugged in, so I began with the real testing!
Let’s get down to it: Can I do the usual things with the phone?
The phone slides comfortably into the unit without having to be forced and the build quality seems good. When plugged into the lightning charger that came with the iPhone, the indicator lights gave me 50% charge in the unit out of the box. However, connecting the iphone charger to the external power-pack WITH the phone in it doesn’t actually charge the iPhone too. Some experimentation indicated what actually happens is the pack charges, then you charge the iPhone by pressing the pack’s ON button.
Because of the additional length of the pack, only narrow headphone cables will fit, so you can forget using anything like my Sennheiser HD 215’s with their chunky jack or Skullcandy Lowrider headphones for that matter with their silicone covered jack. The iPhone headphones packaged with my iPhone 5 do fit though, so that’s fair enough (though irritating because I prefer the bigger headphones). From the photos, the Morphie may well have the same issue.
This means I have to continually unplug the battery pack from the phone in order to use my headphones, which leaves me concerned I’ll drop the phone and damage it.
An unexpected positive is that as the pack is as thick again as the phone, there’s a possibility sun glare will be reduced on the camera, rather like a hood over the lens of an SLR camera. This is perhaps an unintentional positive, but worth noting.
Syncing the iPhone with the computer was the next test: Just plugging it in didn’t do anything; in order to sync with the battery pack connected, the pack has to be turned on and the phone charging. Kind of logical, but not at the same time? The sync worked fine as did a transfer of photos from the phone.
But does it juice-up my phone?
The point of an external battery pack is to charge the phone when it’s running low. So let’s see how that goes?
So I haven’t charged my phone since Monday morning and have been using the battery pack off and on since then. It’s now Tuesday evening and it looks like I can get 3+ charges off the pack without having to explicitly charge it which is pretty good to be honest.
The final thought
Okay, other than some initial dodgyness around a poorly written manual, headphone jack too small for after-market headphones, and an unintuitive sync, here we have a battery pack that’s single-mindedly good at what it does: charging an iPhone 5.
Rating: 4/5 (it does what it sets out to do but has some irritations)
Where can you get it?
You can get your very own External Battery Pack for iPhone 5G on the Mobilezap website.
I received this unit free of charge from Mobilezap.com.au for review purposes.