Let’s face it: If you have an iPhone 4, you need a battery case. Unless all you’re doing with your iPhone is using it as a $600 mirror.
Luckily there’s no shortage of choice — so we’ve assembled a collection of promising candidates and put them through their paces, the results of which we’ll be revealing in the next few days.
First up is the XtremeMac InCharge Mobile ($80), selected from XtremeMac’s deep line of charging solutions (all of which have been given the “InCharge” moniker).
Like the PowerSkin reviewed later this week, the InCharge Mobile almost completely encloses the back and sides of the iPhone, with power and volume buttons actually a part of the case, in theory making them easier to access. In practice, the volume buttons were very easy to use but the power button took more force to activate, sometimes needing more than one try. The upshot is that the setup works well for the fat-fingered (because access on the surface of the case instead of through holes on the case), but perhaps not so well for the weak-fingered.
The battery’s control center is neatly designed. The power switch, tastefully small five-LED fuel gauge, status button (to activate the LEDs on the gauge) and micro-USB port are all in the same place. As with most other battery cases, the micro-USB port allows for syncing. The power switch and status button were small enough to prevent accidental activation, yet not to small that they were overly difficult to use.
Both the speaker and the microphone worked perfectly through the cases ports. Protection from the InCharge Mobile seemed pretty good — the case did its job the one time I dropped it accidentally.
Its 2300 mAh cell — one of the biggest in this class of battery, though not by much — provided one full iPhone 4 charge and a little to spare. Charging times for the iPhone were decent: 1:15 to a half-charge and 2:45 to fully top the iPhone off. Juicing the InCharge Mobile itself was fast: halfway came at about 1:15, while a full charge took four hours.
It’s a hulk of a case; it’s not light nor lithe. Compared to other battery cases, this one felt like a brick in my pocket, thanks to not only its girth but also its angular design.
The kickstand is a great idea, but the top needs to be removed in order to use it and put it back, enough of a pain that I ended up using the feature extremely rarely — and when I did, I’d almost always simply leave the top off.
A big hawg of a battery case with a lot of angles and bulk; decent controls, a slightly larger battery and a semi-useful stand don’t quite make up for the extra girth.
This is Battery Case Week, and we’ll be evaluating the performance of a selection of iPhone 4 battery cases.