Mophie’s newest iPhone battery case is surprisingly svelte [Review]

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Mophie Juice Pack Air review
The Juice Pack Air expands your iPhone’s battery life without also expanding your pocket.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The latest Juice Pack Air from Mophie proves iPhone battery cases don’t have to be bulky. This one is relatively slender, while still extending the time between recharges a considerable amount. There’s even room for a Lightning port as well as wireless charging.

Find out what it’s like to use this accessory designed for the 2018 iPhone models in our hands-on review.

Mophie Juice Pack Air review

At first glance, the Juice Pack Air looks like any other hard case. It wraps around all four sides and corners, leaving only the iPhone’s screen open. The 1840mAh battery fits into a slender bulge on the back.

Just be aware, when it comes to batteries there’s always a trade off between bulk and storage capacity. Mophie’s latest is quite svelte because it offers less power than some of its rivals.

That said, the trade-off works. Unlike heftier options, this is a case we’d be willing to use every day.

Our test version of the Juice Pack Air is for the iPhone XS Max. It is 6.7 inches by 3.2 in. by 0.6 in. It weighs 3.3 ounces (0.2 pounds). There are also models for the iPhone XS and iPhone XR with different dimensions.

Mophie Juice Pack Air
The battery bulge on the Mophie Juice Pack Air is not too bad.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Lightning and wireless charging

The extra height in Mophie’s battery case makes room for the Lightning port, which allows you to charge its battery with the same cable you’d ordinarily use with the iPhone.

Perhaps the only significant drawback of this hardcase is that its Lightning port can only be used for power. We tested it with headphones and other accessories and none of them worked. That might send some potential customers to the Mophie Juice Pack Access, which leaves the Lighting port open. We do a comparison of the Air and the Access later in this review.

A Lightning cable isn’t the only charging option; the Juice Pack Air also supports Qi wireless charging. We read some reports of this accessory having issues with various Qi chargers so we tested it with four different ones from a range of manufacturers. It worked every time. That said, this device was picky about being placed exactly right on a couple of these, and sometimes took a few seconds to make a connection. That’s unusual.

To transfer power from this battery case to the iPhone, press and hold a button on the back of Mophie’s add-on.

The process is different when the case itself is receiving power, either through its Lightning port or wireless charging. That automatically starts current going to the iPhone. The handset is fully charged first, before the case.

As set of four white LEDs next to the power button gives a rudimentary display of remaining power. Our tests show these are fairly accurate.

Protection, buttons, speakers, etc.

The Juice Pack Air comes in two parts. Just slide the iPhone into the larger bottom piece then slide on the top section.

As mentioned, this battery case encloses every part of the handset but the screen, and there is a raised lip around the display that keeps it from getting scratched when the device is lying face down.

Mophie makes no specific promises about ruggedness, but wrapping your iPhone in plastic is certainly going to help protect it from everyday abuse. It also makes the device much less slippery.

Because the Juice Pack Air connects to the iPhone’s Lightning port it covers the whole bottom edge of the iPhone, includng the speakers. The designers put in channels that guide the sound toward the user. These make audio sound louder when the screen is facing the user, a definite benefit when watching video.

Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone XS Max
Note the front-facing speaker holes on the Juice Pack Air.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The handsets buttons are have covers that don’t interfere with use. There are openings for the camera and mute switch.

Mophie Juice Pack Air performance

The 1840mAh battery at the heart of our sample Juice Pack Air isn’t designed to fully recharge the 3174mAh power cell  in our test iPhone XS Max. Instead, it provides a boost, lengthening the time between charges.

In our tests, this case was able to raise the battery level in the iPhone 35%, indicating that it’s 60% efficient, the industry average.

Exactly how much that’s going to add to your time between charges depends on how you use your iPhone. But if you generally run out of power in the evening, you can expect this case to get you through the rest of the day.

Mophie Juice Pack Air vs Juice Pack Access

Mophie offers battery cases in two different designs for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. There are similarities — both can power up via wireless charging. But the differences give each its own advantages.

The Juice Pack Access, which debuted early this year, leaves the handset’s Lighting port open, available to be used with headphones or other accessories. It includes a USB-C port.

As discussed, the new Juice Pack Air covers the iPhone’s Lightning port, but offers its own that can only be used for power.

The earlier model includes a hefty 2200mAh/8.36Wh battery, while Mophie’s newest has a more slender 1840mAh/6.99Wh one. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

The Juice Pack Access charges the iPhone wirelessly, which is inherently inefficient. The Air uses a direct connection so in our tests it provided the same amount of power to the iPhone XS Max as its sister model: both raised the battery level 35%.

Mophie Juice Pack Air final thoughts

The Mophie Juice Pack Air provides a useful increase to the battery life of a 2018 iPhone without also adding too much bulk. It’s really not much thicker than standard hard cases.

While it still allows the iOS handset to be charged wirelessly or through a Lightning port, wired headsets and other Lightning accessories can’t be used. Also, getting a wireless charging connection is sometime more work than it should be.

Pricing

At this time of this writing, this battery case is available exclusively 4from Amazon. The Juice Pack Air for the iPhone XS or iPhone X is $99.95.

Buy from: Amazon — $74.99

Mophie is also asking $99.95 for the iPhone XS Max version.

Buy from: Amazon — $74.99

No surprise, the version of the Juice Pack Air for the iPhone XR is $99.95.

Buy from: Amazon — $74.99

For comparison, the list price for the Juice Pack Access is $99.95. Or the similar Apple Smart Battery Case is $129.

Mophie provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more stuff we recommend.