Easily slips on and off iPhone • Keeps iPhone charged up all day • Supports wireless charging • Better-looking than original
No on/off switch to control charging • Slow charging without the proper power adapter • Silicone exterior picks up dirt very easily (especially the white version)
Apple’s official iPhone Smart Battery Cases for iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR are no-nonsense battery cases that double their battery life.
I hear it time and again from friends, family, and strangers alike: “The iPhone is more than powerful enough, the cameras nail the shots, and it’s plenty thin, but I want more battery life.”
But let me just be that tech guy and remind everyone that there will never be an iPhone with enough battery. Even when Apple adds more battery life — the iPhone XS, XS Max and especially the iPhone XR have the longest-lasting batteries in any iPhone to date — you will always want more.
But if you are a battery-guzzling fiend — maybe your iPhone is glued to your hand, or you hate charging up every night, or you’re somewhere so remote there’s no outlets — your battery case options for Apple’s latest iPhones are kinda limited.
You could go with a cheapo brand and run the risk of a battery that may not be entirely safe (I think we all learned a lot about lithium batteries after Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7) or get Apple’s new official Smart Battery Cases.
I’ve always recommended Mophie’s iPhone battery cases because the company has a proven track record of making reliable and safe battery cases. But its own Juice Pack Access cases for the new iPhones aren’t available (yet). They’re slated for a release sometime in the first quarter of 2019.
Without much selection to choose from, Apple’s own Smart Battery Case for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR are the best options for pretty much everyone.
Still simple, but now less ugly
When Apple released its first Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 6 and 6S, everyone seemed to have an opinion. Most of them were not favorable with pretty much everyone agreeing how ugly it was.
How could Apple release such a hideous accessory with such a distinct battery “hump”? Some critics even went as far as to blame the hump for an 18 percent stock price drop at the time.
The consensus on the original Smart Battery Case was that Apple had lost its way — lowered its design bar to a level Steve Jobs would’ve never allowed.
Controversial design aside, the Smart Battery Case itself (and the subsequent iPhone 7 version) is actually quite practical. It lacks some of the bells and whistles found on other battery cases such as ones from Mophie, but its slim design, grippy silicone exterior, and no-nonsense charging and power management within iOS, meant it really just worked.
The new Smart Battery Cases for iPhone XS, XS Max and XR are similarly minimalist and simple to use, but come with a few tweaks that I think make them better than their predecessors.
First, the stuff that’s the same: The new battery cases are still made of the same grippy silicone as the old ones. It’s also just as easy to slip your iPhone into the battery cases — you bend the top part backwards and slide your iPhone into the microfiber-lined interior.
Apple sells the Smart Battery Cases in black and white. Both pick up dirt and lint quite easily, but it’s nothing a Magic Eraser or damp microfiber cloth can’t easily pick up. Still, seeing so much dirt and dust on the cases made me question realize how dirty my pants and jacket pockets are. They’re filthy even when you think they’re clean.
If you’re worried about dirt showing, definitely go with the black one because the white one looks gross after pocketing. My white review unit for the iPhone XR also got stained with some blue markings and suffered a small cut. The stains look like pen ink or dye from jeans, but I’m positive neither was near the case during a recent trip in Seattle. Worse, I couldn’t remove the stains with a Magic Eraser or any mild detergent. So keep that in mind.
The inside still has a single LED indicator that lights up when it’s charging. And there’s still no physical on/off button or battery level indicator like there is on other battery cases. Apple’s philosophy with these battery cases is to always keep your iPhone charged up when it’s on. The battery case drains first and then the iPhone’s internal battery depletes second.
Without any physical battery indicator on the battery cases, the only way to see the charge level is within the battery widget.
Now, the changes: the hump is better disguised. Instead of bulging out from the middle, Apple’s extended the case’s built-in battery to extend to the bottom. It’s more elegant in my opinion, but only barely so. I don’t have particularly large hands and I didn’t find the cases to be unwieldy. They are both pocket and jacket friendly. Skinny jeans or tight pants, not so much.
The new Smart Battery Cases also don’t have any “chin” on the front. This is largely due to the repositioning of the battery toward the lower backside. It’s a small change, but it made it easier to use my iPhone with one hand as the case doesn’t add much more height.
Furthermore, the Smart Battery Cases support wireless charging using the Qi-based wireless charging standard (if you’ve already cut cords from your life).
Doubles your iPhone’s battery life
At the end the end of the day, a battery case is a battery case and all of them add bulk, so aesthetics are secondary to function.
And from my two weeks of usage, Apple’s battery cases are top notch. I don’t recall feeling much (if any) heat coming from the battery cases when connected to my iPhones. Most importantly, with a case on, my iPhones lasted days. I easily got up to two days of battery life with a Smart Battery Case connected to my iPhone XS and XS Max.
More impressive was the iPhone XR paired with a Smart Battery Case. As I said in our review of the XR, the phone has the longest battery life of any iPhone, and with the battery case on, I went up to three days before needing to reach for the outlet. That’s mighty impressive and the best combination if you care more about battery life than, say, display technology or resolution.
Below are Apple’s quoted battery life extensions for each iPhone with the Smart Battery Case on. Mixed usage will vary and I didn’t go about measuring any precise hours, but as I already said, you’re gonna at least double your iPhone’s battery life.
If you’re a lighter iPhone user, you’re gonna see even more impressive battery life with the case on. But then you should be asking yourself why you’d need this battery case.
Internet use: Up to 22 hours (up from 15 hours)
Talk time: Up to 39 hours (up from 25 hours)
Video playback: Up to 27 hours (up from 16 hours)
Internet use: Up to 21 hours (up from 12 hours)
Talk time: Up to 33 hours (up from 20 hours)
Video playback: Up to 25 hours (up from 14 hours)
iPhone XS Max
Internet use: Up to 20 hours (up from 13 hours)
Talk time: Up to 37 hours (up from 25 hours)
Video playback: Up to 25 hours (up from 15 hours)
One thing worth noting: Apple doesn’t sell a Smart Battery Case for the iPhone X. Popping an iPhone X into the battery case designed for the iPhone XS will work, but there are some imperfections. Namely, the iPhone X’s rear dual camera bump doesn’t fit snug because it’s a hair larger on the iPhone XS and the speaker grilles don’t align with the perforations on the battery case because the iPhone XS’s grilles are asymmetric.
Another important thing to be aware of with the Smart Battery Cases is how they charge. Turns out the type of power charger you use matters a lot.
Here’s the simple breakdown:
A 5-watt charger (the one that comes with iPhones) charges your iPhone first and then the battery case
A 10-watt or 12-watt charger charges both the iPhone and case at the same time at a constant surge of 5-watts
An 18-watt charger fast charges up your iPhone and then the case
Any power adapter with 30-watts or higher fast charges both the iPhone and battery case at the same time
Why the convoluted charging? Apple says this “Smart Charging” helps preserve the health of both the iPhone’s battery and the Smart Battery Cases’s battery.
So make sure you have the right adapter and right cable for the job or you might find charging up the Smart Battery Case to be painfully slow.
Wireless charging also isn’t very quick and I wouldn’t recommend using this method unless you leave it on overnight.
The best alternatives
The $129 price tag is a bit steep, though. It’s $30 more than the ones for the iPhone 6/6S and iPhone 7.
My pick for best alternative battery case is Moment’s iPhone Battery Photo Case. It’s got a similar design with a nice speckled design, works with Moment’s excellent mobile photography lenses of which I’m a huge fan of, speaker grilles that redirect the sound forwards, and a physical shutter button for use with Moment’s own camera app. The battery case is designed for the iPhone X, but it worked perfectly with my iPhone XS; the only cons are the misaligned speaker grilles and no wireless charging support, but I can live without both. It’s also cheaper at $99.99.
Mophie’s Juice Pack Access is similarly priced at $99.95, but hasn’t been released at the time of this writing so I can’t say if it’s any good. But its features do look well-rounded with an on/off switch, battery level indicator, wireless charging, USB-C charging port along with Lightning port access, colors other than black such as blue, red, and gold. Mophie’s track record is also solid, so it’s likely the Juice Pack Access will be a good product.
Most people will not need Apple’s Smart Battery Case. It’s not for everyone, but they power power users. It’s perfect for vacations in my opinion. Regardless, if you’re always nearly drained, you can’t go wrong with Apple’s battery case.