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Review: PowerSkin Battery Case for iPhone 4/4S

A few weeks ago, I mentioned getting a PowerSkin battery case from XPAL Power, and how I wanted to give the case its due diligence. That time has come and there are some great things to report, as well as some design elements that deserve some mentioning.

The Skin – A Powered, Comfortable Case

What is best about the PowerSkin is what is advertised: “One-piece, soft-touch case slides on seamlessly and protects against shocks, drops and dust.”

The Powerskin is tremendously easy to insert an iPhone into, and even easier to remove an iPhone from. The soft rubbery side are like most silicon-type cases, so unlike most other battery cases, the increase in size of a PowerSkin-clad iPhone 4/4S occurs at the bottom and back (an increase in length and depth). By comparison, my previous experience with battery cases was with the 3GS and a Mophie Juice Pack which felt like it nearly doubled the size and weight of that iPhone, as well as a too tight fit in a two-piece design. Speaking of weight, as you should expect when adding a battery pack, the weight of the PowerSkin is about the same as an iPhone 4/4S – a compromise that isn’t unreasonable. 

With the PowerSkin on, my first thought was “So this is what an iPhone 5 will feel like in length.” And it was a pleasant experience for me and my large hands. Again, what benefit the PowerSkin loses by adding weight, it makes up for in the ease of inserting and extracting an iPhone and the minimal increase in width. 

The Added Power

XPAL states that “1500 mAh rechargeable battery extends talk time up to 5 hours (up to 200 hours standby)” which is a claim that is difficult to substantiate under a normal reviewer’s use – particularly when I use my iPhone less for talk and more for data use.

It’s hard for me to believe the claim, though. I choose to keep a battery pack “on” to use its power before tapping into my iPhone’s (a jailbroken 4S running iOS 5.1.1 and 2 push email accounts). On an average day with a fully charged Powerskin and fully charged iPhone, the battery pack lasted 12 to 13 hours before fully discharging, and I use my iPhone minimally during the work day. By comparison, I can regularly leave work having used 15%-25% of my 4S’s battery.

Nevertheless my iPhone battery consumption was significantly spared, and a normal day drained the PowerSkin battery over my iPhone’s battery.

Areas for Improvement

In my opinion, however, some designs concepts deserve some new attention – and possibly a redesign.

First, I had an issue with the blue LED indicator lights. Frequently only one LED would blink while charging until it was fully charged and then it would show a glow of four LEDs. Without a consistent indication of remaining charging time, the only way I could be sure of a full charge – with or without an iPhone in – was by plugging in overnight.

Second, the power button itself – located on the bottom left corner – is too difficult to depress. It takes a stiff, strong thumb or finger to press and hold to power the battery case off and on. It’s either too small, or the rubber/silicon is too spongy. That also means a quick press to show the LED indicator lights and remaining battery life is just as difficult. And the rubbery skin also makes it just as difficult to depress the iPhone’s lock button on the top, though the volume buttons on the side don’t seem to be affected as much.

Lastly, I’m not a fan of the mini-USB and on the PowerSkin the port is on the bottom right corner. If I want to use my iPhone by holding it in my right hand while it’s charging in the skin, the USB cord is intrusive and I fear I may break the mini-USB connection (which happened in a poorly welded USB port on the 3GS Mophie).

Favorable overall

The PowerSkin does increase the life of the iPhone’s battery and it does so with, all things considered, a relatively slim increase to the device’s overall girth. Carrying it is pocket is easy, and it’s comfortable in one’s hand. Despite the areas that could be improved, if you’re in the market for a battery case, the ease of inserting and removing an iPhone makes this decidedly the battery case to put on your list.

PowerSkin ($69.99) is available here.

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PowerSkin was provided by the MaxBorges Agency and XPAL Power for review at iSource.com. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see our “About” page.

 

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