While it’s always fun when you get that brand new, latest gen Apple device in your hands on launch day, one of the frustrating things is the lack of third party accessories available to protect and serve your new toy. This isn’t much of a problem when Apple releases their “S” versions that share the same designs as their predecessors, but anytime that we see a new design out of Cupertino, it’s common knowledge that there will be a delay before we can get our hands on new cases and such.
Unfortunately, thanks to Apple getting rid of the old 30-pin Dock Connector in favor of their new Lightning Connector with their latest gen devices, we have had an even longer wait on some popular accessories than usual. Apple has put much more stringent restrictions in place to get their official seal of approval to use their newest connector, so third party items like docs, speaker systems, alarm clocks, and chargers have been very slow to roll out. Another favorite accessory that has seen significant delays since the launch of the iPhone 5 is the battery case.
Most of us have made due by carrying around external batteries that don’t attach to the iPhone 5, but at least allow us a way to re-charge while on the go. Thankfully, ibattz has stepped into this void with an interesting product offering that offers a creative way around Apple’s Lightning Connector restrictions, while also offering a more flexible charging solution. The product is the Mojo Hi5 Powerbank Case, a case that lacks a built-in Lightning Adapter, but has a 2500mAh detachable battery that can charge most mobile devices with its USB output. If you need a battery case now and can’t wait for a more integrated solution like mophie’s Juice Pack, or like the idea of a detachable battery that will work for more than just one device, then this case is well worth a look.
There’s More Than One Way to Skin an iPhone 5
Because of its concessions to work around not having a built-in Lightning Connector, the ibattz Mojo Hi5 is certainly not a perfect solution, and definitely isn’t conventional. However, it also goes above and beyond in other areas to help make up for these shortcomings. For one, you actually get two iPhone 5 cases, one black, one white, in this package.
I thought this was a great idea. It gives the customer flexibility and added value, while also cutting down on the number of product sku’s that ibattz has to offer.
I have to admit that I found the design patterns on the back of both cases a little curious at first. However, I guess that’s just me, because my 11 year old son loved the look and immediately wanted one. On closer inspection, however, this design actually does have a purpose.
The designs are there to mask the three holes in the back of the cases, which are necessary to attach the battery when it is in use. Very clever.
As for the design, performance, and feel of the cases, I think that ibattz did a pretty good job here. They are certainly not bulky, but seem rigid enough to offer adequate protection to the back and sides of your iPhone 5.
Because of that rigidity and the tight fit, you have to snap your iPhone into the case, which takes a little effort, but nothing out of the ordinary for similar cases. However, this does mean that any protective skins that cover the top, bottom, and sides of your phone have to go. While that’s a pain for skin users like myself, it isn’t unexpected. Most other fitted hard cases are not going to be compatible with skins, either. However, I do still have my front and rear skins on, and the Mojo Hi5 works just fine with them. These are more important to me, especially if my iPhone 5 is out of the case, so this is an acceptable trade-off.
A reliable measure to determine whether a case manufacturer really cares about what they are doing is the quality and consistency of the cutouts and phone’s fit inside the device.
Not only is the iPhone 5 secure, but all of the cutouts for ports and buttons are right on the money. The only issue here is that the top and bottom of the cases are pretty open, and as such, they don’t offer much scratch protection there.
This is understandable for the bottom section, since it has the speaker, mic, Lightning Port, and headphone jack. However, I am not a big fan of the open top, since it only has to allow access to the Sleep Button on the right side. This isn’t the end of the world, but since the metal body of the iPhone 5 is a bit scratch prone, more coverage here would have been better.
Another drawback with the case design is that it is flush with the iPhone’s screen, offering no protection if you drop your phone face down. I personally prefer at least a small lip raised above the screen that will prevent it from directly striking a surface if the phone is dropped face down. However, unless you go with a bigger, bulkier case, you often don’t much more than what the Hi5 offers here. Even mophie’s typical Juice Pack design for iPhones only offers a tiny bit of screen protection, and it is a bulky case. So again, this isn’t a deal-breaker by any means. Just something to be aware of.
All in all, I like the ibattz case. In fact, I like it enough that I have kept the black one on my iPhone 5 for the last couple of weeks, even when not using the detachable battery. I guess that’s a pretty solid endorsement. Despite a couple of issues that I have with them, the cases are light, offer enough protection, and a personal favorite with me, feel good in the hand. I don’t typically like hard cases because they often feel too slippery to me. However, the ibattz cases have a soft touch finish, making them easy to grip and hold onto.
A Clip-On That Actually Looks Good
Now we come to the Power Bank part of ibattz’s Hi5 package, which like their cases, also exhibits some clever design elements. The back and sides of the bank are aluminium, with a simple ibattz logo in the bottom right corner.
While the finish of the metal is quite slippery in the hand, it doesn’t matter too much. Because of the extra size that it adds to the case when attached, you have to curl your hands around the pair, and end up gripping the sides to hold it.
The side of the powerbank that attaches to the case has a plastic covering, with a soft touch feel similar to the cases.
The three posts that attach to the case are visible here, as well as simple pictorial instructions for how to attach and detach the power bank.
The bottom of the power bank is where all of the action is. There is a full-sized USB port that supplies power to external devices, a Micro USB port for recharging the power bank (the package does come with a Micro USB charging cable, but not a charging brick), 4 blue LED lights to indicate charging and charge level, and a small button on the side to turn on the pack and indicate the current charge level.
Here you can see another nice design touch. The power bank is bigger and has a tapered curve at the bottom to accommodate the full-sized USB port, but the taper is gentle enough that the iPhone will sit still on a flat surface, with only a slight tilt from bottom to top. This design allows the battery flexibility to charge more devices, while not making it thicker than it has to be.
Here you can see the case and power bank together. While attaching the power bank does add a noticeable amount of thickness to the iPhone 5, it isn’t anything you won’t be used to if you’ve used a large battery pack in the past. Also, bear in mind that everything is flush with the iPhone on this case, so it doesn’t add any extra width like other battery cases usually do. Considering that the Hi5 offers 150% of the iPhone 5’s rated battery life, it is a fair trade.
Just for comparison’s sake, you can see here that the ibattz Hi5 is as tall, and not as wide as this mophie Juice Pack Plus for the iPhone 4/4S, so again, it is par for the course for battery cases.
A battery case isn’t much good to any user if it doesn’t deliver on its claims of battery life. In this case, I found that the ibattz Hi5’s power bank delivered close to its 150% claim. I saw something more like 115-120% in my testing, but most battery specs tend to be slightly inflated or tied to something different than typical real-world use. All this to say that the battery’s performance is what you would typically expect from a battery case.
Like the mophie Juice Pack, the Hi5 also allows pass-through charging of the iPhone 5.
When both the Micro USB charging cable and the Lightning cable are connected, the iPhone 5 will fully charge first, followed by the Hi5. This is an advantage over most external power bricks, as most of them will not recharge while charging other devices.
Also similar to the mophie Juice Pack, users have the option to turn the Hi5 off when they don’t need the extra battery. I always found this to be a big feature with my old mophie for the 4S, because I could hold that extra battery power in reserve, until I needed it. I find myself doing the same with the Hi5, turning on the battery at high usage times, like when I have a GPS app open, or am using Personal Hotspot. Not all battery cases have this capability, so kudos to ibattz for including it.
Another feature of the Hi5 Battery Pack is that it has a 1 A output, rather than the 500 mA that a standard Apple charging brick produces. This translates into MUCH faster recharging, which is critical on the go. If you’ve ever used the charger from a full sized iPad, or another similar 1 A charger, then you are aware of the difference.
The 1 A output of the Hi5 also makes it much more versatile when it comes to charging other devices. From Android phones to iPod Touches, Nanos, or Shuffles, or basically ANY other small device that charged off of a USB cable, this battery will handle it. Tablets are a different matter, however. While the 1A output of the Hi5 may be compatible with most, its output isn’t really geared toward large devices. For example, the new iPad Mini has a 4490 mAh battery, meaning that the Hi5 could at least make a dent. (Note that both the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7 also have very similar battery sizes) However, for comparison, the iPad 2 has a 6944 mah battery, while the newer Retina iPads have monstrous 11,666 mAh batteries. So, the Hi5 can help you out with an iPad Mini or small Android tablet if you are in a jam, but don’t expect much if you hook it up to an new iPad.
It All Comes Together….Sort Of
So we have a fully charged battery securely attached to the back of a case. Now what? Well, according to the included User’s Manual, use need to use your own USB to Lighting Port cable to connect them.
In fact, the box even includes a small velcro strap to clean up the slack in the cable. Hmmm. This certainly isn’t the most appealing solution imaginable. I tried using the pair like this, and it just isn’t viable when you are out and about. Even if you tie up the slack your cord still gets tangled up when taking your iPhone out of your pocket. This setup only works well when you are using the iPhone, or it is sitting on a surface to charge. Basically, if you use your standard Lightning cable, the Hi5 is nothing more than a convenient way to carry an external battery pack around with you.
When I first took the Hi5 out of the package and tried this method out, I have to admit that I was let down. If this were the only solution, then I’m not sure how highly I would recommend this product. However, I also noticed something strange when I took the Hi5 out of the box.
This funny looking flexible USB to Micro USB adapter was included. It was not mentioned in the User’s Guide, or on the contents on the box.
Then I remembered the press release that had initially piqued my interest in Hi5, and went back and checked it. Sure enough, this little adapter’s purpose WAS explained in the release (it is also mentioned on the ibattz website), and was part of the reason I was interested in this case, despite the lack of a built in Lightning connector. This flexible adapter was included for use in combination with Apple’s new Lightning to Micro USB Adapter (shown above, next to the flexible connector. This is not included with the Hi5).
Together, they form a much smaller, tidier, and more rugged tether from your iPhone 5 to the Hi5’s power bank. I can get this in and out of my pocket with little or no trouble.
Now, there is the fact that this Apple adapter costs and extra $19, and doesn’t come with the ibattz case. That is definitely not working in its favor. However, when you consider that most other comparable case are going to run close to $100, this isn’t unforgivable. Add in the fact that the power bank is detachable and that it can be used with other devices, and you have what I think is an acceptable balance.
Usually, when I take a look at a device or accessory that is built around a compromise or work-around for a problem or missing piece, I don’t expect much. That’s because these devices are usually crap. There’s just no other way to say it. However, the Mojo Hi5 Powerbank is an exception to this rule. As discussed above, it certainly isn’t a perfect battery case, but it also has some polish and design touches that show more thought and effort that usual in this category.
While you will have to bring your own Lightning to this relationship, the Hi5 does hold up its end after that, offering up plenty of extra juice for the hungriest of power users. It also brings more flexibility than most other iPhone battery cases, with its ability to both detach the battery from the case, and to charge other devices. Those who prefer the integrated design of the mophie Juice Pack line, and don’t mind the extra bulk will probably be better off waiting until they finally release their new model for the iPhone 5. However, users who don’t care as much about an integrated case, and those who want something a bit more flexible, the ibattz Mojo Hi5 Powerbank is a worthy solution that is available today. If you do decide to get one, be sure to pick up Apple’s Lightning to Micro USB adapter. You won’t regret it.
The ibattz Mojo Hi5 Powerbank for the iPhone 5 is available from Amazon for $79.90.
The ibattz Mojo Hi5 Powerbank was provided by ibattz for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.