Review: NuCharge iPhone 5 interchangeable battery & case cover

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The NuCharge iPhone 5 interchangeable battery case and cover is a Kickstarter project by iKit that’s the first of its kind.  Designed to be sleek and light, but still powerful enough to nearly double your iPhone battery life, the NuCharge provides an excellent alternative to many battery charging cases on the market today.  The first time I picked up the interchangeable battery pack I was truly amazed by how lightweight and thin it was.  The sample I reviewed was a pre-production unit.  However, it was close enough to the release date that I don’t expect many major changes before the units start shipping the first week in April.

 

What is NuCharge?

Launched on Kickstarter in February, the NuCharge by iKit is the first iPhone 5 case to offer an interchangeable 1900 mAh battery pack and a variety of stylish case covers in one design. The snap-on design keeps your iPhone securely attached to the battery pack via built-in grooves in the the plastic shell that surrounds your iPhone 5.  The battery pack itself comes in either a rubberized black version or a glossy white plastic.

 

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Why the NuCharge over the competition?

Equipped with new exclusive technology from SEIKO, the Li-polymer battery is not only eco-friendly, but it also charges your iPhone 5 without heating up like many other battery pack chargers. “The battery uses an output of 1Amp which is now the new minimum allowed by Apple as of 2013.”  To be able to charge your iPhone completely with the least amount of mAh, but still be efficient, several different sizes were tested. The resulting product was a “unique Japanese IC Chip from SEIKO and PCB to allow a full charge without compromising the battery performance.  Tests used several capacities from 1500 to 2500 mAh. 1900 mAh is enough on a full charge…”

Weighing in at only 58g, the NuCharge is almost 24% lighter then the Mophie Juice Pack.  Combine the fact that it is also thinner and shorter than the Mophie, and you can see why iKit can boast about the slim profile and attractive look.  Even though the iPhone 5 is now longer than the it’s predecessor, the NuCharge still has a smaller footprint then the Juice Pack designed for the iPhone 4/4S–that’s impressive.

 

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Features / Access

With the NuCharge you get a different approach to what we typically see in a battery case charger. With theses changes comes a new take on both design and functionality that help make it stand out. However, one of the biggest obstacles to building an accessory for the iPhone 5 was to obtain an Apple Manufacturing License.  In order to be able to make the NuCharge an MFI product plan had to be submitted and approved by Apple.

MFI-licensing

When looking at the back of the case, there are four LED indicators lights on the right side panel indicate the amount of battery life remaining.  These lights can be activated  by a button on the opposite side.  There is an opening at the top left of the battery panel that is large enough for both the camera and flash allowing for a unhindered photo experience.  In addition, to reduce glare from the flash, they have followed Apple’s guidelines by using their minimum hole size requirements.

 

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The plastic shell that attaches to the battery pack is basic enough.  There is a slot to receive the mute switch and volume buttons in one elongated opening.  The top and bottom of the plastic shell is completely open allowing for unimpeded access to the sleep/wake button, the lightning connector, speaker and microphones. In addition, unlike many other battery case chargers, the NuCharge also has free access to the head-phone jack without removing any part of the case.  My sample was the black version and I find the rubber/suede-like feeling to be soft and very easy to grip. Lastly, there is a little kick-stand that, when closed is flush with the back of the battery case.  I found it to be a little tricky to access unless you have a longer finger-nail.  A quick look at the NuCharge updates page reveals that iKit is making some improvements this week, including the Kickstand being made from aluminum for added durability.  This is a welcomed update since my kickstand was made of plastic.

 

Charging

Unlike most battery charger cases on the market, the NuCharge can be converted to an even slimmer profile by exchanging the battery pack for a slim aluminum or leather case cover.  The cases are available in single or twin packs in both aluminum and leather varieties.  My testing version was made from aluminum, and although I like the brushed aluminum look, I think I would prefer the leather case cover.  My preference is based on the fact that I found that my aluminum cover was easy to bend and could become misshaped or appear dented.

 

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Lastly, how do you charge your iPhone 5 with the NuCharge attached?  Interestingly enough, in an effort to create a less bulky product the designers used a new approach to accessing the lightning connector.  At the bottom of the battery panel under the kick-stand is a tab that is flush with the back of the case.  As you pull the tab down, away from the case, the lightning connector is revealed attached to a flexible dongle that uses a “strong TPE material to offer a durable cable without compromising the design.”   When not in use, simply tuck it back into the battery panel–you’ll never even know it’s there.  Initially, this was the aspect of the battery case that gave me the greatest amount of pause. I’m glad to report, though, that not once was the connector an issue, nor did it ever get caught on anything while inside my pocket or otherwise.

A short USB cord is also included with the NuCharge.  The battery case can be charged by itself or while it is connected to your iPhone 5.  If your case is plugged into your iPhone 5 via the flexible dongle and you attach the USB cord to a charger or computer or outlet plug it will charge both the iPhone 5 and the battery case at the same time.

 

NuCharge-battery-case-kickstand-1

 

Conclusions / Release Date

Overall I was very pleased with the NuCharge by iKit.  I’m not a big fan of cases on my iPhone 5, but with the ability to add an additional full charge to my day without worrying about being close to an outlet or car charger is extremely appealing.  Add that to the fact that the NuCharge has a nice grip, protects my iPhone 5, is customizable, and is slimmer than anything other comparable battery case that I have used, and you have a very compelling combination.

 

NuCharge-battery-case-back

Let’s not forget that this is a Kickstarter Project where backing is the driving force behind bringing a product to marketplace.  Rest assured, the NuCharge delivered via Shark Design WILL be funded on March 28th, 2013 with product available in stock in the US the first week in April.  You can reserve yours now for a very competitive price of $59.  These have a msrp price of $85, so you are getting a great deal.  In addition, there early bird discounted specials, too, starting as low as $79/msrp $129, which include (4) interchangeable case covers instead of just one.  For product updates, questions and further info visit their site.

 

 

 

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