It has been so many months now, and we are just starting to see the market finally have battery solutions for the iPhone 5. Mophie was the first out of the gate with the release of Juice Pack Air, which retails for $99.95 and features a 1700mAh battery. This is somewhat on the expensive side, especially since I don’t think it offers enough battery life for the price. With other manufacturers getting through their licensing woes, we should see the options pile up. For the last week and a half I’ve had the chance to use the NuCharge from iKit. A iPhone 5 case with an interchangeable 1900mAh battery pack was definitely something I was stoked to try out. Do I think it can be some good competition for Mophie’s offering? Possibly, so let’s go ahead and get to that…
I’ve used a couple snappy style interchangeable cases in my time, some that have a battery pack even, but all in all, I am not a fan. It’s a convenient option for those that don’t always want the battery case on, but I just haven’t found one that I think really looks good with the iPhone 5. The NuCharge gives me that same issue, the snap-on case is your everyday plastic piece with protection for the sides of your iPhone. Leaving the top and bottom exposed to bumps and scrapes. This isn’t always a bad thing mind you, because it usually offers the slimmest package. Cut into the back of the plastic case are grooves to lock in both the cover plate as well as the battery pack. The first and biggest issue I had with this set up is I could never get the gorgeous brushed metal cover to snap off once it was on for a few hours. Every time I went to take it off I had to press, push, pull, cuss, scream and then finally, it would come off. I know this hasn’t hit its main production push yet, so a prototype model is probably what I’m using, but this can be an issue if hate having to fuss with your cases.
I had a silver aluminum version of the cover, but there are other options, including some higher quality leather backs that will be available once this hits retail. Because of the weight and bulk the battery case ads, having this cover is a nice change to having a not-so-comfortable battery pack on at all times. The iPhone with the case and back plate on is thin, light weight and very comfortable to use.
Once you get that back cover off, the part you all came here for can be slid on. First let me say that there are no issues getting this piece off. Because of how slim the back cover is, I think that plays a big part in my unsuccessful attempts at removal, but the battery pack goes on and comes off with the greatest of ease. The biggest selling strategy iKit can have is pushing the better differences between the NuCharge and Mophie’s offering. Overall, the NuCharge looks way better on paper than the Mophie Juice Pack does; battery capacity is 1900mAh opposed to Mophie’s 1700, NuCharge weighs only 58g which is almost 20 grams lighter than Mophie, and overall dimensions come in smaller with the NuCharge option, the only thing that is different is when lying flat, Mophie isn’t as tall.
The iKit NuCharge isn’t always plugged in and ready to go, a Lightning adapter slides out of the back of the case and plugs in when you need it. I find this to be an extra step that gets annoying, not only do I have to struggle to get a back plate off, I then have to pop the battery on, pull the adapter out and plug it in and then hit the power switch. I prefer convenience which this set up really is not. Overall, the design isn’t something beautiful you’ll want to write home about, it gets the job done without adding a crap-ton of bulk to the slim and sexy iPhone. The battery portion of this case features a built in kickstand for landscape movie watching, or whatever you’d want to do for prolonged usage, as well as a micro-USB port for charging. The kickstand on the prototype unit is made of plastic and definitely not something I would expect to last a couple of weeks, but their Kickstarter campaign does state that it will be made out of aluminum and will be unbreakable! All ports, button and the camera are all accessible during either the battery or back cover setup, so you won’t have to worry about getting to the headphone jack or issues with the camera not working 100%. On one side you have a small power button, and opposite you have 4 LED lights that give you the life left in the pack.
The battery has a 1900mAh capacity, which advertises a doubled battery life for your iPhone 5. I tested this 4 times, and not once did I get a 100% charge. The first time I plopped the battery pack on was at 5%, and 1.5 hours later I was at 88% before the last LED light turned off. The second time I tested this out my results were worse, bringing me from 7% all the way up to 87%. The third time was much better, finishing at 91% when plugged in at 5%, and the last time I tested was from 4% to 97%. I can’t always expect to be at a 100% charge when using a pack, but I will say that it’s nice to have the ability to snap on a case and charge up if I happen to be on the go and not around a 12volt option, or if I forget my Lightning cable.
Apple has a decent battery inside the iPhone 5, but for power users like me, we need something extra. There are options available now, and many more will be heading to your choose pleasure, so finding the right one is difficult. In my opinion, it all comes down to personal preference. Nothing myself, Mike, or any other blog tells you will be the 100% perfect choice. Do you want a case that is always on, or are you looking for something that gives you an option for easy removal from case to battery? Do you prefer a larger battery or do you want the slimmest option available? These questions and many others should always be on your mind when making a purchase like this, especially when you tack on a $100 price tag.
The NuCharge is only $59 right now via their Kickstarter campaign which ends this Thursday. This price will be $79 once iKit gets this to market. Almost half the price of Mophie’s offering, which should play a huge role in your decision to purchase. The NuCharge is offered in both black and white, which is a nice bonus depending on the iPhone you have. Right now you can drop an extra $20 and get yourself the choice between 4 Aluminum or Leather covers, which will later retail for $129. I do love the option to only ad the battery when needed, but the issue with removing the back cover hurts this idea. If they can work that out this will be a great little up on some of the ‘always on’ battery cases. Hopefully in the future iKit will offer different snap cases, getting away from this darker transparent plastic. Even a matte black to match the gorgeous battery piece would be nice.
I loved finally having a battery solution for my iPhone 5. I will probably never drop $100 on a Mophie case, so it’s nice to see manufacturers finally being able to make it to the game. The iKit NuCharge can be a big player in the battery pack game, as long as you don’t mind having the Lightning cable be an actual cable instead of built in piece to the case, and if you don’t mind the 2 piece interchangeable design. For only $59 for the next 3 days, and $79 afterwards, the NuCharge should definitely be something you consider and check out.
More: iKit NuCharge (Kickstarter Campaign)