Review: Spyder PowerShadow i4 iPhone 4/4S Battery Case

Much like normal iPhone cases, the iPhone battery case market is quickly filling up with numerous options from a multitude of competitors. Simply slapping a battery inside a piece of molded plastic won’t cut it anymore. Battery case manufacturers need to factor in size, weight, design, battery size and more. On top of that, they need to implement some type of design or feature to stand out from the crowd and differentiate.

We’ve been fortunate enough to handle and use a pretty good assortment of iPhone 4/4S battery cases over the last year including the BoostCase, Powerskin 2000, Incipio offGRID and offGRID Pro and Phonesuit Elite and more. Needless to say, we’ve built up a fairly extensive amount of knowledge regarding iPhone battery cases. And today we’re adding to that knowledge base with Spyder’s PowerShadow i4 2,000 mAh iPhone 4/4S battery case. Let’s see how it fares.

Design

Covered in a matte black, soft touch finish, the Spyder i4 mimics several other iPhone battery cases. This isn’t a bad thing though as we think the non-shiny, non-slip color/texture is a perfect combination. Another thing we like, and something that has seemingly become the norm, is the two-piece slider design. The top third of the i4 pops off the top allowing you to slide your iPhone in and out of the case. (We feel this is a better solution than some cases with you have to literally wrap the case around your phone – more secure and less prone to loosening with age.

As far as access goes, the entire screen of your iPhone is exposed. Ditto for the buttons and switches. Instead of button covers, the i4 has simple cutouts that allow easy access to all of your buttons. The only gripe we have (and it’s common with battery cases) is that the headphone cutout is too small. Anyone with a thicker 3.5mm headphone jack for mid- to higher-end headphones/earphones is going to need a small adapter to make everything play nice. Not a deal breaker per say, but something you have to consider (carrying around an adapter or removing the top piece every time you want to use headphones with a thick jack).

On the bottom of the case you’ll find a micro-USB port off to the far right, and a handful of metal contacts for the included dock (more on that in a minute) in the center.

If we are to be super picky, we’ll note that the addition of metal contacts to the bottom of the case make the bottom portion of the i4 ever so slightly thicker (~1-2mm) than your typical iPhone 4/4S battery case that uses just micro-USB. To some it’s an annoyance. Others, meanwhile, won’t notice it.

i4 Dock

We mentioned differentiation above and how battery cases are becoming a dime a dozen. While iPhone battery case manufacturers haven’t gotten too crazy yet with experimenting with different features, hardware designs, etc., i4 has found a way to make us raise an eyebrow – a stand alone dock. Most battery cases are very basic when it comes to charging — you use a micro-USB to plug it into a USB port or wall jack and away you go. The i4 in comparison can either charge by micro-USB or by way of the included dock. The dock, mind you, features the same matte black, soft touch coating that the case is covered in — very nice.

Besides the physical appearance, we have to comment on Spyder’s attention to small details, particularly the weight of the dock. At first, we saw the dock on the cover of the box and worried that it would simply be a cheap, plastic shell that weighed about as much as a feather. Thankfully, however, Spyder built a hearty dock. It’s not a gigantic paper weight, though it is definitely not going to fly around your desk or shuffle around.

Performance

Design and included perks/accessories are always nice. But the #1 purpose behind a battery case is to recharge your phone’s battery. So how does the i4 fare?

Wonderfully. The 2,000 mAh battery inside the i4 was able to get our phone right up to 95-100% almost every time, taking roughly two and a half hours. Longer stints of inactivity (on our part on the phone) saw enough power to take it to 100% plus another ~10%. Your mileage will vary, of course, if you are watching a movie/twittering away for hours on end while the case is charging your phone.

Changing pace and charging the case is a slightly longer affair of two and a half to three hours from dead to 5 full LEDs indicating a 100% charge.

Quite simply, you can bet on getting twice the battery life you do sans i4. For a lot of people, battery life isn’t a big deal as there are ample outlets/USB ports. For road warriors, however, this doubling of off-the-wall runtime is a lifesaver.

Buy or Pass?

Spyder has priced the i4 at $89.99. It’s not the cheapest battery case on the market and it’s certainly not the most expensive. We actually think it’s quite fair. For starters, the i4 comes with two removable top pieces (probably in case you lose one). It’s really not needed as the top piece is snug enough it’s not going to accidentally slide off, and there isn’t any reason to use the i4 without said piece installed. More importantly, however, the i4 comes with its own handy dock that makes charging your phone quick and easy without having to fumble with wires all the time. The dock alone could be a $20-$30 addition.

At the end of the day, the only negatives we can find with the i4 revolve around the headphone cutout that’s too small. We don’t consider thickness a “con”, really, as cramming a 2,000 mAh battery is going to understandably add some size and weight. Given that, we’d have to say the Spyder i4 is worth a serious look (we’d say put it at the top of your list) if iPhone battery cases are on your radar. It has one of the most capacious batteries on the market, includes its own dock, is contoured enough to hide some of its size and is priced decently. What’s not to like?

More: Spyder i4 Product Page

Gadgetsteria’s Rating: 8.5

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