Cases for the Phone 5 abound, but when a battery recharging system is built in, the field narrows considerably. There’s often a trade-off between protection and convenience, feature accessibility and weight that must be taken into account. For a battery-enabled iPhone case to be truly useful, it must circumvent the problems, not just play to its strengths. The PowerSkin for iPhone 5 manages to do all this.
I wanted a case to protect the iPhone from inadvertent disaster — but not so bulky that It wouldn’t fit in a pocket. The PowerSkin for iPhone 5 is made from a smooth silicone composite that is stiff but somewhat flexible. First I pulled out the lightning connector inside its bottom edge and connected it to the iPhone. Then I inserted the phone’s bottom into the case and worked the sides around it. Finally I pulled the top of the case away from the phone and then seated the top. The screen and Home button remain uncovered. The bit of lip around the edges of the case keep the screen from touching a surface if laid face down too.
A cutout in the side of the case let the ringer tab peek through and the cutout in the back accommodates the camera lens and LED. The volume touch buttons are covered though. A micro-USB port at the bottom side of the case plugs in for charging and syncing. This is one of the highlights of the PowerSkin: most battery cases for the iPhone 5 can charge both the internal battery and the iPhone when plugged into USB but can not sync the phone. This means you have to remove the case to connect to iTunes. Having to remove the case is counter-productive in that one might not bother to put it back on right away — and that’s when Murphy’s law kicks in. But other than having to use a micro-USB cable to connect the PowerSkin to a USB port, the iPhone 5 will function in tandem with iTunes in the normal manner.
The bottom of the case has a hole for the headphone jack. An extension cable is supplied and hangs outside — this makes the case awkward to use if left on and being moved around during the course of a day has the potential for damaging the headphone connection or the cable itself. But there’s another issue in that soemtimes the cable doesn’t transmit the commands from a pair of Apple or Apple-compatible earbuds. So the earbuds can be used to listen to, but taking a call, playing music or adjusting volume must all be done from the iPhone when this happens. I found you have to jiggle the plug of the earbuds in the extension cable socket to be sure — although it usually caused some hissing noise to occur momentarily.
I’ve found that my iPhone loses power quickly when I’m accessing 4G for data (this often happens when I’m walking the aisles of trade shows). This is the reason I wanted a battery case in the first place, so I could do a quick recharge while on the go. But I also found that the weight of the case is nothing when compared to battery cases I’ve used in the past — my wife, who has another brand battery case on her iPhone, didn’t at first believe that there was a battery there at all due to the flatness of the case’s back and the lack of weight. I had to press the recessed tab on the back to light up the blue LEDS (showing the battery strength) to prove I wasn’t making this up. The tab turns the battery power on/off with a long press.
1500 mAH battery extends talk time by up to 6.5 hours and music time up to 32 hours One piece design provides shock absorption
Battery tab can be activated if back of case pushed against a hard surface
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.