I’ve written numerous times about the atrocious battery life the iPhone 5 and 5s get. It’s a daily struggle for me; as an app developer it was awful. As a journalist it’s terrible. And as someone who only uses it for checking emails occasionally and playing with new apps? Still bad! That’s why unless you live with a power cord in your iPhone or have all of the cool features it comes with turned off, you need a battery case.
I loved SpyderStyle’s iPhone 4/4S battery case, which came out two years ago for the 3.5″ smartphone. It did an excellent job of providing backup power and protecting the phone without adding too much bulk. The i5d is the upgraded version for the newer iPhones, both the 5 and 5s, and promises to more than double the battery life while still coming with a charging dock, a MicroUSB charging port so you don’t have to spend $30 for an Apple-approved cable, and a charging and connectivity dock to boot. It’s the whole nine yards, almost everything you could ask for in a battery case.
What’s immediately noticeable about the i5d is the plain black design. It’s not striking, not particularly interesting, and it doesn’t do much to make the iPhone shine. The case completely envelopes the phone, covering the sides completely, so if you’re sporting a gold model you can kiss those barely noticeable rich tints goodbye. The i5d doesn’t clip onto the iPhone; instead the top is removable and snaps into place, albeit not well. It isn’t a serious problem, but if you’re like me and almost always have the phone in your hand and fiddle with it, the slightly ajar case is an instant eyesore and a regular bother.
The i5d completely covers the speakers and remains plugged into the iPhone’s Lightning port at all times, so it’s always connected. Most battery cases follow a similar style, or only cover the port; I prefer the former design because then the sound can be funneled forward, towards the user, instead of sideways. It’s the difference between cupping a hand over the speaker when watching video or listening to music and just holding the phone normally. However, the blocked speakers mean that the 3.5mm audio jack is also blocked. The company includes an adapter, but if you want to listen to music or make calls, you’ll need to carry the separate cable around with you everywhere or rely solely on Bluetooth.
Further, because the bottom is covered as it was with the previous i4d, the i5d ships with a docking station. In the past version, it was specifically to charge the iPhone and battery; this one will also connect to a computer directly just by placing the phone in the dock, no special cables, just the metal strips. It’s really cool, and especially helpful for users or developers who like backing their devices up to a computer or are using the iPhone for work. As a dock, it’s as limited as can be: place the iPhone in and out and it’ll connect and charge. No angle adjustment or micro-suction or anything else. That said, the i5d is a battery case and dock, not a dedicated accessory for either function.
Battery life is more than doubles the iPhone 5s. The i5d has a 2000mAh battery (compared to the 1432mAh battery on the iPhone 5 and 1560mAh battery), and in testing the iPhone 5s could be fully charged by the case when not in use (but still on), and could reach 80% charge (from 1%) with some use (a few phone calls, email fetching, minor app use). It performs very well, and if you follow general best practices for retaining battery life of your iPhone over time, then the i5d performs very well. And if you don’t, it also is very good.
Aesthetics aside, the SpyderStyle i5d is one of the best battery cases I have ever tested. Two major inconveniences are notable, the extra cable necessary to use headphones or a microphone, and the slightly ajar top cover. The former can be solved pretty easily if you carry headphones or a headset around with you everywhere by just attaching the adapter to the end of the headset and leaving it there at all times, though if you use multiple headsets this obviously won’t work. The latter is just a constant annoyance. However, great battery life, instant front-facing speakers, and a dock that provides both power and a data connection are all excellent reasons to pick up this very solid iPhone 5/5s battery case. For $100, that’s a surprisingly good deal too, offering more than any of the competition for roughly the same price.