The iPhone 5 has arrived, and with it came the Lightning connector, replacing Apple’s 30-pin port. Figuratively speaking, the web was awash with pitchforks and torches. Understandably so, since anyone that has long owned an iPhone has invested in docks, and cases that are no longer compatible with the new device. Nevertheless, there is still a massive number of iPhone owners that didn’t upgrade to the newest generation of handset, and even a select number that purchased the iPhone 4s in light of its lower price point.
And hence why I’m still writing a review about an iPhone 4/s only compatible product, the Incipio offGrid Pro. It’s a case with a backup battery. But instead of using a built-in, fixed battery, it includes two hotswappable 1600mAh batteries that can be charged independently or directly in the case using the built-in micro-USB port. Charging status and remaining battery life is indicated by way of the 4 LED lights that sit adjacent to the power button.
Unlike most battery cases, which often sport a design that calls for you to slide the iPhone into the case, the Incipio offGrid Por uses a bumper like setup that keeps everything pinned together. It’s a slightly unorthodox approach that at first had me a bit dettered, but after using it for a few weeks it became a moot issue. Nevertheless, lose the bumper portion, and the case is worthless since the iPhone 4s could easily unhinge itself from the 30-pin conector.
The modular, or hot swappable battery design is a unique one. As a result it allows you to use the Incipio offGrid Pro as just a case, as you can negate much of the weight by not including a battery. Why you would want to, I don’t know, as it would be more bulk than it’s worth. That said, the thickness is just .57-inches, which is relatively unobtrusive compared to some other battery cases.
And while Incipio claims to include 1600mAh of juice in each battery, you can keep on dreaming. The iPhone 4s’ battery is 1420mAh, and even under the best conditions (WiFi and cellular connection off) the Incipio offGrid Pro could only recharge the handset’s battery to 70% from a 5% charge. Turn those two aforementioned features off, use the phone in the normal fashion (take a call, check your email) and you’ll be lucky to hit 60%. Now, keep in mind that there are two batteries included, so achieving a complete charge is possible without a question. However, you won’t want to carry around the second battery in your pocket, so it’s only convenient if you’re at home, the office, or in the car where the other battery can be stored and left on the charger.
Battery woes aside, the Incipio offGrid pro is a formidable case, which helps alleviate some of the above short comings. It won’t protect the screen, but in light of the thickness thanks to the battery slot, it will protect the iPhone 4s from drops on its back, one of the more fragile areas of the iPhone 4s thanks to the glass back. The edges are also protected thanks to the bumper like case, but as mentioned earlier, lose this and the Incipio offGrid Pro becomes useless.
All the ports, including the camera have been left unhindered. However, the iPhone 4s’ camera flash did have a tendency to bounce of the case, causing some light to reflect into the lens and cause an annoying flare in dark pictures. That being said, the speaker and mic ports are covered from the bottom, but are vented to compensate. Callers never complained that they sounded muffled despite this, and music sounded fine.
At 2.4oz the Incipio offGrid Pro is on spec with Mophie’s Air, which weighs 2.5oz and sports 1,500mAh. I haven’t tested the Air, but I’d imagine it too can’t charge the iPhone 4s to full, or come within 95% of a full charge. Heck, even the Juice Pack Plus Outdoor Edition iPhone 4s battery case never charged my handset to full, so the battery drawbacks while annoying, are relatively moot, at least from a comparison standpoint. That being said, the offGrid Pro allows you to pick and choose when you want the added weight of the battery, and thanks to the hot swappable battery setup, it enables you to constantly have one on the charger and avoid the need to ever plug the case, or your handset into the wall.
Bottom Line: The Incipio offGrid Pro looks a bit better on paper than in actual everyday use. It’s not able to fully charge the iPhone 4s despite boasting 1,600mAh of juice. However, thanks to the hot swappable battery setup (two batteries) and external charger, it makes it one of the most convenient battery cases available for the iPhone 4s. We’re just wondering when they’ll release an iPhone 5 model.
Pros: Hot swappable batteries means you never have to plug it into the wall. Without the battery in place it’s a semi-light weight case that affords one some added, albeit mediocre protection. Lastly, it’s not that expensive; about $63 on Amazon.
Cons: Despite boasting two 1,600mAh in battery packs, it just can’t fully charge the iPhone 4s. Lose the offGrid Pro’s bumper portion, or if it breaks (it’s a bit thin feeling) and the case is rendered useless.
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