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Mophie Juice Pack Helium extended battery case for iPhone 5 review

Since the switch from the long serving 30 pin dock connector to the new Lightning connector in the iPhone 5, iPod Touch, iPad 4 and iPad Mini, we’ve seen accessory manufacturers scrambling to launch cases and chargers to suit Apple’s latest gadgets.

Mophie has become one of the big names in the iDevice case market and it extended that reputation recently when it became the first to launch an Apple-approved extended battery case for the iPhone 5; the Juice Pack Helium.

A new version of a range of iPhone battery cases that goes back to the iPhone 3G, the Juice Pack Helium offers protection to the iPhone 5, but first and foremost it provides an additional battery that can be boost your iPhone 5’s battery life.

Design

Fitting an additional battery into a case but keeping it slim is of course a tricky challenge, and nobody should expect extended battery cases to be wafer thin. The Helium does add a fair bit of bulk to the super-slim iPhone 5, but it’s not too much. At first the difference seems substantial, but that’s because the iPhone 5 is so slim. With case, the combination measures 14.98mm – the iPhone alone is 7.6mm thick. The case adds a further 69g of weight to the iPhone, and although this puts the combined weight into the ‘really heavy phone’ category, it’s not going to start making your arm ache. By comparison, an iPhone 5 plus Juice Pack Helium is still lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Note II and the Nokia Lumia 920!

To accommodate the Lightning connection, the case is around 1cm longer than at the bottom. We already think that the iPhone looks like a long and thin phone, but with the case it accentuates that further and effectively gives you a really long phone that takes some getting used to. The extra centimetre does have its benefits though; two chambers channel sound from the iPhone’s external speaker and seem to give it a little more ‘oomph’.

Unfortunately this extra ‘lump’ at the end of the phone also has its drawbacks. It means that it’s harder to retrieve your headphones once connected as only the very tip of the connector sticks out. Mophie provides a short 2/3-inch adapter to alleviate this problem, but we ended up preferring to connect our headphones directly to avoid the adapter sticking out the top of our trouser pockets.

The Helium is available in two colours – dark or light metallic – and our review sample came in dark metallic. The finish is slick and soft to the touch, which helps the phone grip to your hand. The back is curved and contoured to fit your palm nicely, and we actually prefer it to the sharp edges of the iPhone 5 itself.

You have access to all buttons around the iPhone, although we found that because of the added length from the case, we could no longer reach the power button up top to shut the screen off. You’ll likely find yourself using your other hand to press the power button or sliding your hand up the case to reach – both will take some getting used to.

Functionality

You charge the Helium via a micro USB connection on the bottom edge, for which a micro USB cable is provided. A full charge will take around 4-5 hours, which then gives you around 80% of the iPhone 5’s battery that can be used at will to juice up your iPhone.

You can turn charging on or off from the case at will using a slider switch on the back, which is great as it allows you to top up as and when you need. Alternatively, if you’re running really low you can flick the switch and use the full capacity of the 1,500 mAh battery inside the case to top up your iPhone. We found that a full charge from the case took our iPhone from not turning on to around 80% battery life within 2 hours, which is pretty speedy.

Next to the on/off switch on the back you’ll find four lights which illuminate in bright white to indicate how much battery you’ve got left in the case.

If you want to hook your iPhone 5 up to your PC or Mac to synchronise content from iTunes then unfortunately you’ll have to remove the case to get at the iPhone’s Lightning connection. This could be a gripe for some, but the case simply pulls apart into two pieces in a second, which isn’t much effort in the grand scheme of things.

Unfortunately we found with our review sample that there was a couple millimetres space for the iPhone to slide up and down in. It might not seem like much, and the phone hardly wobbles around inside the case, but should you accidentally slide the phone up by a millimetre or two, you’ll find that charging from the case stops. This happened a handful of times during our time with the case.

Overall

The Juice Pack Helium is the only Apple-approved extended battery case out there and as such it carries a somewhat premium price tag of £69.99. However, we know that being able to add that vital bit of power to get your phone through the day through that train ride home is priceless. For that reason we feel that many will love the Juice Pack Helium – a good-looking case that can add a whole day onto your iPhone’s battery life. However, there are a few minor hitches that if ironed out, we feel could make the case much better.

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