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Apple iPhone Smart Battery Case review: Pretty good, if you need the boost

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The Good Apple's Smart Battery Case for the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR provides solid protection, holds about a full day's charge on its own, has pass-throughs for Lightning and all buttons and speakers or mikes, can charge on its own via Qi charging and integrates with iOS to show battery status.

The Bad Bulky case feels especially chunky on the XS Max. Price, at $130, is far higher than a regular battery pack that isn't also a case. It's not very attractive.

The Bottom Line Apple's utilitarian battery case for the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR offers a key battery boost and isn't annoying to use. We'll see if any other battery case ends up doing better.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

The Apple Smart Battery Case for the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR is a bulky way to make sure your phone doesn't need a recharge. Apple has done this before, for the iPhone 6S. That battery case was mocked, but it was actually pretty good, if you found its $100 price and slightly bulbous design acceptable.

How long does the battery last?

I've been living with Apple's new and even more expensive $130 iPhone battery cases on an iPhone XS and XS Max over the past few weeks. And you know what? Weeks later, they do the job. They protect the phones, feel sturdy and add a bit of padding. The two battery cases have the same battery capacity (1,369 mAh/10.1 Wh), and in everyday use they ended up lasting just about a whole normal workday, and then dipping into the actual phone's battery at the very end of the day. That means you could use these and not have to charge your phone overnight, if you were ever in a situation where you needed that option. I was on a long flight (9 hours) recently and was able to arrive and still have basically a whole charged phone but with a depleted battery case. Apple claims a combined 39 hours of talk time, 22 hours of internet use or 27 hours of video playback for the iPhone XS or 37 hours/20 hours/25 hours on an XS Max. It's nothing like the massive battery capacity of a stand-alone charger, but in real-life use it's a bit more than I expected.

As to how long the battery lasts over time ... that remains to be seen. Also, how will the case's rubberized construction hold up after a few months or more?

Both cases add enough bulk that the phones seem downright featherweight once you take them back out, but the case's bottom-heavy weight distribution makes it easy to grip with one hand. I've used these on mission-critical trips where I needed access to my phone for photos, videos, audio recording, calls and other features. And they never annoyed me. The silicone casing can be a huge dust magnet and also collects smudges and oil, but it offers bumperlike support on the edges and the back of the phone. 

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