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Apple Smart Battery Case for iPhone 6S review: ​Apple's answer to iPhone battery life: Slap a case on it

Apple has responded to concerns over the iPhone's battery life with this Lightning-ready case.

Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott Stein
Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott Stein Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.

Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
3 min read

The iPhone 6S is great, but its battery life was never its strong suit. I said that in my review, and I felt the same way about the iPhone 6, too. I pair multiple fitness bands and smartwatches, stream music and generally wear out my iPhone so that it always needs a top-off charge by 4 p.m.

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7.5

Apple Smart Battery Case for iPhone 6S

The Good

The Apple Smart Battery Case's one-piece design feels comfortable and is sleeker than some competitors. Its Lightning port can charge up the case and iPhone together.

The Bad

It's expensive, and its 1,877 mAh battery capacity isn't as high as some other case options. It makes the headphone jack inaccessible to some headphones, and its bulbous design isn't all that attractive.

The Bottom Line

Apple's own iPhone 6 and 6S-compatible battery case is compact, comfortable and works with Lightning cables, but other cases exist that cost less and deliver more power.

Apple has danced around the battery limitations on the smaller 4.7-inch iPhone, adding a low-power mode in iOS 9 (which stretches battery life a bit) and pushing power-hungry users to the larger, more capacious 5.5-inch Plus phones -- whether or not they preferred its jumbo size. Third-party accessories have long addressed the battery issue, meanwhile, with everything from pocketable battery dongles to form-fitting battery cases.

Now, Apple has officially unveiled its very own iPhone Smart Battery Case, too. But at $99 in the US, £79 in the UK and AU$165 in Australia, it's more expensive than competing models. For that price, you could pick up the similarly sized Mophie Juice Pack Reserve ($60) and Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case ($40), which is well-loved on Amazon.

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Apple's case fits snugly, but there's a bulge in the back.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Smart Battery Case promises up to 18 hours of 4G LTE Web browsing, up from 10 hours for the iPhone 6S on its own -- an 80 percent boost (the specific battery capacity is 1,877 mAh). It's compatible with the iPhone 6 as well.

13 battery cases and power packs for your iPhone 6 or 6S

See all photos

I've been using Apple's new Smart Battery Case with the iPhone 6S over the weekend, and it's good. Is it all that much better than existing battery cases? Not really.

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Sarah Tew/CNET


The Smart Battery Case looks a little unattractive in photos, and even in person: the back of the case has a odd bulge where the battery pack lives, making it seem like a normal iPhone case somehow ate a battery for lunch. It's actually pretty comfortable to hold, though. The soft-touch rubbery silicone case is made of the same material as Apple's Smart Covers and cases, and slip-on iPhone accessories, lined with soft microfiber on the inside. It's available in two colors: charcoal gray (shown here) and white.

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It's about as thick as Mophie's thinnest case.

Sarah Tew/CNET


Apple's case has a few advantages: it has a Lightning cable pass-through, which means it can be charged using your default cable, while nearly all other such battery cases require a Micro-USB cable. If it's charged with one of Apple's 10- or 12-watt iPad power bricks, it can charge the iPhone and case simultaneously for faster top-off.

It's a one-piece case design, which is another plus. The soft case bends back at the top, letting the iPhone slide in and dock with a Lightning port. It's a tight squeeze, but I prefer this to the two-part snap-on designs I've used on other iPhone battery cases -- I've had some of the plastic parts break on me. And the soft interior feels gentle on the iPhone's finish.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

But it also has one of the same problems that Mophie's recent cases have suffered: the headphone port pass-through at the bottom won't fit all headphone cords. Apple suggests a separately sold extension connector; there isn't one included in the case. Mophie throws one in with its battery cases.

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Lightning cables accepted, but not all headphones fit.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A full charge with the iPhone 6S inside lasted me all day through a Jets-Giants game at the Meadowlands: by 11:30 p.m. the case's battery was expended, but the iPhone still had 65 percent charge left. Normally I wouldn't even be able to make it till dinner.

The case doesn't have an on/off button, though. It just starts charging the iPhone the moment it's attached, draining to zero before the iPhone begins drawing off its internal battery. It doesn't have a battery-life indicator either. Instead, a simple pull-down on the iPhone Notifications menu shows the case's remaining battery life along with other paired accessories.

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Speaker pass-throughs on the bottom work well enough.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's iPhone case really isn't that much better than anything else on the market, although it feels snug and sturdy. If it weren't for its higher price, I'd recommend it as one of my favorites.

But it indicates, more than ever, that the smaller iPhone should have had better battery life all along. The alternatives for power users are clear: buy a separate battery case, or go big with a Plus-size phone. I'm still not thrilled with either option. But Apple's Smart Battery Case at least acknowledges the need for solutions.

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7.5

Apple Smart Battery Case for iPhone 6S

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8
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