X
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

iXpand 3G review: iXpand 3G

Despite its stylish iPhone-like design, the iXpand 3G is best avoided due to its sub-par battery performance.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read

Ask any iPhone owner what they hate most about the iPhone, and 95 per cent of the time they'll say battery life. Three per cent will talk about Apple's somewhat oppressive control mechanisms, and the remaining 2 per cent is split evenly between people who lie about owning an iPhone and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series marketing managers.

3.5

iXpand 3G

The Good

Design integrates beautifully with iPhone. Can sync iTunes through the battery.

The Bad

Very weak battery power. Long charging times.

The Bottom Line

Despite its stylish iPhone-like design, the iXpand 3G is best avoided due to its sub-par battery performance.

An iPhone used regularly will be lucky to last the day, and various solutions are available for this. Beyond plugging it into a dock or USB cable, which isn't a terribly portable idea, the other solutions have mainly involved plug-in batteries or battery style cases, such as the Aigo AiPower or Mophie Juicepack. They've either looked terrible, as is the case with most clip-on batteries, or tried to hide their battery status by being cases as well.

Design

Ethereal's iXpand 3G belongs solidly in the battery camp, which would usually mean fantastically ugly. This is where the iXpand 3G differs, however. It's a stunningly good looking battery, and it does this in the simplest way possible. Like most batteries, it clips onto the bottom of an iPhone 3G/3GS or 2nd Generation iPod Touch, but it's been designed to closely mirror the style of the iPhone itself. Same black plastic, same metallic rim. At an aesthetic level, we'll easily say that the iXpand 3G is the best-looking iPhone battery pack yet.

Features

One of the interesting features of the iXpand 3G is that it supports what Ethereal refers to as "Tunelink". That's a fancy way of saying that with the supplied USB cable and battery already inserted, you can hook up to your PC or Mac and sync iTunes content to and from the iPhone. At a basic level, that will at least save you the hassle of carrying a distinct cable around if you do a lot of travel syncing.

Syncing features aside, batteries only need to do one thing, and that's supply power. It's well established that the iPhone's 1200-odd mAh battery runs out pretty quickly, and we're used to battery boosting companies boasting of all the extra power their products supply.

Except that Ethereal doesn't. All the specifications list is the ability to provide "up to three hours of additional talk time". Talking isn't everything that you might do on an iPhone, but if we take Apple's own figures as a baseline, an iPhone 3GS should have five hours of 3G talk time. That suggests that the iXpand 3G's internal battery might be as low as 600mAh. If they're using 2G talk time, it's significantly worse, as Apple's claim is 12 hours, suggesting a battery in the region of 200mAh.

Performance

The packaging for the iXpand 3G suggests it'll charge an iPhone "rapidly", but set-up certainly isn't that swift. Initial charging is suggested at eight hours, with three hours for subsequent recharges. There's no indicator to show battery level beyond a light that turns red when it's charging and green when it's done. You'll also need a USB port handy, as the cable that comes with the iXpand 3G is just a standard USB cable.

Having given it a number of charges and discharges to ensure we were dealing with a properly set up iXpand 3G battery, we set to testing it. We tested the iXpand 3G with an iPhone 3GS that we'd suitably flattened down to 45 per cent and plugged it in. Fifteen minutes later at 50 per cent charge, the lack of a lightning bolt icon on the iPhone suggested it was drawing no further power. Unplugging and replugging the iXpand 3G got it charging again for another five minutes or so, at which point the battery reported a 55 per cent charge. Then it went blank again. No amount of re-plugging, or even rebooting the iPhone could draw further power. Plugging the iXpand 3G back into its USB power source had it light up red and draw power again, indicating (as best it could) that it was indeed flat.

As a stylish battery then, the iXpand 3G gets our full and hearty applause. As a battery pack, however, it's woefully underpowered. You might get a few extra calls out of your iPhone at the end of a busy day, but that's a steep price to pay considering less visually pleasing batteries often carry a full 100 per cent additional charge on board.