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Otterbox empowers Xbox controllers with hot-swappable batteries

Quick change batteries while crouching behind a burned-out car.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
2 min read
Lori Grunin/CNET

Everyone's trying to sell gamers on hardware that delivers the most immersive experience: the biggest monitors, the most surround sound-y headsets, the best games and graphics. But none of that matters if you have to pause in the middle of your AAA game to dig flagging AAs out of your controller and re-pair it once you're powered up again. Otterbox wants to fill that gap -- at least for Xbox Wireless Controllers for the Xbox X|S and Xbox One -- with its $60 Power Swap Controller Batteries. 

It's a kit comprised of a cage that slips into the compartment of the controller, a pair of batteries rated at 10 or more hours of life and a charging dock for them. They go on sale June 15, hitting as the E3 2021 gaming event winds down.

There's no magic here. The cage includes a small reserve battery that can hold your controller in stasis for 30 seconds while you pop out the old, dying battery and pop in a new, freshly charged replacement. 30 seconds doesn't sound like a long time, but the batteries are designed for easy one-handed popping. They've got quick-release buttons and an oddly shaped, chunky design that makes them easy to feel and orient without looking and to drop the dead one in the charging dock.

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Installation is a snap, thanks to the clever packaging, which provides step-by-step instructions that don't require you to figure out which cage goes in which controller from cryptic illustrations. 

Lori Grunin/CNET

Like the first batch of gaming accessories Otterbox announced this year at CES, they bear Microsoft's "Designed for Xbox" marketing stamp of approval (if you're wondering about compatibility).

Thirty seconds turns out to be a sufficiently long time when you're in the middle of a battery change, even if you fumble or need to look down. (I wouldn't play while holding the second battery in anticipation like the marketing photos imply, though.) You can get a quick check of battery status via four tiny LEDs that illuminate when you press a tiny button. When the battery is about to die, it uses its last breath to light up, glowing downward, to warn you.


It includes a dual charging dock designed for easy single-handed pop-ins.

Lori Grunin/CNET

That last is my biggest reservation. I didn't even notice when the big Alienware-head power button on my laptop frantically flashing yellow to warn me the laptop's battery was about to die (when I did see it I was terrified the laptop was overheating, because I thought it was plugged in), much less a controller's light shining toward the vicinity of my lap. I also really wish it was a full controller dock, too, rather than just for the batteries. 

But you still have the console's status indicator to go by. The individual batteries also have USB-C connections to charge them while in the controller. How durable the cage, contacts and other critical parts are remains to be seen, but the kit does carry Otterbox's lifetime warranty. 

And I just realized I don't know how to get the cage out of my controller now -- if I even can. So I guess I'll find out.

Watch this: E3 2021 Preview: Xbox, Nintendo, Bethesda and more