The best thing about Apple's new iPhone battery case is I don't need it

At the end of 2019, I've come to appreciate that the iPhone is finally fine with battery... but there's more if you want it.

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
Scott Stein
2 min read

Apple's newest Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 11 Plus. It adds a boost... but so far I haven't found it necessary.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A funny thing about Apple's newest smart battery case for the iPhone 11 and 11 Plus: I don't need it. 

Years ago, I begged for better battery life on iPhones. Battery cases were the bulky lifeline I needed to get through a day without panic. At a big all-day show like CES in Las Vegas, a battery pack was essential.

I put Apple's Smart Battery Case for the 11 Pro to the test on my NJ Transit commute, and it's a fine extra boost. The battery capacity seems to offer about half as much battery life as the phone itself, though, which isn't the same as the 2x boost I used to get on battery cases.

But in this case's case, it's more a testament to how much battery life the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro already pack. I knew this when I first reviewed the iPhones earlier this year, and in realistic everyday use it's still not the perfect all-day and then some fix that I'd love... but it's close enough. It's close enough that I now can make it through most days and only need a bit of a recharge for a security blanket.

Read more: Best iPhone 11 and 11 Pro cases you can get now  


The Smart Battery Case still has a hump, like always, but also a dedicated camera button on the side.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I'm about to head out once again to Las Vegas for CES, a show where I'll be on my feet early morning to late night, shooting photos and video, tweeting, streaming and keeping that phone pretty active. In a place like Vegas, a battery case can still be pretty key. The silicone-texture case and its weird battery hump are the same as before. At least it's easy to grip, and the weight well-balanced.

A new dedicated camera button on the side seems like a great idea, launching the camera app with a single press... but I find hunting it down and getting the right grip not worth the effort. I'm still pulling open the phone and using it the same way I always do for shots. Maybe muscle memory will take over to make me favor the camera button more.

There are other battery case options, but Apple's has Lightning cable pass-through, can recharge via Qi or Lightning and shows its battery status in the iPhone's iOS battery widget. It's really good. But while I might want it in certain instances, I don't need it anymore. Battery life on iPhones finally crossed the threshold in 2019, and I couldn't be happier.