Tough on your iPhone 4/S? Prone to drops and breaks, and your slim case just isn’t cutting it? Want longer power for your iPhone? If you said yes to any of these questions, you might want to consider taking a gander at the Mophie Juice Pack Pro.
Designed to exceed the U.S. military’s MIL-STD 810G specifications, barring any full submersion in liquid, the Mophie Juice Pack Pro will keep your iPhone safe and secure under most conditions. While lacking complete immersion protection, the case will protect your device from rain and splashes, sand and dust, vibration and shocks, as well as drops and bumps.
The Mophie Juice Pack Pro package contents included the instruction manual, the assembled Mophie Juice Pack Pro with black faceplate/bezel, micro-USB charging/data cable, a belt clip mount as well as an internal screen protector. I write “internal” because the Juice Pack Pro’s bezel has its own protective capacitive screen cover that sits snugly atop the phone. In use the phone felt as responsive as an iPhone with a screen protector, even with essentially two screen protectors in place.
NOTE: To view a larger image of a given picture, click on it, then click on the image again and the original larger-sized image will be shown.
The boxed unit I received contained a black faceplate, but other colored faceplate and “boot” combos can be obtained from Mophie as well. However, also included separately was a red bezel, which I chose to use…my phone is a sort of “red phone” after all for IT work, so the color seemed eminently suited to its frequent IT-emergency use.
Here are the two bezels, the outer rubberized “boot” and the external 2500 mAh battery with built-in camera aperture.
Here is a closer look at the battery un-docked…
Docked with my iPhone…
Note how the bottom speaker and microphones are ported out the front just below where the phone docks into the battery. During my testing, I didn’t notice any significant degradation of sound level or quality, which was a big plus.
A closer view of the lower front with bezel and boot (outer non-slip rubberized case) in place…
The Home button cover above was responsive and only required a hair more pressure than normal to use.
The backside, where the camera aperture is deeply recessed…this had an unexpected side-effect that I will elaborate on later in the review.
(Note to self…wipe off fingerprints before inserting phone into Juice Pack Pro!)
The first real trick was to determine how best to open the Juice Pack to insert the phone in the first place. For reference, here is an exploded diagram from Mophie:
The key was loosening up the rubberized boot enveloping the bezel and battery, which was in itself an initial challenge because the boot has a lip around its edge that slips into the front bezel to keep the phone waterproof. I found that lifting the small tab just above the case battery indicator did the trick to get the ball rolling, and in no time I had the case disassembled. On the upside, a properly assembled case stands no chance of accidentally slipping off.
Continuing our tour of the Juice Pack Pro, here are some additional walk-around shots of the case assembled, but just prior to boot installation to showcase some of the case features. On the bottom of the case you will note that there is no external 30-pin connector port available. Instead, you have a battery status indicator, where pressing the large button to the left of the four LEDs illuminates the LEDs and shows the approximate battery life available. Note this is the external battery life indicator, not the current phone charge.
So, how does one connect the Juice Pack for charging? On the bottom right corner of the case is a shrouded micro-USB port, shown here sans protective case boot.
Simply plug in the included cable (or any other compatible micro-USB data/charge cable) to your computer or charger of choice and charge away. Fortunately, you can still sync data with your iPhone as well via the cable, which is a nice touch.
All right, so we have a battery nestled next to the iPhone, but how to activate the battery? On the side opposite the charge port is a simple switch.
Red is off…
Green is on (hopefully you do not have deuteranopia)…
Once the switch is flipped, the battery actuates and begins charging the internal battery. The external 2500 mAh battery has no means of detecting the iPhone’s battery state, so it will continuously attempt to charge the internal battery if left on, even if internal battery capacity is at 100%. This can be tricky for a busy user, as it wouldn’t be too hard to forget the external battery was left in the charge state and consequently deplete the reserve battery unnecessarily. As far as charging went, once my phone charge dwindled to around 20% and I switched on the external battery I could squeeze close to three full charges before having to recharge the Juice Pro battery itself.
The mute button and volume switches can be seen here in their recessed ports. Note the mute button port is suited for either 4 or 4S iPhone models.
The top of the case had recessed ports for the iPhone’s audio jack and power button, as well as a screen for the noise-cancelling microphone to keep out detritus.
While getting the waterproof boot off was tricky, getting it back on took a little effort, as slipping the boot over the side bezel anchors and sealing the edges took some practice as seen in this shot from the right side of the Juice Pack Pro. The boot rim should be even, but I haven’t quite got it to sit right above the anchors, though I was able to get it properly set later on.
Note how the ports on this side are protected. The volume buttons are shielded from direct contact and worked well but required a bit extra pressure to adjust levels. The other ports require peeling back the rubberized lips to access.
Top view with case completed. Power button is completely encased and audio jack protective flap in place…
The power button with flap pulled back…
The port covers fit snugly over their respective ports and easily bend back in place, so there is really little danger of them flopping loose.
Just how big is the case? Roughly three times as thick and a centimeter or two longer, and obviously heavier. Size-wise, this case is not for the faint-hearted or those enamored of thinness. It IS bulky and adds weight.
Can’t fit the big case in your pocket? Mophie includes a carrying clip to handle the Juice Pack Pro.
Here’s the back of the clip-on holder…
With the case clipped securely in (backside of case always faces outwards for additional protection)…
How about taking pictures with the case on? Do you recall my comment about the deep camera aperture? There is one other significant issue that might be a deal-breaker for some: pictures where flash is needed. If a user takes a picture without requiring flash, the picture is more or less fine…
What happened? The deeply recessed camera behind the external battery caused the flash to rebound off the deep battery aperture. Result? Potentially ruined shots. Depending on the lighting conditions, the reflection can be less noticeable—but it is always noticeable. This in my opinion is a serious issue in need of addressing as it limits the iPhone’s camera use to well-lit scenes, so if you’re of a nocturnal disposition (to all vampires, that’s a Bloody Mary in the photos) or taking night-life pictures, you are likely out of luck.
That drawback aside, the case is rugged. It endured holiday drops and bumps and being used in a busy home kitchen and even pesky sneak attacks from our puppy (yes, a shameless plug for our new 2 pound Chihuahua-Min Pin-Terrier mix puppy named “Poppy”). As anyone with young dogs has learned, they love to chew…and chew…and chew…
Mmm…a resilient, rubberized case, or a chew toy? While I let her gnaw for a few moments, I wasn’t about to let her drag my hapless iPhone back to her den under the toy box, and the phone and case endured, hardly showing a scratch or tooth-mark, at least on the boot portion, though I wouldn’t recommend trying this with a larger breed.
For those intrepid users who want a ruggedized case with additionally long battery life but are willing to forgo taking pictures with the flash, the Mophie Juice Pack Pro might be just the ticket. To be sure the Mophie Juice Pack Pro is targeted at a specific market…this is probably most useful for individuals who do a lot of outdoor activities or work in an environment where device impact injury is more likely, say construction or equipment technical services. However, if you are a perennial butterfinger tired of having to repair dings, dents and cracked screens, the higher initial case cost might be worth the peace of mind and cover the cost of a typical screen replacement in the first place.
Mophie Juice Pack Pro MSRP $129.95
What I Like: Superb battery life enhancement; very rugged, durable design; nice choice of bezel and boot colors to customize appearance; water-resistant; ports protected but accessible; outer case component has a nice grippy feel—but not to rubbery so as to attract dust and lint
What Needs Improvement: Very bulky; camera flash impedance can cause picture problems; pricey