Android Phone Accessory Review: PowerSkin Battery Case for MyTouch 4G

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Battery life continues to be the bane of smartphones. The technology hasn’t significantly improved in quite some time, which is problematic because the power and functionality of the small devices has increased exponentially. This results in some state-of-the-art devices with battery life that can only be described as horrific. There are a few options for how one might address the current situation but none of them are particularly good. Manufacturers can slow down their devices so they use less power or they can increase the size of the battery. Neither is a particularly good solution. Users, on the other hand, might choose to keep an external battery with them at all times or have charging stations at key points where they spend the majority of their time. I, for one, always have the charger available in both my home and work studies, and I keep car chargers in both Elana’s and my cars. In addition, I almost always carry an external battery with me so that in a crunch I have an option that will keep me going.

The iPhone 4 has fairly good battery life, although I am perplexed as to how Apple thought they could produce an advertisement that talked about stellar battery life when it just isn’t the case. The MyTouch 4G is, at least in my experience, significantly worse. (No, it isn’t as bad as some devices I have tried, but it is far from “good”.)

I was interested in checking out the PowerSkin for the MyTouch 4G. The PowerSkin is described as a “flex protective cover with built-in rechargeable battery”. What that means is that it is a silicone protective case that has an external battery built right into it. It is a different approach than some companies have taken with regard to “battery cases”, since this is soft flexible material rather than a hard shell, and it was rather intriguing to me. I’ve used it for a brief time, and I’m ready to render a verdict.

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From the Company:

Life charges on. With twice the power for your smartphone, your life charges on. You can keep working. Keep playing. Keep moving. PowerSkin® is your go-to, go-anywhere, go on-and-on power source. Because battery life is life.
And when (not if) you drop your phone along the way, life charges on. With a sleek, protective design that fits your phone and your style like a second skin, PowerSkin® is there where the silicone rubber hits the road of your life. More, PowerSkin® is XPAL Powered, meaning it’s charged by patented battery technology that reflects the highest standards of safety, quality, and performance. We’ve got you — and your phone — covered. Keep charging on.

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Features and Specs:

One piece tough case
Soft silicone rubber
Provides twice the power
100% recycled case
Smart battery technology
LED battery status lights
Patented XPAL Powered™ battery technology

Power Capacity: 1500mAh
Input Spec: 5V, 0.5A
Output Spec: 5V, 0.5A
Talk Time: 320 Mins*
Standby:260 Hours*
Product Dimensions:
4.97L X 2.93W X 0.78H inches
12.6L X 7.4W X 1.98H cm
Weight: 0.19lbs / 87.9g
Package Contents: PowerSkin Case

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In the box you’ll find the actual silicon battery, and that’s pretty much it. I’m not a huge fan of silicone cases to begin with, so this case started with a few “me, personally” strikes against it. The material is soft and a bit on the mushy side. That isn’t great from a “hand-feel” perspective but it does add some nice “bump” protection to the phone.

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As you can see, there is a central area around the back which is slightly separated from the rest of the case. This is, of course, the battery. The rest of the case is just that, a silicone case that wraps around the phone to protect the back, sides, top and bottom.

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The design of the phone is such that the charging port is on the side rather than on the bottom of the device. If you look at something like the Mophie JuicePack Air for the iPhone you’ll notice that it’s a little bit longer at the bottom of the battery case then it is along the sides and top. The obvious reason for this is that there needs to be an area to accommodate the dock connector on the bottom. Because it is on the bottom of the device and, hence, the case, the extra area is for the most part unnoticeable.

The design of the MyTouch 4G and its side port makes such unobtrusive connections all but impossible. To accommodate the micro USB charging port this case has to add extra material along the side. In designing the case, however, they decided not to make the entire side bigger, but just the area where the connection is made. It was a good practical choice but… We’ll get to the end of this sentence shortly.

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As you can see there is a small wire leading from the battery and ending in a micro USB plug.

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Another view of it.

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To have the case work effectively you need to pull out the microUSB connector, plug it into the phone, and then place the phone into the case. It is an easy process that takes just a few seconds.

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But here is where you run into a problem from an aesthetic perspective. It looks horrible. I don’t know how else to say it. I tried to sugarcoat it when writing the first draft of this review but… I can’t: it looks horrible.

Now let’s be clear, it isn’t the manufacturer’s fault since, as explained above, they had no real good option but to find a way to make it work. Still, have I mentioned that… it looks horrible?

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Here’s a close-up of the area, once again, I need to point out that it looks horrible.

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If you look at the other side of the case you’ll find an external microUSB port which allows you to charge the phone and the external battery without removing it from the case. You’ll also find a cutout that helps you to know exactly where the button is for the camera shutter.

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At the bottom of the case you’ll see a whole that is intended to keep the microphone unobstructed; it lines up perfectly and does its job.

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And if you look at the upper portion of the phone’s back you’ll see that the cutouts for the flash, camera lens and speaker are perfectly placed. You will also get a good sense of just how much thickness this battery case adds to the phone. This is worth noting, since the MyTouch 40 is by no means a light phone to begin with. With this battery case on it is bigger and heavier.

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I don’t mean to rag so heavily on this battery case. As I mentioned above, it isn’t their fault that they had to go with this design. It’s just the way it is. Unfortunately the result is a battery case that is highly unattractive. Add in the fact that many people have commented that they don’t think the phone is good-looking in the first place (even if I kind of like it!), and you end up with a battery case that does the phone no favors in the looks department.

But let’s be serious here: you are not going to use a case such as this in order to make the phone look pretty. No, you are going to use a case like this because the battery life pretty much stinks and you need some significant help if you want the phone to get you through the day.

From that perspective it’s a good choice.

In other words, this is a case where function matters, and you have to get over the form.

The PowerSkin silicone battery case for the MyTouch 4G has an MSRP of $59.99 it can be ordered directly from the company website; they currently have a coupon that will save you $10 and get you free shipping.

What I Like: The case protects the back, sides, top and bottom of the phone; the case adds a significant amount of runtime to the phone; the phone and battery can be charged without taking them apart; indicators along the back help show how much charge you have remaining

What Needs Improvement: This is not a good-looking case and the bump for the micro-USB port doesn’t help matters one bit


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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.