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Review: Eight iPhone 4 battery cases

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A Mini-USB port on the bottom of the Sol case lets you charge and sync your phone (and, of course, charge the case's battery). Below the solar panel sit a power button, a series of four LEDs that show the battery’s charge level, and a separate LED that indicates the charging status. This last LED seems superfluous, but it's not a major issue. There’s also another LED on the bottom of the case, but this one is designed to be a “super bright” flashlight, and it is indeed quite bright; the flashlight lights up when you press the power button.

Unfortunately, unlike most of its competition, the Sol battery's can't itself be turned on and off, so there’s no way to tell the Sol case not to charge your iPhone. The company says it will soon launch a new version of the battery case that will include such a feature.

The Sol case’s 2400mAh provides the most power of the cases I tested, tripling your iPhone’s battery life on a full charge. It also charges more rapidly (via USB) than the other cases I tested, and it appears to charge the iPhone more quickly.

I like the Sol case. It feels nice and sturdy in my hand, packs a ton of power, and has the added awesome solar perk. I don’t love that it’s constantly feeding my iPhone power, even when the iPhone’s fully charged, so I’m even more excited about the promised sequel.

Exogear Exolife Recharageable Battery Case

Exogear's $90 Exolife Rechargeable Battery Case ( ) consists of two pieces: A dock-connector base with a battery backplate, and a plastic bumper that snaps over your iPhone and the case, holding them together.

The Exolife sports a 1500mAh battery, weights just over 2 ounces, and measures 5.1 inches tall, 2.4 inches wide, and 0.6 inches thick. The main case is black, although the outer bumper is available in several colors. (My review unit include a blue bumper.)

The Exolife charges (and syncs your iPhone) via Mini-USB; Exogear includes a three-foot USB-to-Mini-USB cable. The Exolife's Mini-USB port is a bit frustrating to access, as it’s protected by a tiny rubber flap that you must peel away to plug in the cable. I appreciate Exogear wanting to protect the port, but since so many cases don’t bother with such a flap, I bet it’s unnecessary.

Next to that flap is a small power button with a green LED that shines when the case is turned on. Exogear says the case detects when your iPhone is fully charged and shuts itself off automatically. In my testing, when the Exolife (finally) filled my iPhone to 100 percent, it still seemed to try to charge the phone—the power LED remained illuminated and the iPhone's status-bar battery icon remained in the "charging" state.

Exogear says the battery should give you seven additional hours of talk time, or six hours of Internet use, and those estimates seem reasonable based on my testing. But the device charged my iPhone noticeably more slowly than the other cases here.

I also didn’t love the case itself. The battery/bumper combo looks good and feels good in the hand, but the bumper is a bit flimsy and suffers from two flaws: The bumper makes the iPhone’s volume and Sleep/Wake buttons difficult to access, and the bumper doesn’t extend past the screen's edges in front, thus offering no screen protection. The Exolife shows a lot of potential, but I found it to be too annoying for daily use.

Macworld's buying advice

The Mophie Juice Pack Plus and the Sol Solar-Powered Charging Case were my favorite battery cases. Both felt comfortable in the hand, and both packed in tons of power. Of course, because of their high-capacity batteries, each is also on the thick side, although I didn’t consider either to be too bulky. If you crave thinness more than you power or protection, Incase’s Snap Battery Case is a fine slim alternative.

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At a Glance
  • Exogear Exolife Rechargeable Battery Case for iPhone 4

  • Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone 4

  • Third Rail Slim Case and Smart Battery System for iPhone 4

  • IvySkin Quattro4 Glass Screen Touch-Thru Case for iPhone 4 & SmartCase 4 Battery Pack

  • Incipio Snap Battery Case

  • Sol Marketplace Solar Charger Case for iPhone and iPod Touch

  • Incipio OffGrid Backup Battery Case for iPhone 4/4S

  • Mophie Juice Pack Plus for iPhone 4

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