The iPhone 5 offers decent to good battery life by today’s smartphone standards, but what about those days when you need to use your phone a lot and you’re not near a powered USB port?
Mophie has been making power packs for Apple products for many years and arguably, they make quality products (Apple sells Mophie products in their stores). For the iPhone 5, Mophie has released two juice packs - the Helium and the Air - that offer about 80% - 100% battery capacity of the iPhone 5.
I’ve had a chance to use both the Helium and the Air. A quick note about the Mophie Juice Pack Air: I liked the build quality and it doesn’t add any noticeable thickness or weight above and beyond the Helium, but the pass through buttons for the volume, vibrate rocker, and power button were tough to operate and offered very little feedback. With those issues, I decided to return the Air and keep the Helium.
So how is the Helium? It’s also well built like the Air, but it leaves parts of your phone (power and volume buttons, and vibrate rocker) exposed to dust/debris. Some users have noted that it is more difficult to find and press the exposed buttons as they are recessed in the case, but I find this to be a good quality of the case to prevent accidental key presses. If you have “fat fingers” this might not be a great case for you. You will also notice that the Helium does indeed have a smaller capacity battery than the Air. I Helium runs out of juice approximately 1.5 - 2 hours before the Air. As a case for a phone, the Helium is feels great with soft touch hard plastic. It provides a good amount of traction in your hand and on various surfaces but can still slip in and out of pockets and purses with relative ease.
Despite the Helium’s build quality and reliability, the fact that it requires a Micro USB connection for charging is a mixed blessing. I would have preferred that they stuck the Lightning connector because the Micro USB connection has traditionally been the weak point of most Juice Packs (Mophie included). These ports easily break after repeated use, and even brand new out of the box, the Micro USB cable could easily plug in and out of both my Air and Helium. That’s usually not good news for longevity. One last point I want to make about the Micro USB connection on this generation of Juice Packs - they do not allow you to sync your iPhone with your computer when connected. You must use WiFi sync or remove the bottom of the Juice Pack and connect your standard Lightning cable to sync, update, restore your iPhone.
So, should you buy it?
Yes if you are are power user who is unable to plug your phone into a power source throughout your day. Essentially, if your iPhone dies before you are ready for it to quit, you could benefit from buying a Juice Pack. Just know that your phone will be heavier and thicker, as well as taller.
Personally, I am keeping the Helium for my day trips where I will be frequently using the camera and GPS. If you follow the instructions from Mophie about when to turn off and on the Juice Pack, you will notice a slight bump in battery life compared to just leaving the Juice Pack on all the time.