One of the great things about using an iPhone (or any smartphone, for that matter) is that you can do so much on the phone from email, photography, graphic rich games, navigation using your GPS and so much more. The problem is that all of these tasks create a huge drain on your battery. By the way, while Apple doesn’t publish their battery specifications, doing a quick Google search reveals that the iPhone 5 has a 1440 mAh battery, iPhone 5S a 1570 mAh battery, and the 5c 1507 mAh battery. These are not huge. Comparatively, the Galaxy S4 features a 2600 mAh battery. To combat this lack of power, many companies are offering power banks and cases.
Personally I am not a big fan of power banks, as I don’t like having my phone tethered to something like a brick when I want to use it. I prefer using a battery case, though one of the down sides of the battery case has been that their added bulk to your nice, thin iPhone. Fortunately this has changed a lot over the last few years. This new generation of cases are much thinner, but while they still add a small amount of bulk and weight, at least for me, it is within reason.
Back in October of last year I went looking for a “thin-ish” battery case for my iPhone 5. I found the Mophie Juice Pack Plus with a 2100 mAh battery ($93.34 at Amazon), which was nice, and it was relatively thin for such a nicely-sized battery. But, I wanted more power. (Yes, I am power hungry! I want more mojo!) So what to do? Enter iBattz. The company with the mojo you need.
The iBattz Mojo Refuel Battery Case is thin, powerful and… wait for it… contains a replaceable 2200 mAh battery. You heard me right, a replaceable battery! Why didn’t someone think of this before? The iBattz Mojo Refuel Battery Case is a simple, elegant answer to virtually unlimited power in the field and all for only $74.95.
I have been using it over the past few months for daily use, but over the two weeks on the Fujifilm Rajasthan Photo Trek I really gave it a full workout with a lot of power-intensive tasks. While on the Photo Trek I had been using the GPS to track our movement from city to city and mark down places of interest (POI). I also used the Wi-Fi function on both my Fujifilm X-E2 and my iPhone to transfer full res jpegs to the phone, so I can work on them in the Snapseed app and publish them on Facebook. I have also been connecting the iPhone via Wi-Fi to my Fujifilm Instax Share Printer to print Instax prints for people along the way. All of these are battery-intensive tasks – I went through two and a half to three charges on the average in one day. But the Mojo Refuel Battery Case performed like a charm.
The battery case is slim and lightweight. Several folks on the trip asked to see the case and they all commented that they expected it to be bulkier and much heavier. The back half of the case, the half that contains the battery, simply slides onto the back of the iphone and charges the phone by connecting it into the case’s built in Lighting connector. Then you snap the their bumper on. It snaps onto the back of the case to hold the phone in place. Once it is all secure, you simply switch the case on by holding the small power button on the back left side of the case for two seconds. There are four blue LED lights that blink, which tell you when it is charging or how much battery usage you have left. To charge the battery there are two options. The first choice is the obvious one, you plug the case with the phone in it into the wall charger or your computer, charging the battery through the the USB port on the case. The second option, which is the less obvious one, and the one that make this battery stand out above the others, is for you to slide off the case’s back battery door and simply remove the old battery and put in a new fully charged battery. How cool is that! This is how I got two full charges from my case in one day.
So you might be thinking, what is the catch? Does the battery cost as much as the case? Is it proprietary and can you only get them through iBatzz? The answer is “no” to both of those questions. The battery is a standard I9300 cell for Samsung Galaxy S3. This battery module is very common and widely available at Amazon or on eBay. I bought two extra batteries at a battery shop in the Philippines for $10 a piece. You can also find them on eBay as well. Granted, they were third-party batteires and not Samsung, but they still work. It takes about 90 mins to fully recharge your phone. The secret is to start charging your phone before it reaches 20%. Once it goes below that, the iPhone uses more charge and takes longer to recharge.
As if this case was not innovative enough, iBatzz has some crazy-cool add-ons and accessories. One of these is the Mojo Refuel Aqua Battery Case. This is a case that snaps around the battery case and then replaces the normal iBatzz bumper with a waterproof-sealed top, much like the ever popular Lifeproof case. Unlike the LifeProof case, this is a bit bulkier. However, also unlike the LifeProof case, the Mojo Refuel Aqua Case doesn’t have an air pocket between the iPhone screen and the case’s screen. I hated my wife’s LifeProof case for that very reason. The air pocket made using her phone a real frustration in the best of times and nearly unusable at others. The iBatzz Aqua Battery Case does add bulk to the phone, but in my opinion, it is not a deal breaker since I can still use the iPhone and knowing that it is completely waterproof!
IBatzz also offers a Mojo Refuel Armor Battery Case. Talk about bulk! But once you add this to your phone a tank could run over it and you would have no issues. Ok, maybe not a tank, but certainly it almost rates as protection overkill.
The main benefits of having the ability to switch out batteries is being able to have an endless amount of charged and ready to use batteries at your disposal. The Mojo Refuel I9300 USB Charger / Power Bank Kit as made for this… literally. This is a recharger that doubles as a power bank as well. This idea is great. The charger is made to use two different size batteries, I9500 S4 and I9300 S3. It comes with one I9300 Refuel battery module when you purchases it. But remember, the Mojo Refuel Battery Case only fits with the I9300S3 battery. The I9500 S4 will work in the charger/power bank but it doesn’t fit inside the phone. The charger is super simple, a red light for charging and a blue light that indicates the battery is charged. If you are using it as a power bank to charge a device then it is blue for when the device is charging and no light for when the battery in the power bank is depleted. I had an earlier version of this kit that had trouble aligning the battery in the cradle and thus it didn’t always function right. I contacted their offices and they quickly replaced it. I am assured from the company that if you buy it online you will get the newest version. If for some reason you have issues contact the company and they will ship out a replacement right away. Frankly, I see this kit as an indispensable addition to the case, in this way you can always have a battery ready to pop into the case or use it as a power bank if you so choose.
Back to the iBattz Mojo Refuel Battery Case. I don’t want to leave you with the idea that this case is perfect – it is not. I found a few little foibles. The back battery door is nearly impossible to take off the first few times you use it. So much so, that I was scared I was going to break it. But after a few times struggling with it, it became easier to remove over time. Like so many of these cases, it uses Apple’s Lighting port to charge the iPhone, leaving it unusable. Maybe it is an issue of licensing, but like so many other battery cases, they use the Lighting port on the phone to charge the phone and only have a micro-USB to charge the case. This renders the phone useless with most Apple proprietary cords or devices. I was concerned that, by not using the Lighting adapter, I would have to take the phone out of the case to sync my phone. But, this is not the case. The iPhone charges and syncs using a micro-USB cable. Another minor issue is that I seem to inadvertently push the case’s power button when putting it in my pant pocket while sitting down or if I am wearing even remotely tight jeans. I did this a lot while riding in the taxi on this trip. Once I became aware of this I took more care of sliding it in my pocket. On a related note, if the case would turn off once the iPhone is charged, this would not be an issue. But the case just keeps feeding the iPhone’s battery and keeping it at 100%. It would be great if it would turn itself off once the phone reached 100%. The last issue is the most troubling. When I have the phone in the case and the case is charging, often times, the screen of my phone becomes unresponsive to my touch. (Weird, I know.) At first I thought there was something wrong with my phone. Then I noticed that once I unplugged the phone from the charger, it worked fine again. What’s even more strange is that it doesn’t happen all the time.
I love the Mojo Refuel Battery Case! In fact, even with its few quirks, I still highly recommend it. I know after watching me stay powered up all along the Photo Trek, Piet Van den Eynde said it would be his next purchase. (Well, after his Fujifilm X-T1, that is.) So with that said, I give the Mojo Refuel Battery Case 4.5 stars.
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- Depth of Field: Dan Carr - December 30, 2015
- Depth of Field Podcast: Piper Mackay - December 11, 2015
- The Confessions of a Digital Immigrant - December 9, 2015
- Depth of Field Podcast: David Bergman - November 25, 2015
Learn more about these fantastic workshop opportunities:
- Kashmir Valley Photo Trek and Workshop - June 8- 15, 2015
- Photography Tour of Bhutan - Sept. 18 - Oct. 10, 2015