- Mar. 9th 2014 6:00 am PT
For the past few weeks, I’ve been testing out Mophie’s new ‘Space Pack’ battery case with included storage that it showed off earlier this year at CES. While I’ve never used a case on my iPhone for longer than a few days, I do run out of battery more often than I’d like, and Mophie’s promise of extra storage built into the hardware sparked my interest. (Oh, and I do think the name is cool and clever…) I really wanted to try out the Space Pack just to prove what I expected: You can’t possibly add more storage to an iPhone in a way that isn’t gimmicky and a poor experience. Admittedly, my expectations were far from what Mophie has been able to accomplish; considering the limitations designed into iOS software and iPhone hardware, the Mophie Space Pack is a very interesting and useful accessory…
Having local storage built directly into the case is the real advantage of the Mophie Space Pack. Because there is no cloud service to manage your files and the storage is located right in the hardware, the Space Pack interacts with media and files exactly like music, photos, and videos synced to your device.
Content is managed through Mophie’s Space app (free on the App Store) which is surprisingly well polished. It really does feel like using a cloud storage app like Dropbox to interact with your media without the requirement for a data connection with the lag of downloading and caching content.
The Space app includes access to music, movies, photos, a camera for photos and videos, documents, and more. It’s very well crafted for iOS 7 and unique enough from the stock media apps. You can take a photo or video and save it directly to the Space Pack, and the photo and video viewer can suck in your photos from your existing Camera Roll moving the data from your iPhone to the extra storage. This allows you to clear your Camera Roll and capture more photos and videos.
The music player is also very polished. Although I have access to my iTunes library over iCloud through iTunes Match, that service relies on network connectivity and can pull aggressively from my monthly data cap. The Space Pack acts as a great alternative for music storage in an instance where data use or network connectivity is an issue.
Syncing content from your computer to the Space Pack is really simple. Like other Mophies, the Space Pack charges through USB micro, and the Space Pack appears on your computer like a flash drive allowing you to easily drag and drop media and documents. Once content is saved, it’s filed appropriately and appears in the Space app when the Space Pack is connected.
Look & Feel
If you have any experience with Mophie’s other battery pack cases, you won’t see anything new with the Space Pack. Like its companions, it looks like the cross between an iPhone 3GS and an iPhone 4 or 5 with the aluminum band look and the plastic material. Even the mute switch and volume buttons resemble that of the iPhone 5, but they’re plastic to keep cost and weight down.
The actual weight is 2.8 ounces, or 0.12 ounces heavier than the Juice Pack Air. For reference, the iPhone 5s is 3.95 ounces. The weight, for me, isn’t the noticeable difference, especially with the benefit of extra power and storage. However, the height and depth increase is a trade off as with other Mophie battery cases.
- iPhone 5s 2.31 in x 4.87 in x 0.30 in
- Space Pack 2.57 in x 5.66 in x 0.63 in
- Juice Pack Air 2.58 in x 5.55 in x 0.63 in
If you’ve used a Mophie charging case before, expect about the same experience with the Space Pack. If you haven’t used one before, it feels sort of like wrapping a gaming controller around your device. It can tend to get warm when charging, but not in a negative way. You know it’s powering and that’s a positive. It being noticeably longer does affect reaching the top corners of the display when using it one-handed, but that’s a trade off for the extra power and storage. Also worth noting is the headphone extender that most headphones (Apple’s EarPods included) will require. It’s too bad this couldn’t have been designed to not need the extender, but it’s not a major issue.
Under the hood, the Space Pack is a 1700mAh battery pack which Mophie says offers up to 100% additional battery than an iPhone without the additional battery. This mirrors Apple’s ratings of up to 8 hours of talk time, 10 hours of video playback, and 40 hours of music playback. In practice, I typically got an additional 80% of battery out of the Space Pack when charging from a dead iPhone until the Space Pack died while actively using and multitasking on my iPhone in normal use.
Because the media and document playback functionality of the Space Pack requires power, the Space Pack will reserve a percentage of battery for the case to support playback after it decides it has ran out of juice for your iPhone. While I never hit the limit on reserve battery during media playback, I wouldn’t expect too much more use time after the Space Pack dies.
As with Mophie’s other battery packs and cases, the hardware features a four dot battery indicator to give you an idea of how much power is left (or needed until full). Additionally, the Space app will notify you just like the case indicator lights. I anticipated the software to read a numerical percentage unlike the hardware lights, but it is the same implementation as the hardware indicators. As various uses strongly impact what a percentage actually means, the use of dots even in the software is not a huge deal.
If extra battery life is all you’re looking for, Mophie’s Juice Pack Air (Amazon Prime for $84 in white, $96 in black) offers the same 1700mAh rating and performance and saves you $50 to $80 without the storage expense.
The appeal of extra storage is the focus of the Space Pack, of course. A large collection of apps and games on a 16GB device can leave little room for music, photos, and videos; and when one category gets particularly large, you may have next to zero room for content in other categories.
I’ve noticed many people purchase lower capacity devices not only for the cheaper cost but in thinking iCloud will carry the load of storing most of the content. The Space Pack is the closest implementation of actually adding storage to an iOS device after locking into factory capacity. iPhone 5 and 5s ship with 16, 32, and 64GB capacities, and Mophie’s Space Pack comes with 16 or 32GB options. My iPhone 5s is a 64GB model and the Space Pack that I’ve been testing is a 32GB model, and while I’d honestly probably never need 96GB of iPhone storage, it’s really reassuring knowing I can capture more photos and videos than both batteries combined would allow.
If you’re planning on sticking with your iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s for the long haul and you’re in the market for a battery pack case even if just for occasional adventures away from a charger, the Mophie Space Pack is a solid option and unique with its storage expansion options. While it’d be nice if you could just pop in an SD card or add more flash storage later, that’s just not the case with the iPhone and I don’t expect it ever to be.
But if you’ve never ran into an issue with storage and you’re just looking for a protective battery pack case, Mophie’s other offerings are more affordable (Helium, 1500mAh, $69) with the same battery capacity (Air, 1700mAh, $96) or even more battery capacity (Plus, 2100mAh, $114) and have a much wider range of color options. It’s not the best Mophie charging case when you’re focusing on battery capacity and price, but
the Space Pack is unequivocally the best and most unique in its field when you consider the range of problems it solves in a single case.
While I personally still prefer to use my iPhone 5s without any case at all, I look forward to being equipped with the Space Pack the next time I’m outdoors taking photos and video as the utility of additional storage and battery life is very reassuring.
Mophie’s Space Pack for iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s will be available in both black and white options with either 16GB and 32GB for $149.95 and $179.95, respectively. Pre-orders are available now through Mophie.com and Apple.com with shipping promised to start on Friday, March 14. Mophie’s Space Pack app is available now on the App Store (Space Pack required).