New Mophie case adds extra battery and storage for your iPhone. But it's pricey, and there were some glitches in our tests.
Oh, you so know the pain when your iPhone battery poops out before you get the opportunity to refuel. You're equally dismayed by a handset that lacks ample storage when you're out and about shooting pictures and video, or downloading other files.
For several years, Mophie has helped solve the former problem; it sells popular iPhone battery cases that keep the devices breathing up to twice as long. Now, the case maker is attending to the latter issue, with a new product that supplies up to 32 extra gigabytes of local storage, on top of whatever capacity iPhone you own.
It's called the Mophie Space Pack, and it performs double duty: Like other Mophies, this latest case can be used to extend your battery well into overtime, up to 8 hours-plus of extra talk time. The bonus here comes with the additional storage, which can free up space on the phone for other stuff. According to Mophie, you can store up to 16,000 more photos, up to 9,000 more songs or up to 14 more hours of video. (The iPhone, unlike some Android devices, doesn't have a memory card slot for expanding storage.)
Alas, Space Pack doesn't arrive cheaply, and it doesn't arrive without trade-offs or, as I discovered in my testing, glitches. The 16-GB version costs $149.95; the step-up 32-GB model commands $30 more. Cases come in white or black and can accommodate the iPhone 5 and 5s models.
Beyond price, using Mophie means your iPhone is encapsulated in bulky packaging, concealing the slim sexy thing that you bought. It's by no means ugly, but you're definitely substituting style for need. The matte backing feels good in my hand, but the buttons are sometimes hard to press, and you may have to rely on a supplied adapter to plug your headphones in all the way.
Physically, the new case is a tad longer but otherwise a near twin for a Mophie Juice Pack Air model battery case that doesn't boast the extra storage.
As with other Mophies, the case is divided into two unequal parts: The main body casing is the largest piece, and it slides onto the upper portion of the phone; the much smaller bottom cap snaps onto the iPhone's Lightning connector.
On the back of this removable bottom cap is a small switch you flip to start or stop charging the phone. To the left of the switch are four LED status indicators, and a small silver button. If pressing the button illuminates all four LEDs, the Mophie is fully charged. If you do need to charge the Mophie, you connect it to a computer through micro-USB. (You can charge the iPhone and the Space Pack at the same time.)
Pressing the button on the Space model serves a secondary purpose; it lets you access the storage inside the case, a requirement from Apple, since it puts limits on what can be stored where.
Storage on the Mophie is managed through a free downloadable Space app. Content inside the app is compartmentalized under icons for Photos, Videos, Music, Documents, and "Other Files." You can create your own folders, too, and sort files by name, size, type or date. Files on the Space Pack can be shared via AirPlay, AirDrop, Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, Messages and Dropbox.
But you can't store just anything on the Mophie. Movies and TV shows you buy or rent from iTunes are left to the phone's own storage; Mophie doesn't have access. The same restriction applies to any apps you get from the App Store.
On the other hand, music purchased from iTunes can be stored on the Mophie portion because the files are royalty-free, but even there, you'll run into roadblocks. You cannot directly download music files to the Mophie. Instead you must connect Mophie to a computer, which treats it an external USB drive. From there, you can copy the songs over and play them within the Space app.
You do have the ability to sync up the pictures that already reside on your phone so they're automatically copied onto the Mophie app without you connecting the case to a computer. But to free up space on your phone, you'll still have to manually delete the pictures from the iPhone's Camera Roll, a potentially laborious effort depending on how many pictures you have.
You can actually snap pictures or videos from within the Mophie app, accessing the phone's front or rear cameras to do so. Unfortunately, I encountered glitches that prevented me from seeing those images until I connected my phone to the computer. Within the app itself, a gear kept spinning.
You may be wondering what happens to the Mophie Space Pack if you lose the bottom cap where your files are stored. Anyone who picks up that piece and connects it to their own Mophie is, for now, able to read any of the files on the cap. Mophie plans to patch this security hole soon by giving you the ability to add a password. (The Space Pack app on your own phone is password protected.)
If your iPhone and Mophie batteries are dead, you won't be able to access any of the files on the Mophie.
The Mophie Space Pack has a 1700mAh battery, same as on the Juice Pack Air. But the new case also reserves extra battery power for data storage functions alone (the bottom cap). Moreover, when you're done charging the phone device, you can access that reserve to watch a two-hour movie, the company tells me.
Mophie is hitting on the pain points that some iPhone customers experience. But not everything went smoothly in my tests, and the extra battery and extra storage are going to exact a pretty premium.
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THE BOTTOM LINE
Mophie Space Pack
$149.95 for 16-GB or $179.95 for 32-GB
Pro. Case can double iPhone battery life and add considerable storage capacity.
Con. Expensive. Case adds bulk. Certain file management restrictions. A few glitches.