PowerSkin Battery Case for iPhone 4

PowerSkin for Apple iPhone 4 (AT&T and Verizon)
$79.95 US


Apple’s iPhone 4 has more battery life than its predecessors, but for many people, more is never enough. PowerSkin for iPhone 4 is a case-cum-battery that will provide lots more juice, as well as protect your precious iPhone. The Weeks Division of MyMac Labs took one out for several days of test-driving. Here’s what we found.

PowerSkin’s statistics are impressive. For your $79.95, you get an external battery with 2100 mAH (milli amp-hours) of capacity. So what’s 2100 mAH going to do for you? The iPhone 4 internal is 1400 mAH. The PowerSkin’s 2100 give you 50% more power IN ADDITION to the internal battery! The unit has an On/Off button on the bottom of the case, giving you the option to use the PowerSkin to recharge a depleted internal battery, or to leave it on, and have it keep internal battery charged until the PowerSkin is depleted.

We tried the PowerSkin both ways. I found I preferred simply leaving the PowerSkin on until it was discharged. I’d then run in the iPhone internal battery until it was low. At that point, I’d plug in the (included) USB cable to my MacBook Pro, and charge both the PowerSkin AND the internal iPhone battery together. Naturally, this takes longer than charging either one individually, but as I generally charge my iPhone at night, the additional time was not a problem for me. A depleted PowerSkin does require more charging time than a depleted iPhone, simply because the battery capacity is 50% greater.

The $64,000 question is “how much more usage time do you get with the PowerSkin?” I hate to say that your mileage may vary, but that’s the only honest answer, as individual usage habits are so variable. My usage patterns leave me with an internal iPhone battery at roughly 20% after a day’s worth of calling and Internet, so I recharge every night. Starting with a fully-charged iPhone AND PowerSkin, I could get over two and one half days worth of usage before need to recharge. This extra battery life tracks closely with the 50% increase in capacity of the PowerSkin compared to the stock iPhone battery.

While I loved the extra battery life, I was not as crazy about the ergonomics of the unit. The PowerSkin is made of a grippy material that makes it very easy to hold. Unfortunately, that same grippiness prevents it from sliding smoothly into a trouser or shirt pocket. The PowerSkin also makes the iPhone bulkier, and I could not fit the PowerSkin into the front pocket of the dress shirts I wear at work.

And yes, Virginia, there’s no free lunch; the PowerSkin adds weight to the iPhone. The PowerSkin weighs 81 grams, and the iPhone 4 weighs 137 grams, so the PowerSkin adds 61% to the weight of the iPhone itself. Using the PowerSkin does not count as weightlifting, but you’ll notice the extra size and weight.

Unfortunately, I found both the Sleep/Wake button and the volume buttons noticeably harder to press with the iPhone in the PowerSkin. The extra pressure needed to depress the buttons proved to be annoying as I spent more using the review unit. Fortunately, the iPhone’s Home button is not covered, so at least this critical button work normally.

Conclusion: At the end of my trial period, I came away liking the fact that the PowerSkin’s extra battery capacity greatly cut the need to recharge. But I did not like the fact that the review unit’s covers for the Sleep/Wake and Volume buttons required more force to press than I liked. In addition, the inability to easily slip the PowerSkin into my pockets made me decide I would not use the PowerSkin regularly, in spite of the extra battery life.

MyMac rating 6 out of 10.

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