The day Incipio’s latest phone case was reviewed was always going to be a long one: up for an early morning briefing, then to another, then more work, followed by an after-work briefing. Yikes. Fortunately, we were reviewing Incipio’s take on the battery charge case, so it was going to be used with good reason.
Features and performance
When it comes to ways of dealing with a weak battery on a smartphone, there’s pretty much only one way to go: power.
Most of us know that a phone like the iPhone can only really survive a day of life, and that’s if you’re using it moderately. Try to get a little more done and make all the calls, send all the right messages, and use the phone like your life depends on it, and you’ll see that battery life drop dramatically, forcing you into the arms of a battery fixing solution like a portable power bank.
But these can often be a hassle to carry around, because you just know you need to carry around a brick as well as the cable needed to deliver the charge from that brick to your device, too.
Fortunately, case and accessory manufacturers have worked out how to bring the power to the phone without any of the messy cables, and have done so for a number of years.
These middleman solutions are often cases with the power bank built directly in, plugging into the phone using the charge port found at the bottom and allowing you to switch the power on and recharge the phone simply by letting the phone rest there, syphoning its power from the energy bank built directly into the case.
They’re also not anything new, and generally rely on you needing to charge the battery inside the case overnight or on a second day, an action that will in turn charge the phone at the same time, usually over microUSB.
But microUSB isn’t the be-all end-all for charging, and it won’t be forever. Indeed, there’s a new standard coming, and it will be coming to desks, furniture, and even the kitchen counter as soon as more companies get on board.
It’s called wireless charging, and it is exactly what you think it is.
Imagine never needing to plug your phone in again and just letting it rest on a counter to bring that charge metre up, up, 100 percent, yippee!
That’s the idea behind wireless charging, with the current technological standard known as “Qi” being found in smartphones from Samsung, LG, and Microsoft.
Qi doesn’t just need the wireless charging technology inside the device that needs to be charged, though, as it needs to be in a charger. You can get these independently as little charge accessories, but soon you’ll be able to find the tech in couches, tables, and even a few things IKEA will sell when you design a kitchen.
It probably won’t come as a huge surprise that Apple hasn’t jumped onto the whole wireless charging bandwagon yet, and so if you want to try this whole area and you use an iPhone, you’re a little out of luck.
Or are you?
Accessory maker Incipio has chimed in this week with a new case that blends both of those concepts into one, culminating in a battery charge case for the iPhone 6 that can also be charged with a Qi wireless charger.
The case itself is your typical plastic chassis with a hard section at the back, it’s existence pointing out specifically where the battery is, but for a nice change, you don’t need to undo multiple sections to install the phone.
That’s actually the way it is with other battery cases, with the Mophie iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cases having you load the phone into the bottom half and close it up with the top lock, while the Lifeproof variant — which in fairness is very different due to it being waterproof — has a main body you load the phone into and then closes up with a separate front section to make the phone totally sealed off from the outside world.
Incipio’s isn’t like either of these, though, and while it’s not waterproof like the Lifeproof, it does manage to feel a bit more like a case for the phone than what we’ve seen out of Mophie, specifically because installation is just like putting on a skin: you just put it on.
While the back and bottom of this case are fairly rigid, the top corners do have some flexibility to them, so you can start to push the phone in at the bottom where the necessary Lightning jack is to recharge the handset, and then apply pressure to the top section, loading the phone into place and let these briefly peel away as you manoeuvre the phone handset into the battery case.
And that’s it done, with a little bit more thickness added to the phone thanks to the case and its battery, and a method of recharging the phone in a jiffy.
It’s not the same charge style that you see on some of the other battery cases either, as Incipio opts for something closer to what we saw on the Lifeproof.
Mophie’s take on charging is almost like a constantly run power bank, and when you switch on that specific case, you’ll find it just constantly feeds the battery’s power to the phone it’s plugged into until you switch it off. Even when it hits 100%, the Mophie will keep on sending its power, as it does, until you decide it’s time — like at the end of a very long night on the town — to cut it off.
Incipio feels like it has a more logical recharge mechanism, at least in this reviewer’s eyes, and it’s bang on just like what we saw Lifeproof do recently: when you hold down the recharge mechanism on the back, it starts recharging the phone, cutting off the power supply when it hits 100% so as not to keep charging it and keep it at 100 for no apparent reason.
Granted, the battery here isn’t tremendously big, and so you won’t find much more than a recharge from around 20 or 30 percent. It’s not a full recharge, that’s one thing we do need to say.
We started our recharge in the middle of a day that was particularly long, with briefings at unusually early times, lots of activity happening that required us to be on our phone, and the constant dilemma that wireless devices being to the mobile battery pull, with the Apple Watch always connected and even a pair of a Bluetooth headphones thrown in for good measure.
It was a long work day for this reviewer, and it was a good thing we were doing this particular review then.
Our recharge even left a little bit in the tank which we used later that night, checked by pressing the button quickly (as opposed to the long press to kick the recharge to on) which showed one dot of an LED telling us how little was left.
With this case, though, we were able to get more than the full 24 hours an iPhone 6 can hardly muster. For many an iPhone user, that’s a dream.
By seven the next morning, there was still a good fifty percent or so waiting for us, which if we really needed to, could have probably ceased activity on the phone and spread it out a little thinner to keep it going until we found a Lightning port.
Except you don’t really need to go out of your way to find a charging mechanism with this gadget, and that’s because you have two ways to charge the battery and your phone inside the case.
There’s the one that is very easy, and that’s the international standard of microUSB. This is as we say a standard, and that makes it pretty much impossible not to find, since it’s on every other phone that isn’t made by Apple, and you’ll find it on pretty much any wireless keyboard for a tablet, set of Bluetooth headphones, speakers, and some cameras.
This is the most common plug about the place, and if you find a charge bar somewhere, which they have in some shopping centres and food courts, microUSB will likely be there.
If you’re living in the future, however, Incipio also has built in that nifty Qi wireless charging we mentioned at the start of this review, which allows you to plonk the phone inside the case down on a compatible charger and let it soup up without cables.
This year, we think you’d be hard pressed to find people using this technology as if it’s commonplace.
Granted, we’ll likely see a monitor and a few other desk-bound gadgets supporting the tech later this year, adding to its common use, but right now, it’s more the thing that consumers are dreaming of, though there is a couch in Australia that supports the technology with a side table, so that’s handy, too.
If you decide to use standard headphones, you will need to plug in a small headphone extender which sort of hangs out the bottom and connects to your headphone cable. It’s fairly easy to plug in, and the connection is rigid enough that you can push it in while the phone is in the case, a problem on some other battery cases, but we’d stick to wireless headphones given the extra dose of battery this offers.
Where Incipio’s case does appear to fall down a bit is from a lack of ruggedisation.
It’s thicker than the iPhone, it’s built well at the bottom, but there’s something about the top corners that leaves us feeling like they could have been reinforced better, and we don’t feel game to drop the handset.
For that, the Lifeproof charge case — the Fre Power — feels like it would be more suited, though it is a very different style chassis, and made for people who are concerned about the outside world getting into their phone at any cost, or who plan to take it swimming, because that’s a thing, too.
Trying not to drop your phone should always be practiced, that said, and outside of this one minor thing, Incipio’s Ghost Wireless Battery Case feels like it nails quite a few things that the concept sets out to achieve, adding that extra bit of the future before we all get it in our living rooms and kitchens.
Editor’s note: this review was written before the iPhone 6s arrived, but because the review is going online after the release of the iPhone 6s, we can confirm the case fits the 6s without any problems. As of the time of publication, we don’t have a price for the unit, however, and will update this review (and it’s value score) when its distributors provide one.