Battery containing cases for the iPhone aren’t new. They’ve been around for several generations of Apple’s flagship device now, and arose out of these little iWonders’ ever increasing need for more power. Incipio’s latest entrant into the category of battery cases, the OffGrid Pro, does bring a relatively new concept with it…the idea of swappable batteries, giving you a theoretical limitless supply of juice for you iPhoning needs. Want to find out more about the OffGrid Pro? Catch the full review down below!
Out of the box, Incipio’s included kit with the OffGrid Pro ($99) is impressive. The most surprising thing is that they include 2 batteries (1600mA each) with each case. A big advantage over Incipio's non-swappable battery offGrid battery case we've reviewed. In a day and age where it seems most companies are cutting included extras in their products, it’s a welcome change to see Incipio giving us more. Rounding out the included accessories are the USB charging cable, a headphone adaptor, and a cradle for charging your spare battery when it’s not installed in the case.
The case itself as it’s designed to install on your iPhone is comprised of 3 pieces: the back slab that connects to the phone via the dock connector, the battery that’s installed inside this back portion prior to installation, and a polycarbonate bumper band that installs over the front of the iPhone, snapping into place against the back sled and holding the phone firmly in place.
Once on the iPhone, the appearance of the OffGrid Pro is quite nice. The black version we're reviewing has an upscale feeling soft-touch matte finish, and the case itself is remarkably thin, considering it contains a complete backup battery. The rounded profile of the back fits perfectly with the contour of your palm when holding it, making the already slim OffGrid Pro feel even more svelte.
One slight negative to the OffGrid Pro is that there is zero “lay on the table” design, meaning that there’s no protective lip around the phone’s screen. The case sits completely flush with the iPhone’s screen.
Looking around the case we find built-in coverage for the iPhone’s volume and sleep/awake buttons, which give good, crisp feedback when pressed. The vibrate switch cutout is nice and wide, allowing the OffGrid Pro to be compatible with all versions of the iPhone 4 (both GSM and CDMA) and 4S. You will find that the headphone cutout is extremely tight, but that’s why Incipio included a headphone adaptor. Stick it on the end of your headphones and leave it, and it’ll be a non-issue.
Along the bottom of the case we find two larger openings, mirroring the iPhone’s own mic and speaker placement. One is acting as a speaker opening, but the one where the iPhone’s mic is located actually houses the micro-USB charge/sync connector. The actual opening for the mic is a small hole just under this port. This is a nice little touch by Incipio to hide the USB connector in this opening and try to keep the look across the bottom symmetrical, yet at the same time keep to as few openings/cutouts in the case as possible. In this area you’ll also find a small groove designed to allow you to easily pry off the case’s bumper band when you need to change out the backup battery.
Also at the bottom of the case, just below the phone’s Home button is the 4 LED display for the OffGrid Pro’s battery, and the power button to activate the backup charging system. This entire area is covered with a high-gloss black polycarbonate, so that at a glance, it just looks like an extension of the iPhone’s own screen. Again, just another example of Incipio’s attention to detail with the aesthetics of the OffGrid Pro. The 4 blue capacity-indicating LEDs are located in the center of this black band, indicating 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% remaining capacity. The power button is located at the right edge, and a quick press lights up the capacity indicator to show you the remaining power in your backup battery. A press and hold turns the charging system on/off.
Ok, so how does the back-up battery perform in real world usage? In rundown tests, I found that if I turned on the OffGrid Pro’s battery when my iPhone 4S displayed the “10% remaining” warning, the case’s battery would consistently charge my phone up to 70-80%, depending on how much I used my phone during the charging process. Given a 1600mAh battery, that’s not too bad. Some people may wonder why a 1600 mAh can’t fully charge the iPhone’s 1430mAh battery, but with charging any battery, up to 20% of that energy can/will be lost as heat.
Couple that with the fact that while the phone is charging, it’s also consuming power (unless you cut the phone off during the charge), and you can start to understand why a slightly bigger backup battery doesn’t “fill up” the smaller iPhone battery. But, you have two backup batteries with this system, so you should have plenty of juice to keep your iPhone going in all but the worst of scenarios. Another similar battery case worth mentioning is the iBattz Mojo battery case which also comes with two swappable backup batteries at $80, albeit doesn't include a separate charging base.
Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised by what the OffGrid Pro brings to the table. It does have a few minor issues in my eyes, like the lack of lay on the table protection, and that you have to remove the phone to swap out batteries, but all in all it’s one of, if not the best integrated case/backup battery solutions currently on the market. It’s a sleek, relatively slim, attractive case for your iPhone that aids in protecting it from scrapes/scratches/dings, and just so happens to have a replaceable backup battery stashed away in its backside.
I normally can’t stand a battery case because of the added bulk and the fact that most are just styles I’d rather not look at on my iPhone, but the OffGrid Pro breaks that mold for me. It’s the first battery case that I'm happy to have on my iPhone, and comes in at a good value for all that you get. And for that, it gets a very strong recommendation from us and our Editors' Choice award.