Mophie's long-awaited battery case for the iPhone 5 has arrived. The Juice Pack Helium follows a close line made by its iPhone 4/S predecessors that boasts a familiar and favorable design. Mophie is considered to be the name when it comes to picking up an iPhone battery case. Now while Mophie's Juice Pack line of battery cases aren't known to carry the largest internal battery capacities on the market, we think they have a lot to give despite the fact. Juice Packs are generally the most reliable and pleasing to use iPhone battery cases, so naturally we have very high expectations for the new Helium model. Be sure to catch up on our full review down below if your iPhone 5 is in need for an extra serving of Mophie juice!
The Helium is one of the better looking iPhone 5 battery cases on the market
At first glance, the Juice Pack Helium is no different than Mophie's previous battery case solutions and that's interesting when considering it took the company a long time to release its iPhone 5 variant while competitors were already cashing in on the spacious iPhone 5 battery case arena with their own fix. Nonetheless, the Helium is one good looking battery case that unsurprisingly feels just as incredibly comfortable to hold as its predecessor, the Juice Pack Air. Whether you're typing in vertical or horizontal orientations, playing games and going about doing your usual tasks, the Juice Pack Helium does not interfer with the iPhone 5's original usage form factor.
You already know the answer to why someone would use a respectfully bulky battery case over a regular, ultra-slim case. They're arguably the most useful and helpful forms of protective cases. The iPhone 5's battery life is acceptable to some degree unless you find yourself holding onto a depleted paperweight. If you're a power user, someone who is constantly utilizing the usefulness that is the iPhone 5, but there's simply not enough battery life to back you up throughout your day - then it makes perfect sense to use a protective case like the Juice Pack Helium.
Despite the fact that you'll be increasing the thickness and weight of your iPhone 5 by twice as much, the Helium's contoured body immensely helps counteract the added bulk making it feel great to hold and use with one hand. Adjacent to that, the semi-matte rubbery finish is incredibly smooth and pleasant to the touch. While it doesn't add as much grip as I would have liked, it definitely makes the Helium all the more enjoyable to use.
And speaking about the finish, the Juice Pack Helium comes in two not-to-different color options including this devilishly handsome dark metallic we're reviewing, and a lighter silver metallic color. Which ever finish you choose, the Juice Pack Helium is going to set you back $80.
The Juice Pack Helium comes with a USB to micro-USB charging cable which you would use to recharge the Helium and the iPhone 5 simultaneously over a powered USB port. But there are a few shortcomings associated with the Helium's incapabilities. You know that amazingly convenient Lightning connector cable that came with your iPhone 5? Yeah, well forget about it. From now on, you'll resort to using the included micro-USB cable instead. However, what you won't be able to do is sync your iPhone with iTunes. Instead, you'll either have to wirelessly sync or remove the bottom portion of the Helium in order to plug a Lightning cable in.
The Juice Pack Helium is a standard hard polycarbonate protective case with the addition of a few tiny rubber nibs covering the soft-touch back surface of the case that will provide some shock-absorption while also aid in helping you glide your iPhone 5 into the case as if it were smothered in butter. The Helium separates into two pieces while the bottom is secured on and clicks into the rest of the body. The fit is snug and very secure.
Not much lay-on-the-table design going on, but the subtle raised profile does keep a very small amount of an edge that should keep your screen away from coming in contact with a flat surface such as your desk. It's normal to see such a shallow rim in these battery cases because it shaves off a few points thickness wise in order to make using the iPhone more comfortable.
You'll notice there's a conspicuous "chin" that's standard to most it not all battery cases. It's where the Lightning connector and other electronics are embedded so suffice it so say it's not something you could simply make due without. And because the iPhone 5's 3.5mm headphone port is located at the bottom, the additional thickness created by the Helium's bottom end, impedes on the use of any 3.5mm connectors that aren't as slim as the one found in the iPhone 5's EarPods.
There's a very short adapter included for help remedy the Helium's deeply recessed headphone port if you happen to be using an incompatible connector or every an accessory such as a Square credit card reader or a Jawbone Up. I can confirm that Mophie's audio adapter does support the Square card reader, as well as iPhone-compatible remotes.
On the upside however, the bottom end of the Helium features sound ports that channel and direct sound coming from the speaker towards you instead of letting the iPhone 5 output audio via its intended straight trajectory. I found the sound to be better enhanced and audible with the Helium on as opposed to using the iPhone 5 without.
Volume and power/sleep/wake buttons including the silent switch are acceptably accessible, however, there's still a considerable recessed opening that isn't comfortable to press thru. Having no integrated buttons designed into the case is definitely an small but extremely useful feature I think Mophie would have implemented after all this time.
Around the back near the bottom is where you'll have access to the Helium's on/off power switch as well as a button to check up on the Helium's remaining battery status which is displayed to you using four bright white LEDs. These are bright enough that Mophie could have added to its list of features as a handy little flashlight. TO begin charging your iPhone, all you have to do is switch the Helium on and it'll immediately start charging. Unless you manually turn it off or what Mophie calls standby mode, the Helium will continue to provide power until it is fully depleted. And that's perfectly fine because instead of using its own battery, the iPhone 5 is drawing power straight from the Helium itself until it has no more to give.
The Helium isn't a powerhouse sadly. It's the Prius equivalent of a muscle car amongst its battery case rivals.
Mophie's Juice Pack Helium packs a less than impressive 1500mAh battery when compared to some if not all of its rivals. In terms of raw performance, the Juice Pack Helium's 1500mAh battery fell short of its purported 80% extra charge. When put to the real test, I was able to constantly recharge my iPhone 5 from 1% all the way up to only 65%. I should note that while testing the Helium's battery performance, I left the iPhone 5 alone to do its thing while push notifications of emails and other services were still running as usual. In no way did I ever use or check up on my iPhone while it was set to recharge by the Helium so that I could get a true performance read that way.
An additional charge of 65% isn't all too bad and should be more than enough to last you thru a full day of heavy use. But when compared to other battery cases, notably the Juice Pack Plus-clone $70 Maxboost Defender Air and its 2000mAh internal battery capacity, the Helium by comparison is an overpriced underachiever. That being said, there still aren't any iPhone 5 battery cases out there that can beat Mophie's strong design, reliability and quality finish.
Since the release of the Juice Pack Helium on February 14 , Mophie has just recently released another battery case for the iPhone 5 called the Juice Pack Air for $100, which confusingly should have been called the Juice Pack Plus if we're keeping track of Mophie's past. The Juice Pack Air houses a slightly larger battery capacity at 1700mAh, and shares a similar design to its Juice Pack Plus sibling in that it features integrated volume, sleep/wake buttons as well as a silent switch as opposed to the Helium's standard cutouts.
Unlike the Helium's streamline and smooth design basics, the Juice Pack Air for the iPhone 5 is designed in a way that it compliment the iPhone 5's aesthetics using a similar chamfered-like profile while also adding additional beveled grip surrounding the outer perimeter of the case. If we had a choice between the two, the Juice Pack Air for the iPhone 5 would be our preferred choice as it feels like the battery case Mophie should have released instead of the Helium. But there is a caveat to the Juice Pack Air in that it's slightly wider and thicker than the Helium. And in that respect, the Helium seems like a more slimming battery case that we can appreciate using on a daily basis.
Sure there are other perfectly fine alternative solutions to the Juice Pack Helium like using an external battery backup pack which can be had in huge capacities for a lot less money. But the name of the game is convenience, it boy does it come at a price. When you're looking to get the most out of your iPhone 5, the Juice Pack Helium is the better, granted pricier and somewhat more restricting choice to make when looking for additional battery life. We're literally on the brink of giving the Juice Pack Helium our recommendation for a well built, solid iPhone 5 battery case, but some of its shortcomings including the fact that Mophie released an improved version with the recently released Juice Pack Air, the Helium is a good option for a rather slim battery case with a constrained battery performance - but not the one we feel is worthy of a its $80 price tag.