After a long overdue waiting period, PhoneSuit's battery case for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 has finally arrived. It's been nearly two years since we reviewed the company's original PhoneSuit Elite battery case for the iPhone 4, which we believed was outstanding at the time and even awarded it with our Editors' Choice award. As much as iPhone 5 owners anticipated a new PhoneSuit battery case, one never came until now. So what took PhoneSuit so long to redesign a new battery case model for Apple's 4-inch smartphones? Surely it isn't because of a revolutionary new design since it's no different from its predecessor, albeit minus a few small changes. We're of course talking about PhoneSuit's new PhoneSuit Elite 5 battery case for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5. So far we've secretly had it around and have been testing it for a full month, so be sure to catch up on our full review of the PhoneSuit Elite 5 down below!
Right out of the box, apart from the obvious you also get a micro-USB to USB charging cable along with a quick start guide, and that's about it. No screen protector this time. With the supplied charging cable you can also sync your iPhone reguarly with iTunes or transfer photos to iPhoto whilst recharging both your iPhone and the Elite 5's internal battery simultaneously. However, charging up the Elite 5 takes a very very long time over a USB port on a desktop machine such as an iMac. We recommend using a USB wall adapter, preferably Apple's 12W USB Power Adapter or equivalent, which will charge up the Elite 5 much faster.
Same as before and like nearly every other battery case out there on the market, the PhoneSuit Elite 5 is designed with a slider-style two piece installation allowing you to easily slide in your iPhone 5s or iPhone 5 into the case whilst securing it with the top piece that locks into place flawlessly without any noticeable gaps between the connections. Looking at the interior we have the same type of material finish that's found on the exterior of the case which allows for a smooth buttery insertion and extraction of your device. The fit is really outstanding, and there's no plastic creaking noises or play anywhere around the entire case. It really is as solid as they come, and we appreciate that.
PhoneSuit's new Elite 5 battery case will run you $100, or just about $60 if you shop for it on Amazon – which needless to say is a considerable discount. And you'll soon find out why we wouldn't want to pay full price for the Elite 5, so it's good to know that paying full MSRP isn't the only available option. As of right now, you'll be able to pick up an Elite 5 in either a mundane black or a bright silver hue which should look swell on the black, gold and silver iPhone 5s and iPhone 5.
Taking a look behind the the case we can see that familiar glossy blue LED battery gauge window with a flush button beside it. Pressing the button once will show you the remaining battery life of the Elite 5's internal battery using 5 blue LEDs. Even more, PhoneSuit removed the power switch that was on the iPhone 4 version and incorporated it into one single multi-function button. When you want to start charging your iPhone, you can press and hold this button for a few seconds until the Elite 5 turns on and begins charging your device. You do the exact thing to stop charging and to turn off the Elite 5 in order to preserve battery for later. While this works as expected, the whole battery status LED of the Elite 5 is a bit gaudy compared to Mophie's more svelte looking battery meter found on its Juice Pack battery cases, which again are slightly more refined in general.
And of course with such a huge opening for the rear camera and dual True Tone LED flash there's no problem taking photos during the night with flash. Of course PhoneSuit is taking the opportunity of the thickness of its Elite 5 to claim that the recessed opening creates a lens hood in order to reduce lens flare, which should result in more saturated colors in photos. In a very miniscule way, we do see it being a benefit more than anything.
Since its inception, the PhoneSuit Elite battery case has been a perennial favorite amongst iPhone users. And we think that the way that it felt and performed were the two main reasons for its success. Knowing just how great PhoneSuit's previous iPhone battery case withstood real world usage, we're thrilled to report that the new Elite 5 case is no different when it comes down to performance and quality fit and finish. And in fact, the PhoneSuit Elite 5 is virtually an exact copy of its predecessor, albeit with a redesigned bottom "chin" area.
The reason for that extra round bottom portion on the Elite 5 compared to its flatter predecessor is apparently because of three things. The first is what PhoneSuit describes as a "unique and innovative" volume boosting speaker tunneling design, which if you please excuse our language, is complete bullshit. It has no affect on the volume output of the speaker, and only minimally alters the sound output which we don't think is noticeable enough to make any difference in the way you hear your music or any audio for that matter. Thankfully the significant speaker tunneling does not negatively affect the audio quality which is great.
Let's get one important thing out of the way though, and we're talking of course about the Elite 5's battery charging capability. With a 2100mAh internal battery capacity, the Elite 5 is able to fully charge up an iPhone 5s from 0% to 100%, rather quickly. Although the iPhone 5s' internal battery is smaller than the Elite 5's at just 1560mAh, it seems as though the additional capacity of the Elite 5 isn't powerful enough to efficiently provide more juice than what it claims to offer which is twice the battery life of the iPhone 5. Note that we also tested the iPhone 5s with the Elite 5, and it was indeed capable to providing enough power to charge a fully dead iPhone 5s back to a full fresh charged state.
It's worth noting that during the time of charging, we did notice that the Elite 5's rear would noticeably get warm. Nevertheless, we're happy to see that PhoneSuit once again did what we had anticipated which is to design a battery case that would extend the iPhone's battery life to a certain point where users will have plenty of backup energy to use their device day in and day out.
Unlike before, this time PhoneSuit opted for a slightly different looking design by giving the bottom end of the Elite 5 a much rounder, unconventional look. It may not appeal to everyone's taste, but it does indeed streamline the shape of the case and is simply a different approach to moving around the integration of the Lightning and micro-USB connector components which aren't very easy to incorporate into battery cases without leaving behind some form of a bulge or an exaggerated chin. But that's not all that's different in terms of design. The Elite 5's rear is completely well rounded so that it fits in your hand very nicely. Every edge and corner around the Elite 5 has been tapered and rounded leaving a seemingly unflat, ergonomic sensation when holding the iPhone encased in the Elite 5. It's as comfortable to hold as its predecessor, it not more so. Together with a silky smooth finish and rounded contours, the PhoneSuit 5 is as delightful to hold as holding or petting a baby panda.
The second supposed enhancement this bottom area brings to light is the fact that it has been designed to ensure proper compatibility with both angled and straight 3.5mm audio plugs. Or so PhoneSuit claims. But the bad news is - the iPhone's headphone port is highly recessed when the Elite 5 case is installed and contrary to phoneSuit’s compatibility boasting, does not fit a lot of slim L-shaped and straight 3.5mm plugs including the all-too popular Beats headphones. We tried using the slimmest L-shaped audio plug we found that is made by JBL, and we sill couldn’t fit it into the iPhone’s audio port without using force. None of the angled plugs commonly found on JAYS in-ear headphones did not fit either. If your headphone plug is any larger in size than the standard ultra-slim Apple EarPods 3.5mm plug, you most likely wouldn't be able to plug them in using this case unfortunately.
Even the build quality is virtually exactly the same as before, which is surprisingly good. It's so solid that you can probably hit someone in the head with it and inflict some harmful self defense damage. The PhoneSuit Elite 5 is rock solid all around with that same exact exterior finish which has a subtle and very pleasing matte finish that's grippy, but doesn't attract lint making it a breeze to quickly pull out from within a deep pocket. I've always taken a liking to PhoneSuit's superb case finish because it just felt superior to other soft and sensitive finishes that are often found on many other cases.
PhoneSuit uses a special rubber and polycarbonate composite material to make the Elite 5 battery case and it shows. And unlike rubberized matte coatings that seem like they could peel off with heavy use or scratches, the Elite 5's matte soft-touch finish feels like it's actually part of the material that makes up the rigid construction of the case itself. And if you look closely you'll notice that the Elite 5's exterior finish is actually slightly metallic which looks really nice compared to ordinary flat black matte coatings. I do believe that PhoneSuit's silver colored Elite 5 also features the same type of metallic soft-touch finish as the black color.
An interesting little detail regarding the Elite 5's rear logo, which PhoneSuit says is a premium nickel metal accent that supposedly adds a distinct look and luxurious feel to the case, really doesn't. Contrary to PhoneSuit's claims, this metal logo inlay gives the Elite 5 a generic nameplate-looking branding that in no way looks or feels premium. We really think that PhoneSuit should have stayed with its old embossed rear logo design, or at least made an effort to make a unique metallic embossed logo instead of laser engraving its name on a generic-looking nameplate. Not good enough; especially when you're boasting about how great of a design feature it is.
PhoneSuit also mentions that because it uses this rubber and polycarbonate composite to make the Elite 5, its shock-absorbing properties should offer "extreme drop protection". We're quite skeptical about this as the case does feel much harder than your typical hybrid or rubberized protective case. Though you should get some decent protection. However, the front of the case features a very minimal amount of lay-on-the-table edge which should protect the screen of the iPhone from touching a flat surface. It does exactly that every though you can barely make out that there's a raised edge around the bezel of the iPhone, but if you were to drop your iPhone you should pray for the best.
Remember that little word called "polish" we talked about earlier? Well here's a perfect example of what we means by saying the PhoneSuit Elite 5 isn't as polished as Mophie's Juice Pack Air and Juice Pack Plus offerings. If you look at the Elite 5's top and side openings for the iPhone's button controls, you'll notice the difference between Mophie's thoughtful implementation of integrated pass-through buttons compared to PhoneSuit's basic cutout openings. The problem is that pressing the iPhone's buttons through these openings isn't nearly as pleasant as pressing an actual protruding button. The Elite 5's button openings are slightly recessed and make you squeeze your finger harder than you'd normally would in order to reach and actually press on a button.
When you're paying as much as $100 on a case you would expect a bit more attention to detail, wouldn't you? We think so, and PhoneSuit has definitely had enough time to implement an easier method rather than offering a basic workaround at this price. granted Mophie's first Helium battery case for the iPhone 5 did not and still doesn't feature integrated control buttons, but at least Mophie does offer other well suited battery case alternatives.
As much as the Elite 5 feels nice and smooth to hold, there's no denying the fact that it adds a significant amount of bulk to your iPhone. That said, no sufficient battery case is going to be as great to use as an ordinary case is. Given the circumstance I do think that the PhoneSuit delivers its best from a charging as well as a form factor and user friendly prospective. It's a chunky and hefty case, but with a 2100mAh rechargeable battery stuffed inside there's not much we can complain about. If want something sleeker and slimmer, you'd need to sacrifice battery capacity or opt for an external backup battery pack altogether. It definitely does take time getting used to the additional bulk, and once you do it becomes less significant. But what you'll never be able to get your thumb around is the fact that you won't have the same touchscreen reach with the Elite 5 on when using your one hand to navigate across the 4-inch screen.
What it really comes down to is whether you prefer to use a battery case which is essentially a more convenient all-in-one backup solution, or having the ability to use your favorite slim case that's not as bulky as the PhoneSuit, but you'll need to carry with you an additional external battery pack to charge your iPhone with. The plus size is that you can get a much more powerful battery pack for less than what the PhoneSuit battery case costs. Both options have their own trade-offs, and suffice it to say you've been given a pretty clear idea of what it's like to use a battery case like the PhoneSuit Elite 5.
It isn't particularly good looking, or unique. That said, it just works and it works as described. The PhoneSuit Elite 5 somewhat transforms the iPhone into a black shape that's reminiscent of an old Sony Ericsson cell phone I once used back in the 90s, and that's really not all that appealing especially when there are other battery cases on the market like Mophie's Juice Pack Air – which are arguably better looking and more "polished" than the PhoneSuit Elite 5. But if you don't mind that, the Elite 5 is in fact a great performing battery case that will undoubtedly double your iPhone's battery life in a pleasant to use form factor. Though the $100 price tag is indeed a tough pill to swallow. That being said, you'd probably find it at a much better price on Amazon.