Always find yourself with a near-depleted iPhone battery, lots of spare time and no wall socket to plug into? Two very helpful solutions are already widely available such as the battery case and the ever so popular backup battery charger. But the problem is that battery cases are bulky, heavy and impede on the way your device functions. On the other hand, most backup battery chargers charge your device separately requiring a cable to be used, often times come in very small capacities or are quite large and cumbersome to carry in your pocket. There has to be a better way, right? Rubix, a newly launched case brand, thinks that it has solved this problem with its rather unique and cleverly designed Augment Case system.
You see, it’s a divergently engineered protective case with a modular battery attachment module design called the Augment Charge. It’s a case and a battery module designed to connect seamlessly with one another in order to save space whilst letting you use a slim and lightweight protective case when you’re all juiced up. It really is as Augment describes - a “seamless integration of power and protection”, without the bulk and uninspired styling. We were given an exclusive first-look at Rubix's Augment Case and Augment Charge before their official release, so be sure to check out our full in-depth review down below!
After an unfortunate failed attempt to bring Augment to market using the crowed funding site Indiegogo, Rubix is back at it once more. This time, however, Rubix is using Kickstarter and it brought with it its near-finalized product set ready for market. As of this review you'll be able to pre-order the Augment Case on Kickstarter for $20 (will retail for $25), the Augment Charge battery accessory for $35 (will retail for $40), or if you want the full Augment experience – there's the Augment Case + Charge kit which will cost you $55 if you pre-order it before Rubix's Kickstarter project raps up (will retail for $65). Rubix plans to refine little bits and pieces before it starts shipping the Augment Case in July and the Augment Charge in August this year.
Rubix was kind enough to send us both of its Augment Case and Augment Charge in all three currently available colors: blue, red and black. While these are early review samples that will be further improved before they start to ship to customers, we think they are near final retail quality and thus we can give you a more accurate representation of how these will perform before you pull the trigger.
When you receive your Augment Case and/or Augment Charge, they'll both be presented inside distinct, high quality black sleeved tray packaging that is sure to impress.
So why design a squared iPhone case? Apart from looking really cool and making the world's most recognizable smartphone recognizable, Rubix made it so that its Augment Case could be seamlessly mounted with other peripheral devices that are part of the Augment ecosystem.
First of all, the Augment Case is a spectacular iPhone 5s case. Sure it’ll also fit the older iPhone 5 model just as well, but there’s something about the muted Touch ID home button that fits so beautifully with the Augment Case’s unusual brick-eqsue shape, that extraordinarily narrow touchscreen bezel and splendid beveled periphery. I also quite like the fact that there isn't any writing on the case except for the Rubix logo which gives the Augment a tasteful branded identity.
The Augment Case offers a dual-layered, hybrid protection and is made from a dual-injected hard polycarbonate inner core that is entirely covered with a soft TPU outer layer. It cannot be bent, and there's no material flexibility providing and firm and rigid construction all the way around. And because of its rigid body, the bottom, top and sides of the case do not flex outwards and maintain their shape around the encased device. Speaking of which, the iPhone relatively easily installs into the Augment Case and is held inside very snugly thanks to a minimal TPU overlay around the iPhone's aluminum bezel – which ensures a tight and secure fit that's also fairly easy to remove. The way the Augment Case feels very much like Lunatik's Seismik case in the way that it is made and fits the iPhone. That's no coincidence given that the founder and industrial designer of Rubix has worked with Lunatik and other brands in the past. So although Rubix is a brand new name in the accessory market, it is run by experienced individuals and a skilled manufacturing groundwork.
I genuinely fancy this case. It has to be the best squared shaped, cutting-edge case I’ve ever tested for the iPhone. It’s bewilderingly and ironically comfortable to hold and use, and it just looks awesome. Though to be honest, the Augment Case's squared corners do dig into the palm of your hand depending on how you hold you iPhone. If you’ve ever wanting a case that is slim yet could instantly change and reshape the way your iPhone felt and looked, the Augment Case is one striking proposition that shouldn’t be overlooked if you’r someone who wants to try something utterly different for once. The Augment’s TPU surface is entirely the opposite of a Magpul Bump Case. It is literally texture-less, soft and smooth to the touch much like silicone - yet the material offers plenty of grip and shock-absorbing features.
Now if you haven’t already noticed, the Augment Case makes sure to completely cover the area around the rear camera and dual LED flash of the iPhone 5s using the interior hard polycarbonate layer that is already fused to the rest of the TPU material, instead of leaving exposed areas where parts of the glass and aluminum would otherwise show as they do on so many other cases we reviewed. And what this does is add to the Augment’s visual transformational design it offers to iPhone users looking to drastically change the way their device ordinarily looks and feels. In addition, the glossy black geometric surface adds a contrasting style element against the matte colors of the Augment Case.
Upon closer inspection, we found that the TPU material used to construct the outer layer of the Augment Case is finished with a micro-coating of ant-dust properties. This means that even the black colored Augment Case does not attract or show any visible dust and lint particles, let alone pick up nasty pocket debris. The surface material can be cleaned and wiped clean very easily as it is not tacky like silicone rubber even though it feels very much like it. So although the Augment Case’s rather sharp lines and pointy squared corners aren’t necessarily the most comfortable and carrying, together with the extremely smooth and soft outer layer and the beveled edges around the iPhone’s touchscreen, the Augment Case is quite a pleasant case to hold given its strange squared nature. Strangely, I don’t find the Augment Case as painful and as intolerable as I had anticipated it to be. If you can use your iPhone 5/5s without a case at all, you might even find the Augment Case to be an improved form factor.
When it comes to protection, the Augment Case offers great everyday drop protection not only because of its hybrid design, but because of its reinforced squared corners. But don't confuse it with a more rugged protective case such as the Spigen Tough Armor if you're someone who drops their phone more often than not. The Augment Case does have a good 360-degree protection coverage thanks to its ample lip surrounding the face of the iPhone, which should keep it from getting scratched or worse should it be places on a flat surface or dropped onto the ground from pocket height.
Like its squared design, the Augment Case has unique and minimalist looking control buttons integrated into the case. The buttons have an Apple-like aesthetic with a circular concave design that is seamless with the outer TPU material. I find these to be fairly easy to press, but wish they would be a tad larger to accommodate the thumb shape more naturally.
Because of how the Augment Case frames the iPhone and extends below the bottom in order to form the attachment segment for the Augment Charge module, a row of small perforations were made so to not hinder the iPhone’s microphone and speaker while also giving the case a more interesting aesthetic appeal.
Using the touchscreen is a pleasure with this case for one reason - a user-friendly edge. The Augment Case was designed with a narrow bezel that is tapered towards the edge of the glass making it more enjoyable to to the touch.
As a size comparison, the Augment Case does add quite a bit of thickness and height to the iPhone. Though nothing that would be considered impractically bulky.
And comparing it to one of our favorite iPhone cases, the Magpul Bump Case, you can see that the Augment Case isn't all that different in size considering the fact that the Augment Case features an accessory mount at the bottom. The two are virtually share a similar case thickness, but because the Augment Case is squared, the Bump Case feels slimmer in the hand because of its tapered edges. Something worth considering if you prefer a case that will fit in your hand more comfortably and naturally.
Augment’s Charge battery isn’t by any means unique in the way that it charges your iPhone. There have been countless iterations just like it in the past. Ones with a small form factor, designed to directly connect to the bottom of the iPhone’s Lightning connector. The only real difference with the Augment Case and Charge system is that the two seamlessly work together. Unlike other separate backup battery chargers that require you to remove your protective case in order to charge your iPhone, the Augment Case has a specially designed bottom interface connection that allows the Augment Charge to securely latch on without having to remove the case. And like any other battery, the Augment Charge instantly begins charging your iPhone so long as it is connected to it and the Augment Case.
The way the Augment Case to Augment accessories reminds of of Lego bricks in the way that they connect to each other. Looking at the bottom opening of the Augment Case we can see that it is has a polycarbonate connection mount made using the dual-injection moulded interior layer. The plastic mount has cutouts for the iPhone's audio and Lightning connector ports. The area is especially tight around the audio port, however, we were able to snugly plug in a relatively bulky 3.5mm plug found on the Audio-Technica M50x. And if you already own a Lightning connector dock, you'll find that you won't be able to dock the Augment Case on it due to the highly recessed bottom opening.
Of course this will not be an issue if you'll be using the Augment Dock which Rubix plans on releasing further down the road.
The Augment Case and Charge intentionally share the same squared-shaped design language for a very good reason, it just works. And as you can tell, it all harmoniously comes together in this seamless, and albeit extensible fashion. You can continue to use your iPhone whilst it is charging. It may look ridiculous, but if you must use your iPhone when it is being charged by the Augment Charge battery it is very possible and not as unwieldy as it seems. It is quite jarring when you're holding such a long device in your hand, though before you know it your iPhone will be charged up significantly. The Augment Charge is very small so it understandably limited in its charging performance. It features a a 1200mAh internal battery capacity that on paper is said to provide an additional 60% of power. In practise, the Augment Charge did indeed meet that promise wonderfully in charging an iPhone 5s from 1% all the way back up to 64%.
I cold still fit my iPhone into my front pocket with the battery module attached to the case, but I can’t say that it feels normal. It’s not something you want to put in your pocket, however, if you need to charge your phone on the go, then it isn’t the end of the world by all means. And because of the secure connection, there isn’t a need to worry about it interrupting the charging process while you’re moving about. And if you're pockets aren't too tight, you can even pull your iPhone out by the end if the Charge module thanks to the secured attachment platform. Now you could use the Augment Charge on its own if you don't want to use the Augment Case, but it would make for a very awkward and uncomfortable holding situation.
On its side is a single button that turns on the power and doubles as a battery meter using three bright white LED lights. These will also tell you when the Augment Charge is finished charging when connected to a USB power source. As Rubix notes, you can also charge both your iPhone and the Charge battery when they’re both connected to each other, or individually - all while using the short and handy micro USB cable that comes with the Augment Charge.
Rubix told us that it would add an anti-scratch coating to the Augment Charge's glossy plastic build quality for better durability when it ships to customers. And so far that would be our only complaint against the Augment Charge as our early review samples did not have this crucial coating applied. Oh, yeah that plus the obvious fact that you won't be able to use your headphones when you're charging your iPhone because of how the Augment Charge blocks access to the iPhone's audio port. So in that regard, a traditional battery case will be a better fit for you if you find that being an issue down the road.
If Microsoft’s Windows Phone division were to make an iPhone case…it would look like this. From the back, you can hardly tell its an iPhone. The Augment Case completely transforms the familiar shape and design of the iPhone into one that may look exotically awesome to others. The Augment Case will reshape your iPhone affording you a totally brand new user experience. For us to be this impressed by a case that isn't quite fully baked and will undoubtedly be refined even further when it ships to early Kickstarter backers and later retail customers, it certainly says a lot about Rubix and its manufacturing and design efforts. Has Rubix created a better protective case and backup battery solution? We don't think it has revolutionized that concept with the Augment, but that's up to you to decide. We were very pleased with the performance of the Augment Case and Augment Charge, and for that reason we are able to recommend the Rubix Augment case and battery system.