A wireless charging iPhone 5s battery case? Why, yes please! You mean you can finally experience what it is like to wirelessly charge an iOS device and be protected with the convenience of a slim battery case? Stop the madness. And no, this isn't sarcasm but a genuinely thrilled response to what may be one of the most practical accessories made for the iPhone that we have ever come across. It's called the Aero, and it's made by a company called Unu. While not entirely distinct, the Aero is one of the very few wireless charging battery cases available for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 that packs a fairly large internal battery capacity (2000mAh mind you), into a very sleek and slim form factor. To some this may be a dream come true. To others however, the thought of adding bulk no matter how useful it may be is a ridiculous idea. So how good is the Aero as being both a battery case and a wireless charging gateway all in one? You can of course find out when you reach the full and very much comprehensive review down below.
Unu isn't new to the battery case market, and we have reviewed a few of the company's offerings in the past. But what is really impressive is that the Aero is Unu's best product yet. Alas, it isn't without its shortcomings which we will get into a little further into the review. Because now we want to focus your attention at what makes the Aero so special. Or as Apple would have put it...magical.
When you get the Aero battery case in either black or white, you also get with it a wireless charging surface or pad along with a USB cable that connects the charging pad to a power source like your computer. If you would like to save your USB port for something else you can also use a USB wall adapter, which sadly isn't included. The surface of this conductive charging pad is made out of brushed metal while the rest of the body is a silver colored plastic with two rubber feet underneath. Not as good looking as some other wireless charging pads Android and Windows Phone users have been enjoying all this time from the likes of Nokia, Google and others. Then again you'll be paying $100 for the whole Aero kit, and that's a mighty good price all things considered. Unu does also sell individual Aero Pads at $25 in case you want additional charging pads to place around your home and office.
So when you've got everything set up and ready to go, the Aero will instantly begin charging the iPhone as soon as you place it on the charging mat. Once the iPhone is fully charged, the Aero will then begin recharging its own internal battery. I've been using it for quite some time now and I couldn't be any more pleased with how flawlessly it all works. Charging is always initiated when the battery case come in contact with the wireless charging surface - all without needing to plug in a cable in to charge the case or the iPhone. And that is the biggest advantage the Aero has in that it simply offers convenience by tying together a backup battery case with the ability to charge it all using a pad. You could argue that with a charging cable you can still lift up your iPhone to use it whilst its still charging, whereas with a conductive charging method you either interfere with the charging process or have to use your device while it is laying on the charging pad. Such first world problems, right?
As long as you don't place the Aero completely horizontally on the charging pad, it will start to charge normally at any varying angle other than strictly vertical. In addition, you will also feel a slight magnetic attraction between the pad and the Aero which keeps the iPhone from sliding on top of the charging surface. Fortunately it's very minimal so you can lift your iPhone from the charging pad without it lifting off with it.
The wireless conductive technology Unu uses isn't the universal Qi standard. And that means that you will not be able to use other wireless charging pads with the Aero battery case. However, this doesn't mean that the Aero's charging capability is in any way inferior to the Qi standard. As a matter of fact, the two are virtually the same in their functionality.
This may not sound all that impressive to non iOS device users, but being able to charge your iPhone wireless using a battery case is kind of a big deal. It's like killing two birds with one stone. On one side you have a battery case that will keep your device running day in and day out, while the seconded feature enables you to simply place your iPhone whilst encased in the Aero battery case on the charging mat to charge both devices at one go. If that's not super convenient to you...I don't know what is.
You can still charge the Aero using the included micro-USB to USB cable using the micro-USB charging port on the bottom of the case. And if you're not using wireless syncing with iTunes, you can sync and back up your iPhone using the same cable without having to take off the case. Of course, like many other battery cases the Lightning connector port isn't accessible because it is being used up by the case itself in order for it to charge your phone when in need. You won't find another battery case made by a third party case manufacturer with a female Lightning connector charging port instead of a micro-USB port.
The not so good news is that charging both devices at once takes way longer than it does when using the Lightning connector cable to charge your iPhone 5s or iPhone 5 from the same USB port. It takes the Aero a very long time to fully recharge its internal battery using the supplied wireless charging pad, and even through using USB power via the cable which takes roughly 4-5 hours.
Over the years accessory manufacturers struggled to find ways that would enable them to strap battery packs to the back of the iPhone with the least amount of bulk, but with a sufficient amount of battery charging capability. Anything above 1,800mAh of battery capacity would significantly alter the entire package into one clunky, heavy device. Fortunately, not only has battery technology in battery case accessories improved recently, but more features are being added to enhance the user experience. The perfect example of all of this is uNu’s Aero. It’s the slimmest battery case we have reviewed that packs enough backup juice to charge up your device in full. It’s also the first battery case we have ever gotten our hands on that features wireless charging, which essentially means that it enables you to charge your iPhone on a wireless charging pad without ever having to plug in a traditional charging cable. What's more is that the Aero will also charge itself up over this inductive charging surface. All this without weird bulging bits or added bulk.
Unu claims that its Aero can provide an additional full charge to an iPhone 5 using its internal 2000mAh battery capacity, and a bit less than that if you've got an iPhone 5s. The most I could get out of the Aero when using it with an iPhone 5s is very respectable 90% of additional charge when charging a dead iPhone 5s without using it during the time of recharging. It's a standard test we do with all our battery cases and external battery packs while still leaving push notification and email fetching settings activated and working behind the scenes. The Aero's battery performed as expected of it, and we're impressed by its ability to provide a near full charge to the iPhone 5s being that it has such a slim, sleek form factor yet still manages to pack a wireless conductive charging technology underneath it all as the cherry on top.
One of the caveats that comes with the Aero is that when it is charging on its wireless charging pad, the only visible charging indicator is this tiny little blue LED near the USB cable input which is poorly placed around the back of the unit and obviously difficult to spot. But even more annoying is that fact that even when the Aero's internal battery has finished charging, this blue LED light never actually changes color or turns off to let you know that charging has completed. So really, the only way to know for sure when the Aero's battery is fully charged is to either plug in a cable or pick up the whole charging pad with the battery case still on top whilst looking underneath for the status of Aero's LED lights.
Around the back, the Aero features a single multi-function button that allows you to turn the charging mode on or off at anytime by holding it down for two seconds. When pressing the same button once, the four bright blue LED lights flanking it on either side display the remaining battery of the Aero. These will also blink in succession according to the status of the Aero's internal battery charging status.
Though I must point out that the Aero's battery level indicator just isn’t very reliable. During my testing it would display a full set of 4 blue dots, which of course denotes a fully charged battery when in fact it is nearly half empty. When I plugged in the charging cable the last two LEDs would still blink which means that the battery still needs to be charged all the way. If you want to be sure that your Aero is fully charged up you may want to make sure that when it is charging that all four LEDs remain solid. That way you know for certain that the battery if indeed fully topped off.
From the front there isn't much going on except for two audio channel openings: one for the mic and the other for the mono speaker. It is worth noting that thanks to these openings, the iPhone's speaker audio is directed out the front and sounds much nicer having that audio being redirected towards your face rather than out the bottom. The chin created at the bottom does lengthen the iPhone 5's form factor a bit so you can't reach the entire screen with your thumb like you would without having the Aero installed. But that literally goes out to every other battery case we have seen thus far.
But there is one drawback to the Aero's chin. If you look closely the 3.5mm audio port is heavily recessed by the casing which will only accommodate slim and straight 3.5mm headphone plugs. But if you've got an angled plug or one that isn't very slim, the Aero does comes with a very short adapter - which is also included with all LifeProof cases and many other battery cases like it.
The Aero splits into two parts before you can insert your iPhone into the case similarly to Incipio's offGrid Pro, making installation a bit more tedious and less structurally rigid than a slider-style battery case like Unu's Power DX, the PhoneSuit Elite and Juice Pack Air. The back piece of the Aero is where you'll slide your iPhone in until it connects into the Lightning connector, after which you'll secure the device with the Aero's front frame which will clip onto the rest of the Aero's back casing and secure itself by snapping into place all around. You can easily remove the Aero's frame thanks to the bottom finger notch where you'll lift and unsnap the frame from the case body.
The fit and finish of the Aero once fully assembled is excellent. The two parts join together seamlessly and form a tight connection all around the border. Alas, the fit isn't perfect when looking around the front of the Aero's frame.
As for the rest of the case, it barely adds any additional thickness to the iPhone's top and sides. The bezel around the Retina display is extremely thin, but also doesn't completely cover the iPhone's aluminum bezel. There's a very small amount of play in the plastic too, which sometimes creaks and just overall doesn't seem to have the highest build quality compared to more solid battery cases which aren't designed with a removable frame like the Mophie Juice Pack Air, and Juice Pack Plus. Then again, while Mophie's battery cases have a better build quality, they are more expensive and don't offer the same features as the Aero does.
With that being said however, I'm very fond of the Aero's sleek aerodynamic-like shape. It's a really comfortable case to hold because it offers a seamless rounded and tapered body all the way around. Much like an HTC or Nokia smartphone to be more exact. And it's an absolute pleasure to use because of that despite adding a bit of weight and thickness to the iPhone. You'll be able to easily use the Aero as your everyday case and not look back. Worried that the Aero's conductive wireless charging magnetic pins around the back of it will interfere with how you hold the case? Don't be, because these pins sit completely flush with the back side of the case so that you never actually feel them even when you run your finger across. They never actually come in contact with a flat surface either because they're recessed. Though I would have liked Unu to design a more concealed solution without as much branding and text involved.
Now would be a good time to point out the differences between the white and the black Aero models. The black color features a soft-touch rubbery matte finish which like many coatings provides grip and a smooth, pleasant feeling to the case. In comparison, the white Aero has a glossy finish which feels very slick to the touch similar to the iPhone 5c. While I do like the high-gloss coating on the white color and the awesome black and white Stormtrooper-esque look it gives the black iPhone 5s, it doesn't offer any grip at all. Because I don't feel like having my phone slip out of my hand at any given moment, I think that the black Aero is the way to go. Unless you won't like having your oily fingers smudging that matte finish.
To top it all off, Unu has paid attention to small detail by integrated built-in buttons for the volume and sleep/wake buttons right into the case. Instead of of reaching through jarring cutouts, you can simply press on an actually button that is tactile and easy to reach. Unu isn't quite at Mophie's level in terms of thinking of every little detail such as a built-in switch for the iPhone's silent/vibrate switch, however, it is still easy to access through a wide opening with non-sharp edges.
The Aero's integrated control buttons all work great...to an extent. I say that because you can only press the right side of the sleep/wake button because the left side is just solid plastic attaching the button itself to the case. A poor design flaw, but one that can be worked around by learning to press towards the right side of the button. The volume button works flawlessly and can rock side to side.
When I'm not testing other cases I prefer to use Magpul's Bump Case as my daily driver simply for its slim grippy design and solid protection. And as you can see, Unu's Aero isn't all that more bulkier than a normal protective case with its curvy form factor. If I were to use a battery case I think that the Aero would be one of my favorite solutions for doing just that.
Wireless charging and a solid performing battery case in one? That's an easy combination to recommend if you're looking to get a slim battery case that does more than just provide an additional backup charge when you need it most. For $100 you're getting a fantastic piece of kit that is all about serving you a large slice of convenience inside the house and out in the great outdoors. It may not offer much screen protection, proper wireless battery charging status indicators or premium build quality, however, we still think that Unu's Aero is one of the best multi-feature battery cases around right now.
While we dislike the Aero's frame-type assembly and other minor quirks like Unu's proprietary wireless charging limitation, there's fortunately a lot more to like. You'll be hard pressed to find anything that will trump the Aero when it comes down to its ultra-sleek and comfortable to use slim form factor, excellent battery charging performance and of course - faultless wireless recharging capability. We can only hope that Unu improves on the smaller details and caveats in the next iteration.