iKit, a London based accessories manufacturer for Apple products, has announced the NuCharge, an interchangeable, battery pack and protective cover for iPhone 5. iKit says the NuCharge is the world's first iPhone 5 interchangeable battery and case cover, and it's currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds, promote and sell the NuCharge, starting at US$59 with first deliveries expected in April.
The NuCharge promises to double your iPhone's battery life while protecting your iPhone. It comes in three parts: the case or shell, the battery and the back cover, which comes in a variety of colors as well as leather.
You place your iPhone into the case, which has connection grooves on the outer back, and either connect the external battery or the protective back cover. The idea is you interchange the battery or the back cover depending on your needs.
The case itself is a lightly shaded plastic housing or shell for the iPhone. All controls, ports, the speakers and the camera are left exposed for easy reach and use. The display is not covered either. The iPhone fits snugly inside the case -- it doesn't rattle around and it won't easily fall out. In fact, it takes quite a bit of prying to get the iPhone out of the case.
The attachable back cover is a sheet of plastic, which has tiny teeth to lock into the case. Attaching the cover is easy. It fits and locks into the case's grooves as you slide it down the back. To take it off, push and slide the cover upwards. The case cover never came loose on its own in my time with it.
The battery pack comes on and off in the same way. It has a built-in lighting connector that you pull out of the bottom of the pack and plug into the iPhone. There are blue LEDs on the bottom right to tell you how much charge is left. To charge the battery, plug in a USB cable and connect the other end to a computer or a powered USB port. The battery pack is a charcoal color, and it's not very bulky or weighty considering its 1900 mHa charge capacity.
A nice little extra is a kick-stand that comes out of the back of the battery pack, letting you rest your iPhone upright in portrait mode.
The case and cover offer a moderate level of protection in day-to-day use. The iPhone's sides and back are covered, but the front top and bottom edges of the phone are still exposed. So not all of your phone is protected from scuffs and scratches. Additionally, because the case and cover are two separate parts which are made of plastic, if you dropped your phone, there's little to no shock-absorption.
All in all, the NuCharge as a case offers some protection from scuffs and scratches, but I wouldn't trust it with more. On the plus side, the ports and controls of the iPhone are left open. You don't have to fiddle with the case to plug in your headphones or a lightning connector.
Although the back panel and case as a whole look nice enough, I struggled with the rest of the aesthetics of the case. For example, the case and back panel attach securely, but there's a small gap left between the two. The finish of the front top and bottom of the case present some raw edges where the case ends. And the overall feel of the case is quite plasticky and cheap.
As I mentioned above, attaching the battery pack is a simple process: slide off the back cover and slide on the battery pack. Of course, the battery pack is bulkier than the cover, but that's expected with any battery pack. Although, this is one of the lighter and slimmer ones I've seen.
To get power from the battery, pull out the built-in lightning connector and plug it into the iPhone. Unfortunately, when you do this the lightning connector cable sticks out quite a bit. Placing the phone in my pocket became a bit awkward, and I was worried the connection would come loose with an unintentional pull or tug or if I placed the phone in my bag.
iKit says the NuCharge will increase your iPhone's life by 100% and I have no reason to disagree with that. Unfortunately, after a few days of testing I couldn't get the NuCharge to charge my phone. I assume it must be a fault in the model I received. But during the time it was working, everything worked as it should and battery performance was good, though I couldn't complete my tests.
The kickstand is a nice little extra feature that is flush with the battery, but when extended, offers a practical addition to the case.
The NuCharge is a great battery life extender, which offers solid battery performance on top of your iPhone's built-in battery. However, I found the interchangeable protective cover, for when you're not using the battery pack, to be more of an afterthought, rather than offering any real protection. Furthermore, when using the battery pack, the protruding lightning connector is very impractical.
Solid battery pack offering 1900 mHa
Access to all ports, buttons and the camera
Slim and fairly light weight for a battery pack
Minimal protection offered
Poor case quality
Protruding lightning connector when charging battery
Interchangeability of battery and case is gimmicky
Who's it for?
iPhone 5 owners demanding the most power from a battery pack, but are not too concerned with the form or function it comes in.