Review: Belkin Grip Power Battery Case for iPhone 5
Even though Mophie's iPhone 5 Juice Packs have struck us as overpriced, they continue to be some of the most tightly-designed battery cases yet released -- despite the subsequent releases of more than a dozen different competitors. Even when a rival comes out with something that offers markedly better battery performance at the same price point as a Juice Pack, it's typically relevant to point out that Mophie's design offers superior protection, curves, or something else. So when we say that Belkin's new Grip Power ($100) easily stomps Mophie's same-priced Juice Pack Air in performance, and is actually closer to the $120 Juice Pack Plus, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that there's also a caveat: Grip Power is noticeably bulkier.
Like both of those Juice Packs, Grip Power begins with a substantially protective case design that’s hard to fault on technical grounds. Improving on many iPhone 5 battery cases, it includes button covers for the top and side controls, and also has a substantial lip around the screen to protect the front glass from shattering during accidental drops. An anti-glare ring around the rear camera and flash promises to avoid photographic issues, and a side-mounted micro-USB port lets you refuel both the case and the iPhone 5 inside using an included USB cable.
While the iPhone’s bottom headphone port, microphone and speaker are deeply recessed within holes in the case, a headphone extender cable is included, and callers reported no major sonic difference between phone calls when the iPhone was inside or outside of Grip Power. The only omission here is ringer switch coverage; you’ll have to dig your finger into a fairly deep recess to flip that switch, which isn’t an issue on either Juice Pack Air or Plus.
On paper, Grip Power’s battery sits somewhere between the Air and Plus cases. Rather than the 1700mAh battery found in Air or the 2100mAh battery in Plus, Belkin went with a 2000mAh battery that it pitches as offering “2X” battery life for the iPhone 5. Just as we noted in our Mophie reviews, however, Belkin’s claim is a little over-ambitious: in real-world testing, Grip Power brought a completely discharged iPhone 5 from 0% to 89%, which is 10% higher than the same-priced Air and 5% lower than the $20 more expensive Plus. We’ve seen some 2000mAh batteries restore a little more energy to the iPhone 5 than Grip Power, but it’s in the right general zone for its capacity, and just as fast as expected: the full-speed 1 Amp recharging took around an hour and 20 minutes. A single slightly recessed button doubles as a power on/off switch and a trigger for the four yellow lights that indicate the battery’s remaining power.
Beyond outperforming Air in the battery department, Belkin offers two other reasons to prefer its case design. Grip Power is offered in four different color schemes, including white and black, black and black, blue and gray, or purple and blue, each predominantly glossy with a rubberized bumper around the entire edge for added grip. The bumper snaps firmly into place on the battery pack, holding your iPhone perfectly, and opens easily with a fingernail-friendly tab on the right edge. Mophie saves the rubberized grip as a premium feature for the more expensive Juice Pack Plus, and though it offers its cases in more understated, matte color combinations, Belkin’s shiny choices may appeal to users looking for more “pop.”
Whether the aforementioned caveat strikes you as trivial will be a matter of personal preference. Using smart, Apple-inspired tapering, Mophie makes each of its Juice Packs look even thinner than they actually are: their curves are optically and physically slimming. Belkin’s design follows most other iPhone 5 battery cases in not caring quite as much, employing lines on every surface that make Grip Power look and feel larger than Juice Pack Plus, which itself is a bit bigger than Juice Pack Air. The actual differences are measurable in mere 1-2 millimeter distinctions, but Grip Power just feels bulkier—not fatally so, nor as off-puttingly sharp on the back as Lenmar’s Meridian, but enough that you’ll notice the difference.
From our perspective, Grip Power’s a very good iPhone 5 battery case: the performance and features for the $100 asking price make it a better buy than any of the Juice Packs, and the design—while shiny in a way that will appeal more to some users than others—is attractive, though just a little larger than we’d prefer given its 2000mAh capacity. Belkin hasn’t been known for iPhone battery cases in the past, but this is a promising first entry for the iPhone 5, with the sort of quality fit and finish we’ve come to expect from the company’s other products. We’re actively looking forward to seeing what it comes up with in the future.