Review: Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPod touch 4G
Ideally, iPod, iPhone, and iPad battery packs wouldn't be device-specific, requiring users to buy new and expensive batteries every time they change devices. But when the new batteries are inexpensive and well-designed, there isn't as much of a problem, and that's what Mophie's offering in its just-released Juice Pack Air for iPod touch 4G ($50). This is the company's best-looking and most reasonably priced battery pack yet, adding a slim 1000mAh rechargeable cell to the back of the latest iPod while encasing it in a very impressive soft touch rubber and hard plastic shell.
We were impressed because Mophie’s case here is actually really good in its own right. Using a slider-style design with a snap-on top, Juice Pack Air wraps around the entire top, bottom, back, and sides of the iPod, while leaving holes for the screen, camera, headphone port, speaker, and microphone. Headphones designed over the last several years had little trouble fitting in the headphone port; even most oversized plugs should work without complaints. Additionally, the speaker hole lets audio pass through without an issue. What we really like about this design is the integrated button protection, which covers both the side and top controls, and keeps as much of the iPod as is practical safe from the elements. Paired with screen film that you’ll have to self-supply, your iPod touch will be almost perfectly safe, albeit thicker—a little bit more than twice its originally thin level, or roughly equivalent to an iPhone 4 inside a normal case.
The only thing blocked in Juice Pack Air is the Dock Connector port, which is used for recharging; you can simultaneously recharge the battery and iPod by connecting both to your computer with an included cable. Four bright blue LEDs and a power switch are on the back, allowing you to have some idea how much of the 1000mAh battery charge remains. The LEDs flash individually and then go solid together while they’re recharging, as well, so that it’s easy to tell when Juice Pack Air is finished refueling itself.
Because Apple has reduced the iPod touch’s power consumption and thickness as much as it has, Mophie was able to nearly double the device’s run time by adding a much smaller battery than it uses on iPhones. In our tests of the 1000mAh rechargeable cell, we were able to bring a dead iPod touch 4G back up to 80% of a full charge in one test, or 85% in a second, for an average of roughly 83%. The charge is rapid, too: it took only an hour and a half from start to finish.
With this much extra power, you’ll be able to play enough music and videos to keep yourself amused for the longest of transcontinental trips, or even play games, FaceTime, or record videos for long enough to fly from U.S. coast to coast. Standalone batteries without case functionality provide more power for the dollar, and some users—particularly heavy speaker, dock, or other accessory fans—might be better off attaching a cabled battery accessory for an hour or two instead, but the convenience of having this spare cell attached directly to the iPod is undeniable.
Our only other concern with Juice Pack Air for iPod touch 4G is the timing of its release. Debuting in late May 2011, which is only several months ahead of the annual iPod update event, it’s unclear whether this battery case will fit and work properly with the late 2011 iPod touch—assuming that Apple updates the iPod touch in some way as it has annually for the last three years. If you’re planning to use the iPod touch 4G for the long haul, or betting that the new model will keep the prior version’s body style, this is an easy pick: it combines a very good case with enough battery power to keep iPod music, video, gaming, and calling going for extended periods of time. Otherwise, device-agnostic battery packs might be a better bet to hedge against Apple’s ever-changing industrial designs.