Review: PhoneSuit Flex Pocket Charger
Flex Pocket Charger ($60) from PhoneSuit is the most compact Lightning-equipped battery we've yet seen. First previewed at the 2013 CES, the dense aluminum-clad pack boasts a 2600mAh, 1-Amp battery, which is enough to give an iPhone 5 a little more than a full charge. Available in black, red, or blue -- or with a Dock Connector for $10 less -- it's a really nice looking charging solution, and very portable, although the form factor may be cumbersome depending on how you're using your iPhone. Since it has a 1-Amp output, it can also charge iPods with Lightning ports at full speed, but falls short of the peak recharging speeds of iPads.
With its removable plastic cap in place, Flex Pocket Charger has a teardrop-shaped design when viewed from the side. Either end is covered with glossy black plastic; one houses a Micro-USB charging port and a single dimple beneath it, which is a capacitive power button. The 2.8” long, 2.78 ounce battery plugs directly into the bottom of your iPhone or iPod, so it’ll overhang the width of any current Apple pocket device.
The Apple-licensed Lightning plug is located right in the middle of the flat edge at the top of the battery. Directly around it is a small box of plastic designed to allow compatibility with “many existing” iPhone 5 cases. It is smaller than the plastic step we’ve seen on most Lightning docks—usually they’re the size of 30-pin connectors—but not raised enough to be as effective as advertised. Unless you’re using a shell-style case, or a case with a mostly open bottom and very, very thin material around it, you likely won’t be able to make a connection. We tested with our go-to CandyShell case, among others, and found the battery unable to make a physical connection.
We ran our battery test using our standard methodology: Flex Pocket Charger was connected to an iPhone 5 with a fully drained battery, which sat almost entirely unused as it recharged. Once it reached 100%, we removed the battery pack, depleted the iPhone part of the way, and reestablished the connection. All said, Flex Pocket Charger was able to provide a charge of about 116%; this falls short of PhoneSuit’s advertised 125%, but is right in line with what we’d expect when compared to past tests.
There’s enticing convenience of having more than a full charge, ready to go in a compact package without the need for extra cables. PhoneSuit came close to getting it right, but there are a few things that need to change before it achieves greatness. A narrower footprint would necessarily decrease the battery life, but would increase the pocketability; we’d love to be able to slip Flex Pocket Charger in a pocket while it’s attached to the iPhone 5. Additionally, an increase in case compatibility would make the whole thing more valuable. All things considered, it’s deserving of a general recommendation. The performance and price are respectable, but the form factor isn’t quite perfect for a “pocket charger.”
Updated July 9, 2014: PhoneSuit has replaced Flex with Flex XT, at the same price with the same battery capacity. The difference is physically minor, but it makes a huge difference. A slightly raised Lightning plug adds just enough height to make it possible to plug into an iPhone without removing your case first, and the battery retains its MFi status. This is what we wish Flex would’ve been the first time around, and we hope it’s a sign that Apple is taking the compatibility issue seriously.