Review: Uncommon Power Gallery Battery Case for iPhone 5/5s
Uncommon has made customizable cases for years: use the company's online tool to upload your own photos, and it'll send out a case printed with that design. Now, it's applying the same approach to battery cases. The new Power Gallery Battery Case for iPhone 5/5s ($100-$120) is available with just a plain plastic body, or, for a $20 premium, you can add your own image. Inside, it's packing what Uncommon describes as a 2200mAh battery, which is in the middle of the pack for iPhone 5 battery cases today. Like most competitors, it ships with a headphone extender, and a micro-USB cable for charging.
Rather than slapping a printed image onto the back of on OEM case, Uncommon actually went with a slightly different design than any we’ve seen before. The back of the case is a pretty standard plastic sled, but the border that snaps onto it is more than thin plastic. It’s actually rubber, which sounds better in concept, as rubber tends to absorb shocks better. We found it more difficult to snap into place, due in part to the flexibility of the material, although it’ll fit properly once you play with it for a few seconds. The bumper includes button protection, adding only a little bit of resistance.
As for the port and audio exposure, it’s just about what we expect. The headphone port is set far back, necessitating the extender, while the speaker and microphone are ported through oval-shaped openings in the chin underneath the bottom edge of the phone. In audio tests, our caller noted slight microphone distortion, but nothing drastic. There’s also a micro-USB port centered along the bottom edge of the plastic backplate.
In terms of printing quality, Power Gallery doesn’t offer 100% professional photo-quality replication, but it’s pretty respectable. We provided a sample with skin tones and bright colors, and found that the case looked respectably close to the original image. As you get closer, you’ll see the small dots that make up the printed image, but at about two feet away, they just about disappear.
Whatever Power Gallery may lack in printing quality, it more than makes up for in battery performance. We tested the case using a fully drained iPhone 5, with Wi-Fi and LTE on, Bluetooth off, no audio playing, and the screen locked. With a 2200mAh battery, we’d expect somewhere in the ballpark of a 100% charge. Uncommon’s case blew that figure away, somehow providing an astonishing 134% on our first test, and 136% on the second. Those figures are so high that we guessed that the battery was actually larger than stated, a fact that was subsequently confirmed by Uncommon. According to a company representative, there’s actually a 2300mAh cell inside, but it’s listed as lower to ensure customer satisfaction and make up for battery degradation issues over time. Even considering that explanation, the run times are markedly ahead of where they should be; that said, Uncommon clearly anticipates reduced performance over the course of Power Gallery’s life.
At the $100 level, few battery cases deliver as much juice as Uncommon’s Power Gallery. The only cases we’ve covered with a better cost to performance ratio are Incipio’s offGRID, which provided less than 10% more of a charge, while packing 300mAh more power, and iBattz’ $90 Mojo Refuel, which comes with two batteries to enable even longer performance. Add to Power Gallery the ability to add your own picture to the case for only $20 more, and the overall concept is pretty impressive. The only issue preventing it from earning a high recommendation is the rubber frame, which really should fit on just a bit more easily.