Review: XPAL/PowerSkin Pop’n Battery Charger for iPhone 5
XPAL/PowerSkin's Pop'n Battery Charger for iPhone 5 ($80, aka Hybrid Battery Charger) is currently a fairly unique battery pack option for the iPhone 5. Housed in shiny black or white plastic, the 2000mAh, 1-Amp cell itself is pretty standard. For the same price as Mophie's Juice Pack Helium, which includes a smaller 1500mAh battery inside a case, you get 33% more battery power. What's different is how Pop'n attaches to your iPhone: suction cups. The design is device-agnostic, allowing Pop'n to be used with the fifth-generation iPod touch, seventh-generation iPod nano, or iPad mini, although the latter two devices are less than ideal because of their size and charging speeds, respectively. You can even remove the Lightning connector, exposing a Micro-USB port that can be fitted with replacement PowerSkin connectors that have yet to become available.
The Pop’n battery itself is about 4.25” tall, 2.25” wide, and 0.4” thick, with the curled, rubberized connector adding around three quarters of an inch to the height. When it’s attached to the back of your iPhone 5, it’s around a quarter-inch short of the top glass strip. The 24 suction cups lining the back of the battery enable Pop’n to stick to a bare iPhone or attach to most flat cases. Bonded to a caseless device, the grip is strong enough that we’d have no worries that the battery might fall off, but it’s easy to remove without exerting a tremendous amount of force. A Pop’n plus iPhone 5 combination is comfortable to hold, but adds noticeable thickness.
Pop’n otherwise has the same design elements we’ve come to expect from battery packs. Along one edge you’ll find a Micro-USB port for recharging, and the necessary cable comes packed in the box. There’s also a button that is used to display the remaining battery life via four blue LEDs, or toggle the power, depending on how long you press it. The Lightning plug juts out of the bottom, curled back up towards your phone. While the plastic around the plug will prevent it from being compatible with most cases, some open-bottomed cases will work just fine.
Battery tests on Pop’n showed that it performed just as expected: It was able to deliver an 87% charge to a fully drained iPhone 5; this is better than the 70% claim on PowerSkin’s web site, and right in line with other battery packs. Notably, this is 20-22% greater recharging capability than we saw on the aforementioned Juice Pack Helium, at the same price.
Pop’n isn’t a great or a bad idea—it’s somewhere in the middle. On one hand, we’re not totally sold on the idea of sticking a battery to the back of the iPhone with suction cups; cases are a better overall concept. Moreover, Pop’n has limitations in case compatibility that detract from its potential appeal. On the other hand, Pop’n is different from purely standalone USB batteries we’ve tested: it provides a complete solution for users who prefer not to use a case, or happen to have a case that has both a flat back and a bottom opening wide enough to accept the large Lightning plug. Overall, it’s a good option and worthy of our general recommendation, thanks to battery performance that’s in line with both PowerSkin’s promises and real-world expectations, and the ability to swap out the connector with others as needed.