Compatible: iPhone 5
XPAL/PowerSkin PowerSkin for iPhone 5
XPAL/PowerSkin's second backup battery solution for the iPhone 5 is PowerSkin ($80), which was released shortly after the Lightning-compatible battery pack Pop'n. Unlike Pop'n, PowerSkin is actually a case, in the same vein as the original iPhone 4/4S model we previously reviewed, but with less power and a higher price. Inside the iPhone 5 version of PowerSkin is a 1500mAh battery, a relatively low capacity matching Mophie's Juice Pack Helium. Included in the package are a Micro-USB charging cord and a headphone extender.
PowerSkin is substantially made of black silicone rubber, rather than the hard plastic body of most battery cases, and varies in flexibility with its thickness. The only truly solid part is the battery itself, which feels sturdy inside the case despite being in an obviously different location than the iPhone 5. PowerSkin doubles the thickness of the iPhone 5, measuring just a hint thicker at its thickest point than Mophie’s aforementioned Juice Pack Helium and Juice Pack Air. It’s actually a little shorter than both, at 5.1”.
The rubber body allows for a one-piece construction, unlike the slider-style cases from Mophie; you can just pop the iPhone 5 in and out as needed. One thing we found very interesting is that the Lightning plug isn’t fixed in the body of the case. Rather, it’s located on a movable cord that nestles into a little recess in the case’s bottom chin. We have to wonder if this was somehow designed to get around Apple’s new restrictions on how the Lightning connector is used. Unlike Mophie’s cases, PowerSkin lets you sync your iPhone through the Micro-USB charging port, and the phone will also charge for a few minutes before a “Charging is not supported with this accessory” message appears on the screen.
PowerSkin’s rubber edges include good button protection, but no lip to protect your iPhone’s screen. The headphone port is deeply recessed, such that you’ll be able to use Apple’s narrowest plugs, like those on the EarPods, while needing to rely on the extender for other models.
Not surprisingly, the 1500mAh battery in PowerSkin performed at just about the same level as the one in Juice Pack Helium. In just over an hour, it was able to raise the charge level of a Wi-Fi- and LTE-connected iPhone 5 to 63% from empty—only 3% less than what Mophie’s smaller pack provided. Those looking to get a full second charge will be out of luck, but it’s at least a reasonable amount of extra power to help with a day of heavy usage.
We see PowerSkin as pretty much on par with Juice Pack Helium. They cost exactly the same price, have similar form factors, and perform almost identically. The button protection is a plus in PowerSkin’s column, as is the ability to sync through the Micro-USB port, while we prefer Mophie’s plastic body. Ultimately, they’re nearly equivalent accessories, and therefore PowerSkin earns the same general recommendation.