iPod and iPhone battery packs generally look a lot alike these days, either taking the form of extra-thick cases or big packs with cables that can run to one of your pockets. Today, we’re looking at three unconventional batteries that sell for $50 to $60: DigiPower’s JumpStart Flip ($60), Essential TPE’s The Icon Battery Pack for iPhone ($50), and Kensington’s PowerLift ($50). Each has a seriously intriguing design that makes it stand out from the pack, though whether any is right for your personal needs will depend on your tolerance for little oddities.
Of the three batteries, JumpStart Flip does the best job of combining the right features, pricing, and design to evolve the traditional high-capacity USB battery pack into something smarter and better. The roughly iPhone-sized battery pack attractively blends chrome metal and black plastics to create a flip-open video stand, using a sheet of passively grippy rubber to hold the iPhone or iPod on its face. So long as the back of the Apple device or the case it’s in is flat, it will stick pretty well to the rubber—assuming that the rubber’s clean. If it gets dusty or dirty, the device can slip off, and you wouldn’t want to put an unencased iPhone 4 in that situation.
Though the unit’s design is aesthetically impressive, what really distinguishes JumpStart Flip from the pack is the atypically powerful 3300mAh rechargeable cell found inside. This battery is capable of fully recharging any iPhone at least once, with space capacity left over to refuel a Bluetooth headset—or most iPods. Unlike either of the other batteries here, or most of the ones we’ve reviewed in the past, there are two separately-labelled full-sized USB ports on JumpStart Flip’s side for simultaneous 1A (“fast charge”) and 500mA (“standard charge”) charging, each sealed with a flip-off rubber compartment when not in use. We had no problem charging two devices at once; the ports are spaced far enough apart that connecting even thick-bodied USB plugs is no problem.
In addition to a carrying bag, JumpStart Flip is bundled with Dock Connector, micro-USB and mini-USB cables, as well as a USB cable extender to expand its integrated rear recharging cable for easier connection to a desktop computer. There’s a power button on its hinge, which can be held down for power or tapped for an indication of remaining power, signaled by four blue charge indicators on the unit’s black plastic base.
By comparison with batteries we’ve seen from other companies, JumpStart Flip is a really strong option: cosmetically impressive, with a substantial, well-built feel in the hand, unusual versatility, and more power for the price tag than any battery save Just Mobile’s Gum Pro. Fast charging, dual USB ports, and the metal flip-out kickstand are all winners. That said, the method by which it secures iPhones and iPods to its front surface is not going to be right for all users, or all of Apple’s devices, and we’d caution you to go into the purchase aware of the potential for slippage if the surface isn’t clean, or if the device you’re trying to attach is curved. To the extent that JumpStart Flip offers some mounting solution, it does more than almost any other iPod or iPhone battery we’ve reviewed in its price range, but ideally, the implementation of this particular feature would be better. That’s the only major criticism of an otherwise extremely impressive battery pack at a very fair price—one worthy of an only modestly qualified high recommendation.
Company and Price
Model: JumpStart Flip
Compatible: iPhones, Dock Connecting iPods