There are a number of interesting elements to i-Blason’s PowerGlider External Battery Case, available for iPhone 5 ($70) and iPod touch 5G ($80). It’s the first battery case we’ve seen for the most recent iPod touch. Both models are almost identical, with the same overall design, shape, and openings; the biggest difference is the iPod touch model is just a bit thinner. Inside PowerGlider is a 2200mAh battery, with a 500mA output capability.
Both models of PowerGlider are made entirely of soft touch black plastic. They’re about 5.25” tall, and 2.5” wide, but only 0.5” thick. The top of the case comes off for installation; slide your iPhone or iPod touch in, and then clip that piece of plastic back in place. Both models forego button coverage, and neither has a raised lip to protect the screen. The device slides onto a Lightning plug when inserted into the case, with an unusually small chin beneath it. It’s evident by looking at the connector that it’s an unauthorized component—that’s the first of a few unusual things about the case.
Small holes in the plastic beneath the phone allow audio in and out, while the headphone port is deeply rescued. i-Blason includes an extender for headphones with large-diameter plugs. Each case also has a foldout kickstand on the back.
At the bottom left of each case is a silver plastic power button. Notably, it’s installed upside-down on the iPhone 5 review unit we received. To the right of that, between the speaker and microphone holes, are four LEDs used to indicate battery life. When the iPod touch case is plugged in, they blink the entire time, as they do when charging the device. Those on the iPhone model turn off though, and won’t display battery life unless you toggle the power off and back on again.
Also strange: the cases don’t charge with Micro-USB, as pretty much every battery case we’ve ever reviewed does. Instead, each has a Lightning port along the bottom edge, to be charged with a self-provided cable.
This is the first time we’ve seen the female connector used on any device outside of an iPad, iPhone, or iPod. It works, although the fit isn’t quite as tight as we’re used to. Text printed inside the case issues the following warning: “It’s important to use the original Apple lightning (sic) cable with this case for best capability. We cannot guarantee functionality when aftermarket cables are used.” We find this somewhat odd, as i-Blason itself is using unlicensed components. Since no cable is included, the price effectively jumps $19 for a full solution. Both provide passthrough charging, if the case is turned on.
Our testing delivered unexpected results. The fully depleted 1030mAh battery in a fifth-generation iPod touch was filled once, with an additional 25-40% added after it was drained again. As for the iPhone 5, which has a 1440mAh cell inside, PowerGlider was able to provide a 115% charge. It took three hours and six minutes to charge the former, and three hours and forty minutes for the latter—more than double the time of comparable models. The boost was about 15% more than we expected for the iPhone, based on prior testing we’ve conducted.
As with all unsupported Lighting-based accessories, PowerGlider comes with the risk that it may not work if Apple chooses to update its software and lock it out.