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.
Kensington’s new PowerLift battery and stand has several advantages and an equal number of disadvantages relative to the aforementioned rivals. On the positive side, it’s very compact, occupying roughly 2.5” by 2.3” by 0.6”—roughly half the physical space of JumpStart Flip. Beyond the fact that it’s smaller and a little thinner than JumpStart Flip, it’s also entirely self-contained.
Kensington has folded a short USB charging cable into its back, placing four circular blue power lights and a power indicator button on its top. Assuming you’re using a laptop or similarly exposed USB power port to recharge it, you’ll be fine; if you’re using a desktop machine, you’ll want an extension cable like the one DigiPower includes in its package.
It also provides two points of physical support for the device that’s charging on top of its base: one is an integrated Dock Connector plug that can flip upwards and connects directly to the iPhone or iPod, eschewing any need for cabling, and the other is a silver plastic stand that also flips up to provide back support whenever you need it. You can use PowerLift as a plain plug-in battery pack with or without the stand features, and it’s $10 less expensive than JumpStart Flip—in the “more affordable” category relative to Dock Connector-equipped batteries we’ve tested. Paired with an iPod touch 4G or iPhone 4, it is almost ideally designed for use with a FaceTime camera, if you want to place it atop something so that it can work at the height of your face. It doesn’t offer any real advantage as a landscape-orientation stand, however.
On the other hand, PowerLift has a few considerable limitations.
Inside is a 1200mAh rechargeable cell for a promised 3.5 hours of iPhone 4 talk time, versus 5 hours on an iPhone 3GS or 3 hours on an iPhone 3G. That’s less than 40% of the battery life offered by JumpStart Flip, for 5/6 the price. You also lose out on DigiPower’s pack-ins, including the cables, carrying case, and second device charging port. While PowerLift is able to output 0.5 to 1 Amp of power, just like JumpStart Flip, it can only handle a single device at a time, and the only devices it supports are ones with Apple’s Dock Connector. For obvious reasons, that’s a common limitation with Apple-specific batteries, but something worth considering.