Lightning-based iPhone 5 battery cases were one of the most compelling new product categories at the 2013 CES, as many companies showed off upcoming accessories while awaiting Apple’s licensing approval. One option that caught our eye was MyCharge’s Freedom 2000 ($100), which was distinctive enough to earn our Best of Show Award. Four months later, the case is beginning to actually become available, and for a variety of reasons, it’s not quite as exciting as it initially seemed. Like iKit’s previously-released NuCharge, it doesn’t have a fixed Lightning plug, instead relying on a tethered cable that can be plugged in or pulled out of the iPhone 5’s bottom as necessary.
Unlike NuCharge, Freedom 2000 is a permanently fused-together solution; the battery can’t be removed from the shell-style case when it’s not needed. Your iPhone snaps into Freedom’s front, protected on three sides by thick rubber walls, and along the back by a foam material. Unfortunately, the screen sits flush with the rest of the case, so it’s not as protected from falls as it would be if there was a proper protective lip. Additionally, not only is the bottom edge fully exposed, but so are the volume buttons and silent switch. The Sleep/Wake Button is covered, but the rubber sits flush with the rest of the top edge, making it somewhat difficult to actually press.
The battery roughly doubles the thickness of the iPhone 5, and because the case isn’t as tall as most rivals, it feels squat.
Our Freedom 2000 review unit had a silver brushed metal back, and MyCharge is currently listing a black version as well. At CES, the company showed a much wider and in some cases thrilling range of colors and patterns. We’re hoping that the best of those options become available over time, as they certainly played a part in the case’s award.
As the name suggests, the battery inside this version of Freedom is a 2000mAh cell. It takes up most of the back, except for the very bottom 3/4”, which is black plastic. That’s where you’ll find the power button, Lightning plug, and micro-USB recharging port, which is protected by a door. The power button serves double duty as a battery indicator, with its embedded LED changing colors based on the amount of charge left. When it comes time to power up your iPhone, you pull the Lightning connector out and plug it into the bottom of the device. Because the bottom edge is open, you can also connect headphones without the need for an adapter, a common issue with rival battery cases.
One of the reasons this design was so appealing to us at CES is the fact that it promised a unique recharging advantage—the ability to charge the iPhone or the battery as needed without removing the case.
Multiple companies suggested that Apple had changed the rules for battery case pass-through recharging, and would not allow Lightning battery cases to pass power through to an iPhone inside. Something must have changed since then: pretty much every battery case we’ve tested permits pass-through charging. Apple either loosened its restrictions, or manufacturers found a way around them. Freedom 2000’s easy Lightning port access is still a good feature to have—and enables this case to work with some, but not all Lightning docking accessories. The charging system is just less unique than it originally appeared to be.
MyCharge says Freedom 2000 offers “twice as much battery life” to your iPhone 5, suggesting it provides a full 100% recharge. We tested it twice, and it came up short both times. Based on the average results of our past iPhone 5 battery tests, 2000mAh should be able to deliver a charge of approximately 89%. When charging a fully depleted iPhone connected to Wi-Fi and cellular data, but not Bluetooth, and with no media playing, we saw results of 83% and 85%. While those results are not that far off from the number we’d expect, they are below MyCharge’s claims.
A lot can change in four months, and Freedom 2000’s appeal has decreased a bit since we first saw it.