What at first seemed like a throwaway feature on yet another battery case ends up making it a realistic charging option.
As you may recall, I'm not the biggest fan of battery cases. They're cumbersome, come with a load of compromises and in the end don't add much of a charge to your phone. At the same time, the Galaxy S7's larger battery removes the need for a battery case for most people.
Samsung launched a new style of battery case with the Galaxy S7, which at the time seemed a little confusing. Rather than plug into the USB port like every other battery case, it uses Qi wireless charging to keep your phone powered up. Initially I wrote it off as a superfluous feature addition that didn't make a whole lot of sense for a case that's attached to the phone.
But then I used it, and it makes so much sense I can't believe it wasn't done before.
Design and materials
This is perhaps the most simplistic design for a battery case, but that's exactly what you want — just get the best balance of size and battery capacity possible. The case is basically comprised of two pieces: a hard plastic and slightly textured back that's rigid and contains the battery and electronics, attached to a soft touch grippy rubber portion that wraps around the actual phone.
No added port bulk, no restricted access to ports.
The fact that this case charges the phone over Qi wireless seemed like a novelty at first, but it enables this case to be dramatically smaller and less complicated than those that have to plug into the USB port of the phone, which introduce a large "chin" at the bottom of the phone. There's also no need for the case to come apart or have a hinge at any point — the soft rubber allows you to pop the Galaxy S7 in and out of the case with ease, while having enough friction to hold onto it in normal use.
The design wins just continue when you look around the outside profile of the case, which doesn't have to bulge out on any side, and instead just puts a thin rubber lining around the top and sides of the phone. The bottom is mostly exposed, which is a huge deal for a battery case. The headphone jack, USB port, microphone and speaker are all completely free to work as they normally would — no restrictions or headphone extenders required.
Of course there's no getting around the fact that this is a big case, and it definitely changes the ergonomics of using the Galaxy S7. Adding the case just about doubles the thickness of the phone, as well as adding probably 50% to the weight, and even with the added grip of the rubberized finish it's still a bit unwieldy. But that's the trade-off with every battery case, and once again the fact that this one doesn't add any unnecessary height or side bulk to the phone is a big deal.
Using and charging
Press the button on the top of the case to see a readout of the current charge state with four LEDs, or instead make a long press of the button to start or stop the charging of the phone. Despite the confusing name of this accessory, the case itself doesn't charge over Qi ... you have to plug it into micro-USB power, and can even do so while the case is charging the phone.
You'll get about a 50% charge, but that's just fine.
Just like every other battery case, you're not going to get a full phone charge out of this thing. You could've expected that from the start because it only has a 2700 mAh capacity — smaller than the 3000 mAh in the phone itself — but when it comes down to the rate of charging and the power lost in the process, you're only going to get about 50% charge added to your battery with this case.
Popping the case on the Galaxy S7 at 5% battery, and using the phone as I normally would without a case, I was able to get up to 50% before the case was depleted. The charge took a full two and a half hours to complete, which is normal for a battery case and completely expected considering the usual charging rate of Qi (advertised as 5V / 1A by Samsung).
The fact that this case is so easy to quickly take on and off lines up well with the amount of charge it offers. Being able to carry around the case — as you would any other mobile battery pack — to quickly pop on when you're pushing the phone and hit 50% battery far too early in the day is great. And taking it off in just two seconds once the charge is done (or you feel confident in the battery level) completes the experience.
A battery case you might actually want
Coming from a position of absolutely loathing battery cases as a general rule, I'm extremely impressed by the Wireless Charging Battery Pack that Samsung has made for the Galaxy S7. The choice to go with Qi charging has removed several of the barriers — extra bulk, blocked ports and unnecessary components — that typically make a battery case not worth your time, and completely tipped the scales to making this a battery case that's actually worth while.
Some would argue that the Galaxy S7 doesn't really need a 50% boost in battery, as the upgrade in capacity over the Galaxy S6 was enough to get most people (myself included) through the day. And honestly most who need that extra bump in battery mid-day will be better served by a versatile battery pack with Quick Charge speeds instead. But the fact is that not everyone uses their phone in the same way, and the few who need something that can fully attach and become part of the phone while charging will want to look at the Wireless Charging Battery Pack.
As far as battery cases for the Galaxy S7 go, there's no reason to look at any other.
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