I have no qualms about admitting my lust for the iPhone's Mophie Juice Pack battery case. My wife's used one with her iPhone, and it's a great combination of extra juice and protection in a form factor that doesn't kill the overall feel of the phone. We've looked at a couple of Galaxy S3 battery cases here before -- the Powerskin Battery Case and the Droidax Power Pack. Neither of them were bad cases, but neither of them had the name recognition and legacy of Mophie.
So now that we've got a Mophie for the GS3 in our hot little hands, how's it shaking out? Read on for the full skinny.
Why a Mophie case for the Galaxy S3?
One question the Mophie Juice Pack doesn't solve is that of purpose. For a phone like the iPhone, with its non-removable battery -- and the same goes for any similar Android phone -- it makes more sense. You can't swap batteries, so a battery/case solution makes more sense. But the Galaxy S3 has a removable battery. You can pop in a fresh one anytime you want. So why would you want one built into a case? Convenience, we suppose, but such laziness comes at a pretty high price here.
For one, this thing's not inexpensive. We knew that going in, of course. But you can get an extra 2,100 mAh battery for $30 and still buy yourself a hell of a case before hitting the $90 or so we paid for the Mophie at Amazon. Or you can get a whopping 3,500 mAh extended battery -- one that also retains NFC capability, as does the Mophie -- for $70. So, yeah. It's not cheap.
Fit and form
The Mophie's also not small. Hell, it turns the svelte Galaxy S3 into a brick. On its own, the Galaxy S3 is about 136.6 mm tall and just 8.6 mm thick. With the Mophie case attached, it balloons up to 150 mm tall -- that's right about 6 inches -- and more than doubles in thickness. This is not a small case. Again, that's not surprising. Cases don't make phones smaller, and battery cases particularly so.
So it's not small, and it's not cheap. What about the rest?
As a case -- nay, as a Mophie case -- we're fairly disappointed here. The Galaxy S3 Juice Pack just doesn't seem to have the same attention to detail, the same quality, that we expect. It's certainly on par with its iPhone case.
Fitting the phone into the case is simple enough. The top part of the case pops off (squeeze it from the sides). Then you slide the phone down through the larger half until it mates with the microUSB plug at the bottom. Reattach the top part, and you're good to go. The volume and power buttons are nicely done, and there are cutouts for the main microphone as well as the secondary, noise-canceling mic next to the headphone jack. That's good to see. But the seams all over the back of the case look sloppy at best. They're far more apparent on the white case -- there's much more contrast between glossy whit and matte silver -- than they were on the two-toned black case. (Also, the matte finish on the black version just feels better.)
What's worse is the sharp -- as in "ouch!" transition between the front of the case and the bottom of the chin. That's simply not good. We're not sure if a file or sandpaper wouldn't help. It's that bad.
Simply put, the Galaxy S3 case just isn't up to the quality we expected from Mophie.
All that said, the Mophie Juice Pack at least performs as you'd expect, in that it charges the phone. 'Round back there's a four-LED battery level indicator (push the button to the left of it to activate), and a standby switch for when you only want to use the GS3's battery. The battery's rated at 2,300 mAh -- how long that extra juice lasts you depends on how hard you're pushing the phone, of course.
Mophie says it takes between two and three hours to full charge the case after the initial break-in. It's worth noting that while Mophie doesn't list output, it's pretty obvious the phone's getting a trickle charge. So don't just sit there and watch it charge. You'll be there all day. Again, it's meant to be a secondary power source and not some quick-charger that happens to look like a case.
One interesting item is the inclusion of the "external charge and sync contacts" on the bottom of the case. Thing is, there's no dock to take advantage of them yet. Mophie says they're working on it, though.
The bottom line
We'll make this short and sweet. There's absolutely a place for battery cases in the Android world. And while we appreciate they're a tougher proposition as Android accessories than as iPhone accessories, Mophie's Galaxy S3 Juice Pack left us wanting. The additional size (and cost) just doesn't make sense considering you can buy three spare batteries for the same price. And the quality of the case isn't what we expect from Mophie. (In case we hadn't made that clear already.)
For $90 to $100, there are better options than the Mophie Juice Pack for the Galaxy S3.