Hands on with the iKit NuCharge iPhone 5 battery case

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Kickstarter has given birth to some really innovative products in the past and the iKit NuCharge is no exemption. Dubbed the most “advanced iPhone battery case ever made”, it’s also the world’s first interchangeable battery and case cover for the iPhone 5. With such a design, users can decide whether to go with a light and minimal case, or pop on the battery for slightly more bulk to juice up the iPhone. I was recently sent a pre-production unti for testing and so far I’m really liking the iKit for its versatility, lightweight and slim 1900mAh battery pack.

Design and specs

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Unlike any battery case you’ve ever see, the iKit NuCharge comes with several components. The “Snap case” portion is sturdy, made of plastic and snaps onto the back of the iPhone 5. This is similar to the run-of-the-mill cases you find in stores and it fits the phone extremely well. The top and bottom parts of the case are cut out (as are the volume and rear camera areas), meaning that the earphone jack and lightning port are easily accesible. What makes this seemingly ordinary case different is its backside, which is made with holes and grooves to fit either the exchangeable aluminium/ leather cover, or the detachable extended battery pack.

Depending on your Pledge, the iKit comes bundled with an Aluminium Cover in 9 different colors, or the Leather style back in 6 colors. With the cover snapped into place (push in and then slide down), the Snap Case securely wraps around the iPhone and provides moderate amounts of protection – save for the exposed top and bottom.

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The battery pack comes in either black or white, its outer coating is made out of a rubber soft-touch finish and has a very slim profile, weighing in at only 58g. Like the covers, it snaps onto the case the same way and in my hand, it doesn’t seem much heavier than the Otterbox Defender and iPhone 5 combo. It truly is impressive how light the battery feels, even more so that it packs 1900mAh and essentially doubles the life of the iPhone 5. Located to the lower left corner is an LED power indicator (four blue lights signify a full charge); to the right, a power button to initiate the charge and LED lights; and the back has a handy kickstand so you can enjoy watching movies etc. in landscape mode. Finally, what makes this entire design possible – one where the battery case is the same length as the iPhone 5 – is the Apple approved lighting connector tucked neatly away at the bottom.

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When you need to charge your iPhone, simply pull the cable back, twist it slightly and plug it into the iPhone lightning port. Once in, hold the power button to begin charging. Initially, upon seeing this design on the Kickstarter page, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of a cable sticking out every time a charge was required. But after trying it for the past few days, I found that it didn’t get in the way of using the phone. There are definitely advantages to this cable system, where it doesn’t add to the overall length of the case like the rest of its competition (for comparison, the NuCharge is 125.6mm tall, while the Mophie Juice Pack is 140.7mm). Of course, the downside to such a design is the potential dangers of dropping the phone while the lightning cable is plugged in and possibly damaging the tip of the connector from the fall.

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The NuCharge Battery and battery life

Another unique feature about the iKit NuCharge is its battery pack. Designed with an IC chip from SEIKO, Shark Designs (the creators behind the case) claim that they have engineered a battery that saves energy, and as a result does not heat up. Using an output of 1Amp (now the minimum allowed by Apple), they were able to squeeze enough juice out of a capacity of 1900mAh for a full charge. True to their word, I barely noticed a rise in temperature on the battery pack when charging the iPhone 5; basically it stays cool to the touch. The various battery cases I’ve owned in the past invariably warmed up to a certain degree while discharging.

From my tests, the NuCharge pretty much doubled the life of the iPhone 5′s 1440mAh battery. From 20% left in the tank, it took about an hour and a half to charge it back up to full, and the LED indicator still showed two blue lights out of four. At 1% remaining, it was able to charge the phone to 97 – 98% in an hour and forty five before the battery ran out of power. By and large, this is enough for most users to get by without having to recharge their iPhones with a wall charger/usb connection for 2 full days whilst using the iKit.

Pledges and other tidbits

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As mentioned previously, the iKit NuCharge I received from Shark Designs is a pre-production unit. Despite this, the overall quality is good and the finished product may receive some minor tweaks when it’s shipped out to their Kickstarter backers in April. One thing that will change in the final production is the kickstand. On the testers, they were made out of plastic and are rather flimsy. But after the initial feedback, this is being swapped out with reinforced aluminium, which should make it much sturdier when the iPhone’s being propped up for movies and the like. One other thing I would like to see is for the top four corners of the Snap Case to be rounder. They’re not sharp by any means, but at least with mine, they’re somewhat pointy to the touch when held at certain angles.

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Other pledge options for more iKit goodies

There are 7 days to go before the Kickstarter campaign ends. Pledges for a white or black NuCharge (along with an aluminium cover and snap case) go for $59, after which they will retail for $79. Also available are aluminium/leather back covers that can be purchased separately, including being able to customize it with your own pantone color choice (aluminium only).

Wrap up

The iKit NuCharge has won me over and I’ve become a big fan of this charging solution for the iPhone 5. It may not be perfect and perhaps not everyone will like the pull-out cable for recharging, but it’s one of the most – if not the most – versatile iPhone battery cases around. It would be nice if the Snap Case did cover all around the iPhone, though this is a compromise for easy accessibility to all its ports an buttons. If you ask me, $59 to double the life of your iPhone 5, give it sufficient protection AND allow you to easily swap out the battery pack and back cover is well worth the money.

Head over to their Kickstarter page for all the details on the iKit NuCharge.

Pros:

  • 2-in-1 battery case solution
  • Slim and light battery
  • Doubles the battery life of the iPhone 5
  • Battery doesn’t heat up
  • Apple approved lightning cable
  • Easy to access Earphone jack and lightning port
  • Battery case doesn’t add length to iPhone 5, only depth

Cons:

  • Aluminium cover can be difficult to remove, especially when Snap Case is on iPhone
  • Top/Bottom sides of iPhone exposed
  • Finishing on Snap Case could be better (though this could just be with pre-production units)

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