Smart Battery Case for iPhone 11 review [Video]

Earlier this week Apple quietly released its latest version of the Smart Battery Case for its newest iPhones. The Smart Battery Case for iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max helps to extend your iPhone’s battery life just like previous versions.

But unlike previous versions of the Smart Battery Case, this year’s edition comes with a brand new physical camera shortcut feature that helps to further differentiate itself from third-party iPhone 11 battery case offerings. Watch our hands-on iPhone 11 Pro Smart Battery Case video review for the details.





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Specifications

  • Available for iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • Delivers up to 50% longer battery life
  • Intelligent battery status on Lock screen and Notification Center
  • USB-PD-compatible for faster charging
  • Colors: Soft White, Black, and Pink Sand (iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max only)
  • Soft microfiber lining interior
  • Soft-touch finish silicone exterior
  • Elastomer hinge for easy add/removal
  • Clicky tactile buttons
  • Dedicated camera button to launch Camera app
  • Qi-wireless charging compatible
  • Price $129

iPhone 11 Pro Smart Battery Case review

Design and build quality

If you’ve ever used one of Apple’s first-party Smart Battery Cases before, then you’ll know exactly what to expect with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro versions. The Smart Battery Case fits snugly around a compatible iPhone, and features a soft microfiber interior along with a soft-touch exterior finish for easy grip.

Inserting an iPhone inside the case is easy, thanks to the elastomer hinge that flips back a bit to allow you to slide your iPhone inside. Once fully inside the case, it makes contact with the Lightning connection at the bottom of the housing to facilitate charging.

If you’re an iPhone 11 owner, you have two colors — soft white and black — to choose from. iPhone 11 Pro and Pro max owners get soft white, black, and pink sand options. I opted for pink sand, a color that’s been offered previously with the iPhone XS Smart Battery Case, because I think it complements the space gray iPhone 11 Pro well.

Design-wise, I wouldn’t say that the Smart Battery Case is necessarily good-looking, but the sheer functionality of the case allows me to easily overlook the polarizing design. The biggest downside to the design is the humpback look that Apple employs as a means to keep the case as thin as possible while still allocating room for the external battery.

Battery and charging

Apple notes that the 1430 mAh (7.63 V, 10.9 Wh) battery should be able to provide about 50% battery life to any variant of iPhone 11 inserted inside a compatible case. If past examples are any indication, this estimate should be fairly close to what you should expect from real-world usage.

Like previous Smart Battery Cases, the iPhone 11 version supports USB-PD-compatibility for faster charging when connected to a Lightning to USB-C connector and corresponding fast charging-capable power adapter. It also supports Qi-wireless charging, which means you can simply place the case on a compatible wireless charger to refill it.

As expected, the Smart Battery Case for iPhone 11 can be charged standalone, without an iPhone connected. There is a tiny LED indicator inside the case that allows you to see current charging status while connected to power. An amber light means that the unit is charging, while a green LED light means that it’s fully charged.

But the really great thing about the Smart Battery Case, like all previous iterations, is its integration with iOS. Only with Apple’s official Smart Battery Case do you get intelligent battery status updates on both the Lock screen and within Notification Center. This allows you to see how much battery life is left right from the iOS UI, which means that no ambiguous LED indicators are necessary on the outside of the unit.

The Smart Battery Case is also “smart” in how it facilitates charging to get the best performance out of the combination of iPhone and external battery. In other words, there’s no need to micromanage the unit via external power switches. Once you connect the Smart Battery Case to your iPhone, it fully manages charging behavior without the need for any user assistance.

Most of these details will be old news for those of you who are familiar with previous iterations of the Smart Battery Case. However, on this year’s iPhone 11-centric model, there is an interesting addition that we’ve never seen before…

Camera shortcut

The biggest new feature to come to this year’s design of the Smart Battery Case is the inclusion of a dedicated physical camera shortcut button, which rests approximately two inches below the Side button.

The concave tactile physical camera shortcut button allows users to quickly launch the Camera app whether the iPhone is unlocked or locked. This is particularly useful for one button access to the Camera app while in another app, as it can save precious time when trying to capture a special moment.

To invoke the camera via the camera shortcut button, you’ll need to press and hold the button for a second. A short press, on the other hand, does nothing, probably as a way to mitigate accidental presses of the button.

Once inside the Camera app, a quick press of the camera shortcut button will take a photo or a selfie, while a longer press engages the new QuickTake video feature found exclusively on iPhone 11.

The dedicated camera shortcut button is quite inconspicuous and flies under the radar, but its concave tactile design ensures that users can quickly find it with their fingers, even without looking directly at the case.

As camera-focused as this year’s batch of iPhones are, it makes sense for Apple to incorporate more camera-centric features into its Smart Battery Case. It’s admittedly not a huge feature, but one that is nonetheless appreciated.

9to5Mac’s Take

It’s a Smart Battery Case, which means there’s really not a whole lot here that we’re not already intimately familiar with. In other words, some people still won’t like the fact that iOS takes care of all aspects of charging, while others will continue to dislike the somewhat odd design.

Yet I’ve always liked the Smart Battery Case, despite its peculiar design, because there’s nothing to micromanage; you just put your iPhone inside and it works. The fact that there’s integration within the iOS Lock screen and Notification Center gives it another leg up on third-party competition.

The addition of the new camera shortcut, while not anything groundbreaking, is a welcome feature that makes the Smart Battery Case feel smarter. I especially like the ability to jump from anywhere in iOS directly to the camera app, and the placement of the button, with its concave surface, is ideal for tactility.

Although the new iPhone 11 lineup sports the best battery life in the history of the storied product, having more battery life on tap is always appreciated.

The Smart Battery Case is especially handy when traveling, as it can be the difference between a dead iPhone and an iPhone that lasts all day with battery life to spare.

If you travel a lot, I definitely recommend it. But if you generally find yourself with battery life to spare at the end of the day, the Smart Battery Case is probably overkill for your use case.

You can purchase the Smart Battery Case for $129 directly from Apple. What are your thoughts about it? Sound off down below in the comment section.

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