Apple quietly released its latest Smart Battery Case release earlier this week for its newest iPhones. As with previous versions, the Smart Battery Case for iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max helps extend the battery life of your iPhone.
But unlike previous versions of the Smart Battery Case, this year’s edition comes with a brand new physical camera shortcut feature that helps further differentiate from iPhone 11 battery case offers from third-party.
- 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
Design and build quality
If you’ve ever used one of Apple’s first-party Smart Battery Cases before, then the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro versions will tell you exactly what to expect. The Smart Battery Case snugly fits around an iPhone compatible, featuring a soft microfiber interior with a soft-touch exterior finish for easy grip.
It’s easy to insert an iPhone inside the case thanks to the elastomer character which flips back a bit to allow you to slip inside your iPhone. When completely inside the box, to allow charging, it makes contact with the Lightning connection at the bottom of the box.
If you’re an 11-owner iPhone, you’ve got two colors to choose from— soft white and black. Soft white, black and pink sand options are available for iPhone 11 Pro and Pro max users. I chose pink sand, a color previously offered with the iPhone XS Smart Battery Case, because I think it is a good addition to the gray iPhone 11 Pro space.
Design-wise, I wouldn’t say the Smart Battery Case is necessarily good-looking, but the case’s sheer functionality helps me to overlook the polarizing design easily. The biggest downside to the model is Apple’s humpback look as a means of keeping the case as thin as possible while still allocating space 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 approximately 50% battery life for any iPhone 11 variant inserted in a compatible case. This estimate should be fairly close to what you should expect from real-world use if past examples are any indication.
Unlike previous Smart Battery Cases, the version of the iPhone 11 supports USB-PD compatibility when connected to a Lightning to a USB-C connector and the corresponding fast charging adapter. It also supports Qi-wireless charging, which means that to refill it you can simply place the case on a compatible wireless charger.
As expected, the iPhone 11 Smart Battery Case can be charged on its own without connecting to an iPhone. Inside the case, there is a small LED indicator that allows you to see the current charging status while being connected to the power. An amber light means charging the module, while a green LED light means full charging.
However, like all previous iterations, the really great thing about the Smart Battery Case is its integration with iOS. You only get smart battery status updates on both the Lock screen and within the Notification Center with Apple’s official Smart Battery Case. It helps you to see how much battery life is left right from the iOS UI, ensuring that there is no need for ambiguous LED indicators outside the unit.
The Smart Battery Case is also “smart” in how the combination of iPhone and external battery makes charging easier to get the best performance. In other words, there is no need to use external power switches to micromanage the unit Once the Smart Battery Case is connected to your iPhone, it fully manages the charging behavior without any user assistance.
For those of you who are familiar with previous iterations of the Smart Battery Case, most of these details will be old news. Nevertheless, there’s an interesting addition to this year’s 11-centered iPhone model that we’ve never seen before …
The biggest new feature to come to the Smart Battery Case design this year is the inclusion of a dedicated shortcut button for the physical camera, which is about two inches below the side button.
Whether the iPhone is unlocked or locked the concave tactile physical camera shortcut button allows users to easily open the Camera app. This is especially useful when pressing one button to the Camera app while in another app, as it can save valuable time while trying to capture a special moment.
You will have to press and hold the button for a second to invoke the camera via the camera shortcut button. On the other hand, a short press does nothing, possibly as a way of mitigating accidental button presses.
A quick press of the camera shortcut button will take a photo or a selfie once inside the Camera app, while a longer press engages the new QuickTake video feature found on iPhone 11 exclusively.
The camera’s dedicated shortcut key is quite inconspicuous and flies under the radar, but its concave tactile design means that users can locate it quickly with their fingers even without looking directly at the case.
As camera-focused as the iPhone batch this year, it makes sense for Apple to include more camera-focused features in its Smart Battery Case. It is certainly not an enormous feature, but one that is appreciated nonetheless.
It’s a Smart Battery Case, which means we’re not really familiar with a whole lot here. In other words, some people will still not like the fact that iOS is taking care of all aspects of charging, while others will continue to dislike the odd design.
Yet, despite its peculiar design, I’ve always liked the Smart Battery Case, because micromanage is nothing; you just put your iPhone inside and it works. The fact that the iOS Lock screen and Notification Center are integrated gives it another leg up on the competition from third parties.
While not innovative, adding the new camera shortcut is a welcome feature that makes the Smart Battery Case feel smarter. I really like the ability to jump straight to the camera app from anywhere in iOS, and the button placement with its concave surface is suitable for responsive use.
While the new iPhone 11 lineup sports the best battery life in storied product history, it is always appreciated to have more battery life on the tap.
The Smart Battery Case is particularly useful while traveling, as it can be the difference between a dead iPhone and an iPhone that spare battery life lasts the whole day.
I definitely recommend it if you travel a lot. But if you usually find yourself spare at the end of the day with battery life, the Smart Battery Case is likely to be overkilling for your use case.
The Smart Battery Case can be purchased directly from Apple for $129.