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They say knowledge is power. And that’s true in a metaphorical sense, but when your iPhone is dead, only power is power. Luckily, the battery-equipped Energizer Energi to Go AP1201 (for iPhone 4) and AP1500 (for 3G/3GS) pack quite a punch, perfect for those times when important chunks of knowledge are locked up inside an iPhone with no juice.
The stylish AP1201, designed for the iPhone 4, doesn’t add much bulk to the back, although it does extend down from the bottom of the iPhone a bit. The bottom of the case, where the battery is, is rigid plastic, but the top and sides are rubbery, which lets you easily stretch it around the phone. The soft finish doesn’t add much extra grip but also doesn’t pick up lint or fingerprints.
Charge ’em up.
A low-profile button at the bottom right lights up four otherwise-invisible blue LEDs on the back to show how much charge is remaining. The iPhone’s headphone jack, Silent switch, and camera are uncovered, but the Sleep/Wake button and volume buttons are covered with buttons on the case, which work but are a bit hard to press. The iPhone’s dock port connects to a 30-pin connector inside the case, and you can charge the case without or without the iPhone in it using the included micro-USB-to-USB cable. Unfortunately, while pass-through charging is supported, you can’t sync your iPhone with that USB cable -- you have to pull the case off to sync with your Mac. But since it’s so easy to remove, we didn’t mind much.
And the 1500mAh lithium polymer battery delivered impressive life. Charging the case fully took 3 hours, 40 minutes, and when we connected it to a completely dead iPhone 4, it brought the iPhone up to 77 percent charged in exactly two hours before conking out. Then we fully charged both the case and the iPhone 4, and streamed video over Wi-Fi until they were both dead, which took a whopping 10 hours, 45 minutes -- 207 percent longer than streaming Wi-Fi to the iPhone 4 on its own (3 hours, 30 minutes).
The one-piece AP1500 is a little bulkier, sporting a shiny black finish and raised bumps on either side for grip. It doesn’t cover your entire iPhone 3G or 3GS, leaving the top uncovered. Every button and port is accessible except the dock port, which connects to a 30-pin connector inside the case. Pass-through charging is supported via the included mini-USB-to-USB cable, but like the AP1201, you can’t sync without removing the case -- no big deal since the iPhone slides and in out easily. A button on the side lights up four blue LEDs on the front to show how much juice is left in the 1500mAh lithium polymer battery.
The AP1500 also performed well in our testing, using an iPhone 3G purchased in June 2008. On its own, our iPhone 3G could only stream video over Wi-Fi for 2 hours and 20 minutes -- hey, it’s old. But after fully charging the AP1500 (4 hours, 4 minutes), the combo of case-and-iPhone ran for 6 hours 28 minutes. Impressive! Connecting a fully charged case to a totally dead iPhone 3G brought the phone up to nearly fully charged in 3 hours, 5 minutes.
The bottom line. Both cases performed well, and we found each for far less than list price on Amazon. If you’re trying to eke out a few more months of use from an iPhone 3G or 3GS, it’s a no-brainer, and the extra life we got on a 10-month-old iPhone 4 was a godsend too. The only dealbreaker might be if you use your phone’s dock port often (for example, to connect to a car stereo). Power to the people -- and their iPhones.
Energizer Energi To Go AP1201
Requirements: iPhone 4
Pros: Easy on and off. Doesn’t block speakers. Nice soft-touch finish. Can be found cheaper online.
Cons: Can’t sync without removing the case. Buttons over volume and Sleep/Wake a little hard to press.
Energizer Energi to Go AP1500
Requirements: iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS
Pros: Easy to put on and take off. Doesn’t block speakers. Flat sides let you stand it up on its side for video viewing. Can be found cheaper online (currently as little as $15 on Amazon).
Cons: Can’t sync without removing the case. Doesn’t cover the top of the phone from scratches or bumps.