Apple’s Smart Battery Cases certainly aren’t anything new. They have been around since 2015 and the iPhone 6S. However, since I have had really good success with all-day battery life using Plus and Max-sized devices since the iPhone 6, I never bought, or even tried one. Until recently, that is.
Even though the iPhone 11 Pro Max has delivered some of the best battery life that I’ve ever enjoyed, I decided to pick one up a month ago. I had some work travel coming up at the time and I can’t always count on easy charging in meeting venues. You never can tell how much you might need to use your phone to take pictures, stay connected, or for your own Internet connection. All of that can take a big toll on your battery life. I figured a little insurance would be a good idea.
The reason I chose the Smart Battery Case over my old standby battery case Mophie or a stand-alone battery pack was its tight integration with the iPhone. As the name implies, it is far more than a simple battery. The Smart Battery Case actually integrates with the iPhone’s built-in battery charging and discharging programming and works seamlessly in tandem with them. It also has overheating and overcharging protection, insuring that the iPhone’s battery isn’t harmed or its capacity diminished by using it.
That wasn’t always the case with older third party battery cases, especially those with lower prices. Even my Mophies, which did have some protections built-in, would eventually overheat a times as the iPhone’s battery aged and wore down. I knew Apple’s case gave me the best shot at using a battery case with as little negative impact on my phone as possible.
Consider the design of the case for strong evidence of this. Apple is known for a lot of things, but designing for function over form definitely isn’t one of them. However, the Smart Battery Case is a notable exception. The battery “hump” on the back, the source of most of the complaints about the case, is there for a very good reason. It’s position and design is all about insuring proper heat dissipation while not diminishing cell signal. The design is definitely utilitarian, but it is the way it is for good reason and it gets the job done.
One of the primary benefits of this case’s design and integration with the iPhone and iOS is how it manages working with the device. Normally, when an iPhone is being charged, iOS shifts into a different battery usage mode. This is much the same as a laptop, with adjustable usage modes for battery vs outlet power. As with many such things in iOS, this is a background task and is not adjustable or configurable by the user. However, when you use the Smart Battery Case, the iPhone knows it isn’t connected to an outlet and iOS keeps the battery working in its normal mode. This means you get a much higher degree of efficiency with this case over any other battery case.
Above you can see another nice benefit of all this integration. While other battery cases can transmit some information to iOS, this case’s full integration means that it reports directly to Apple’s battery monitoring. That means the Smart Battery Case shows up separately when you plug it in, as well as under iOS’ Battery Widget, making it very convenient to track battery usage.
There are other advantages over competing battery cases, as well. like all battery cases, this one has a Lightning jack on the inside. However, unlike most other products, it also has a Lightning Port for charging, rather than the typical Micro USB. The Smart Battery Case also charges and allows you to re-charge wirelessly. That’s a nice extra touch, in my opinion.
The big improvement in the latest Smart Battery Cases for the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max is the addition of a dedicated Camera button. This “fake” capacitive button is capable of opening the iOS Camera app and then taking pictures when pressed. This feature combined with added battery capacity are perfect for situations when you know you will be using the camera to take lots of pictures and record long stretches of video.
I have been buried in work for the last month and really haven’t had the chance to test this feature out more than just making sure that it works. However, I have a vacation coming up in a couple of weeks during Spring Break and I plan to write more about the camera integration and battery life while shooting then. For today, I will just say that the Smart Battery Case handles the basics very well. The additional battery life has erased any need to charge on a daily basis. I still usually re-charge at night, but if I fall asleep before plugging in, I’m still good in the morning and can just top up while driving to work.
The design is odd, but it doesn’t get in the way as much as I thought it would. The Pro Max is already big, so a little bigger doesn’t make that much difference to me for extra battery life. The soft-touch exterior of the Smart Battery Case is a bit of a dust magnet, but it is incredibly easy to grip, which I do appreciate with such a large phone. The case also offers a fair amount of protection for the iPhone, as well, which you don’t always get from battery cases.
Yes, the Smart Battery Case is expensive at $129. I can’t deny that. However, if you need a battery case, any good one is going to cost you something in the same neighborhood. When you consider all of the integration and design considerations made by Apple with this case, I think it is worth the price. It may not be for everybody, but the Smart Battery Case is built to meet the needs of those who do need it.
I can give this much of an endorsement in closing- when I bought the Smart Battery Case, I wasn’t sure if I would be keeping it in the end. Here we are a month later and I still use it most every day. Considering how much it costs, I’m a little surprised that I liked it that much, but here we are.
The Apple Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 11 Pro Max was purchased by the author for review. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the About page.