Mophie invented the battery charging iPhone case eons ago, saving legions of email addicts from mid-day phone death. With its new Space Pack case, Mophie hopes to once again give iPhone users something they've never had before: Extra storage space.
What is it?
A 1700 mAh battery case for iPhone 5/5S that doubles as an external storage drive for your phone. It comes in 16GB and 32GB versions for $150 and $180, respectively.
Why does it matter?
While many Android phones have long come with microSD slots that allow you to expand their built-in storage, the iPhone never has. You're stuck with what you bought, and if that's not enough, too bad. For the first time, iPhone users who want more space have an option.
It looks identical to the famed Juice Pack Air except that it's slightly taller and heavier (.11 inches taller and .12 ounces heavier, to be exact.) The matte finish has better grip than the aluminum phone it protects. The case is bulky, turning the slender iPhone into a hulking pocket tumor.
The Space Pack is perfect if you're the type of person who needs to carry around every single song in your enormous music collection, or every single photo you've ever taken.
The case slides together around your phone much the way other cases do, leaving a MicroUSB connector at the bottom. As a battery case, it functions just like the Juice Packs that came before. Its 1700 mAh battery more than doubles your phone's built-in power. When you connect the Space Pack to your computer via USB, it mounts on your desktop. Want to dump a stack of work PDFs onto your phone to use in a service dark spot? It's as easy as transferring files onto a flash drive.
To actually access your files on the Space Pack on your phone, you've got to use Mophie's free Space app because In iOS, you can't access the underlying file structure of your phone the way you can with any of the many file manager applications for Android. No matter how you dump files onto the case, the app automatically sorts them into "Music," "Videos," "Photos," folders on the app's home screen. More likely than not, multimedia like photos, music, and video is what's eating up all of your phone's storage, and so the Space app is intelligently organized around each of these categories, each with its own built-in media player/viewer.
The case's coolest feature is that it allows you to store and share files you wouldn't ordinarily be able to on an iPhone. For example, sharing songs from the standard iOS music app is impossible, but if you store the jams in the case, the Space app lets you send them in an email or text message. There are some limitations to what you can move to and from the Space Pack depending on what app you're in, but overall, both the case and app are smartly designed to make carrying a ton of extra files around as easy as possible.
By cramming storage into the already useful Juice Pack, Mophie has made an even more utilitarian gadget. I love the clever workaround that lets you share and store files you wouldn't ordinarily be able to.
My usual complaints about Mophie cases apply: they're bulky, and ruin your phone's otherwise tiny and efficient design. You're trading the inconvenience of a dead phone with not enough storage for a brick that's a pain to carry around and use. This drawback of the latter route is perfectly illustrated by the little rubber cable extension you need if you want to use headphones and the case at the same time.
Lose the extension? You're screwed. But if you need more storage, you don't have another option.
Should I buy it?
If you're the type of person that's going to need a Juice Pack case to begin with, you're probably the type of person who lives with a phone glued to your hand and might benefit from having more storage. If you're going to buy the Space Pack, it's probably worth going all the way and spending another $30 on the 32GB model. $180 for a case is expensive, but you're getting a lot for the money here.
Your best bet is probably to buy an iPhone with more storage to begin with. But if you really need more than 64GB and don't mind the bulk, the Space Pack works exactly as advertised.
Photos by Nick Stango