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Review: PowerSkin battery pack and protective case for iPhone

PowerSkin is an all-in-one external battery pack and silicon protective case for your iPhone 4 or 4S. It promises to double the performance of your iPhone's battery while protecting it from knocks and drops with a 100% recyclable silicone case.

Personally, I've never been the kind of guy to use a protective case or extra battery packs for my phone. Usually, I'm never more than a day away from charging my iPhone, and although the idea of protecting my iPhone with a case really does appeal, I've always felt a protective case adds too much bulk and weight to make it practical for me.

So when I got the opportunity to spend some time with the PowerSkin, I was curious as to how much of an impact it would make on my habits with regards to using my phone.

Typically, I get through a day with between 10% - 20% charge left on my iPhone. I then put it on to charge through the night, so I'm all good to go with a fully charged battery in the morning. I wouldn't say I'm a heavy user, but I use my iPhone for data and calls throughout most of the day.

If I'm away and I don't get a chance to charge up, I know my iPhone will see me through the day, and night, to about the first thing the next morning before it dies. So about 23 hours of my typical usage before my iPhone dies.

With the PowerSkin, I'm pleased to say I got just shy of twice the battery life of my iPhone: a total of 45 hours. If I'd turned my iPhone off through the night, I probably could have knocked that figure up a few hours. But, for nearly two whole days, I didn't have to charge my iPhone. I have to say, it was a little disconcerting not putting my phone into its dock for its nightly juice-up. But I was also reminded of previous mobile phones I've owned, maybe 7 or 8 years ago, where I wouldn't think to charge the phone for two or three days as standard. Things certainly have changed!

The PowerSkin has some nifty features as well as a great battery. It has a built-in LED light indicator to tell you how much charge left, and an on/off switch if you want to turn the external battery off altogether. Charging is made simple enough with a USB cable plugged into your Mac, PC or USB mains adapter -- the PowerSkin also makes sure the iPhone battery charges first, before its own. Another nice touch is synginc to iTunes while charging -- a bonus if you're not using WiFi syncing.

The protective case fits snugly around the iPhone, with all buttons, sensors and the camera unobstructed. And it's easy to put the phone in the case or take it out. With the case on, there is a serious bit of bulk attached to the phone. In my rough estimates, it adds about the bulk of another iPhone to your current iPhone, plus a bit of extra length at the bottom of the phone. It's not unusable in any way, but it did make me feel like I was using a mobile phone from the late 1990s, and I was much more aware of my iPhone in my trouser pocket.

The silicon case itself provided adequate protection. If I was to drop my iPhone with the case on, I'd still be concerned, but the back and corners are well covered -- it's just the screen which is still exposed.

Although I'm not a fan of protective cases and battery packs because of their extra bulk and weight (as mentioned above), the PowerSkin does a great job at providing protection and extra juice for when you need it. I can certainly see the benefits of having one in easy reach for those moments when you unexpectedly need an extra charge or some protection in a precarious mobile phone situation. With out the phone inside, the PowerSkin can easily disappear into a bag pocket or desk draw for such occasions.

If you're like me and you prefer your iPhone sans case and additional battery, the US$69.99 price tag will perhaps feel a little on the pricey side for such occasional uses. But if you know that regularly you're going to come up short on charge, and could do with the protection, the PowerSkin is certainly worth checking out.

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