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Computerized Investing > June 22, 2013
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$79.99

External battery pack for iPhone 5.

Back in May, I reviewed the PowerSkin for iPhone 5, an integrated battery case for the iPhone 5. This is the external battery option I prefer—protective case with built-in battery. However, many purists don’t like the added thickness and weight these types of cases add to the slim iPhone. For this reason, PowerSkin has developed an external battery case for the iPhone 5 that isn’t a “permanent” fixture such as the PowerSkin—the PoP’n.

Out of the Box

The first thing you’ll notice about the PoP’n is that its front is covered with 24 rubber suction cups, which keep it attached to the back of the iPhone. I was surprised by how secure the grip is, although the battery does easily slide side to side.

The PoP’n measures 5 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.41 inches and weighs roughly three ounces. When attached to an iPhone, the height of PoP’n doesn’t interfere with the rear-facing camera or flash of the phone. The PoP’n does weigh 5% more than the PowerSkin for iPhone 5, but is roughly 33% thinner. The slight addition in weight is worth it, however, due to the fact that the PoP’n has a 2,000 mAh capacity, versus 1,500 mAh for the PowerSkin for iPhone 5.

The PoP’n comes in either black or white high-gloss plastic, and the black model I reviewed blended perfectly with my black iPhone 5. One minor complaint is that the high-gloss finish on the back of the PoP’n collects fingerprints and grease very easily.

In order to connect the PoP’n battery to the iPhone, you are given a “flex tip connector,” a rubberized “U” with a micro-USB connector on one end that plugs into PoP’n and a Lightning connector on the other that plugs into the iPhone. These connectors are interchangeable, which means the PoP’n is compatible with other devices as well. Currently, there is also a micro-USB/A model for various Android phones and PowerSkin claims a micro-USB/B model for HTC devices and 30-pin model for earlier iOS devices will be released in the future. The width of the flex tip connector means the PoP’n won’t work with an existing iPhone case, with the possible exception of open-bottomed ones. If you already use a protective case for your iPhone, you may have to remove it in order to charge the phone, something that may become annoying over time. However, if you don’t use a case, PoP’n doesn’t obstruct the earphone jack or the speakers at the bottom of the iPhone.

On one side of the PoP’n is a micro-USB charging port, and a USB-to-micro-USB charging cable is provided (although a wall charger is not). On the back of the battery is an on/off button, which when tapped will turn on the charger as well as light up any of four blue LED lights to indicate the battery level. Holding down the on/off button for a few seconds while the PoP’n is charging will turn off the charger.

Performance

As we mentioned earlier, the PoP’n has a 2,000 mAh capacity, which is higher than the typical integrated battery case, such as the PowerSkin for iPhone 5, which has 1,500 mAh. PowerSkin claims this will give you 70% more talk or standby time with your iPhone. In my real-world tests, however, I found this to slightly understate its capacity. I found I was able to get a fully-drained iPhone 5 back to 80% to 85% with the PoP’n.

Overall

I prefer a whole-case solution (case with integrated battery), so the PoP’n isn’t an ideal option for me. Furthermore, if you already have a case for your iPhone, you may not be able to connect the PoP’n without first removing the case.

However, for “purists” who prefer to keep their iPhone fully exposed, the PoP’n is a unique charging solution. You can easily attach it to your phone, charge it and then remove it when finished. I found the PoP’n to be a more attractive external charging option than the iBattz Mojo Hi5 Power Bank, although the PoP’n has 20% less battery capacity (but the PoP’n also costs 20% less). The one drawback of the PoP’n in comparison to the Mojo Hi5 is that it lacks a standard USB port to charge other devices.

Pros

  • Easy installation and removal
  • Interchangeable tips will make it compatible with different makes and models of devices
  • 2,000 mAh capacity
  • Does not block rear-facing camera or flash

Cons

  • Does not offer the protection of an integrated battery case
  • Lack of standard USB port prevents it from being a true battery backup

PowerSkin PoP’n Charger

$79.99

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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