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Apple's iPhone 11 Smart Battery Case review: This battery case proves useful in more ways than one

Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributor

iPhone 11 Pro Max Smart Battery Case with Wireless Charging - Black

9.0 / 5

pros and cons

  • Adds plenty of battery life
  • The new camera button is useful
  • Some may not be fond of the design.

Last week, Apple announced a Smart Battery Case for its iPhone 11 lineup. There's a version of the $129 case for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The case is available in soft white or black for the iPhone 11, or pink sand, white or black for the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. 

I received a case for my iPhone 11 Pro Max from Apple on Friday and tested it over the weekend. I wasn't sold on the idea of needing a battery case for my Pro Max, but the new camera button has added some functionality that I wish more iPhone cases had. It might actually be enough to convince me to always put a case on my phone. Let's take a closer look. 

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Same design, with a new trick

The Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 11 lineup uses the same overall design that Apple has used for all previous battery cases it has released. The inside is lined with a soft fabric to protect your phone from scratches. An indicator light is found just above the Lightning connector so you know when the case is charged.

The outside of the case still features a pronounced bump on the back, along with a larger cutout for the iPhone 11's new camera array. On the left side of the case is another cutout, this one for the mute switch just above the volume buttons. On the right side of the case is the sleep/wake button.

It's near the bottom of the case on the right side where you'll find the Smart Battery Case's new trick -- a dedicated button that launches the camera app on your iPhone 11. The button is recessed just enough that it should cut down on the number of accidental presses while it's in a pocket or bag. It's an interesting addition to a case that's primary function is to prolong the (already great) battery life of the iPhone 11. More on this below. 

Charging the case itself can be done via a Qi-compatible wireless charging pad, or using the Lightning port on the bottom of the case. 

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The case adds a respectable amount of thickness and weight to the iPhone 11, but that's standard with any battery case. 

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

More battery, quicker photos

I've been using the iPhone 11 Pro Max since launch day, and my favorite feature is easily battery life. I consistently end my day with around 30% battery left, and that's with heavy use. I would say roughly 4.5 hours of screen on time, on average. 

Apple's listing for the battery case says the case will deliver up to 50% more battery life. For me, it added a full day of use to my iPhone 11 Pro Max. I woke up with a fully charged iPhone and battery case on Saturday, and it wasn't until late Saturday night that I noticed the iPhone's battery icon no longer had the charging indicator on it -- telling me that the case had run out of power. 

Late Sunday night, as I went to bed, I still had a charge of 10% left on the iPhone. I went an entire weekend without charging my iPhone's battery, thanks to the Smart Battery Case. 

Extending the battery life of your iPhone is the batter case's main job, and until the latest version of the case, it was its only job. But with the addition of a dedicated camera button, you can quickly open the camera app and take a photo or video without even touching your phone's display

To use it, you long-press the button until the camera app opens. Then, you press again to take a quick photo, or if you hold in the button again your phone begins recording a video. As soon as you let go, it stops recording. 

I've only had the battery case for a couple of days, but I'm starting to get used to reaching for the camera button instead of using the lock screen camera shortcut -- or even navigating to the home screen and tapping on the camera icon to launch my camera. 

The ability to take a quick video with just a couple presses of a button is something parents will surely love. I was able to catch some fun clips of my kids at a trampoline park over the weekend because I didn't have to fiddle with switching camera modes. 

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Peace of mind

If you're a frequent traveler or really hard on your iPhone's battery, the Smart Battery Case makes a ton of sense. At $129, it's not cheap, but it's also tightly integrated into iOS as is evident by the new camera button. Knowing that I can go for two days on a single charge is reassuring for business trips or even personal vacations. The last thing I want to worry about while in a different city is having to charge my phone.