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If Apple's battery case is a solution, why are there so many questions?

Michael Simon | Dec. 11, 2015
Why now? What's with the bulge? Is this really an Apple product?

iphone 6 smart battery case
Apple's smart battery case for the iPhone 6 and 6s doubles the phone's thickness, but doesn't quite double its battery life. Credit: Apple

“What’s with that Apple battery pack?”

If you’re the resident Apple know-it-all in your family/office/school, you probably heard this question more than once this week. It’s an appropriate one to ask when the biggest company in the world dropped one of its strangest releases: a battery case with a weird hump that promises to extend the life of your iPhone 6 or 6s by 25 hours. I won’t say it’s awkward, but had it been released by a company like Griffin or even Mophie, it would have a hard time finding someone to sit with in the cafeteria.

But since it’s Apple, the whole world noticed. The timing of the release was curious in itself—on a random Tuesday, just 17 days before Christmas—but even if it had been unveiled alongside the iPhone 6s in September, it would have been no less of an oddity. It might be the most un-Apple product ever released, and I have to wonder if Jony Ive even saw it before it was sent to production.

And each time I was posed the above question, I struggled to answer it.

Worst case scenario

When the first image of Apple’s battery case popped up in my Twitter timeline, I scrolled right past it. It wasn’t until I saw the same image up three or four more times in near succession when I realized it wasn’t someone’s joke mockup.

Now Apple hasn’t exactly had a stellar record when it comes to cases. There were the funky iPhone 5c covers that showed unsightly bits of words through the holes. The iPhone 4 bumpers that were more about reception than protection. And who can forget the utterly bizarre iPod Socks? But something troubled me about the battery case even more than the design. It’s not just that it’s cumbersome and goofy; rather, it seems to be trying to address a specific customer complaint with the iPhone 6.

Of course, you can argue that the iPhone 6 itself is an answer to specific complaint about the size of the screen compared to its Android foes, but the battery case feels different. When Apple designed the iPhone 6, it was a natural progression and design evolution. Every decision—the size of the battery, the protrusion of the camera, the placement of the power button—was made to create the best product, warts and all.

The battery case doesn’t look like it went through the same process. It’s as if Tim Cook or Phil Schiller read a bunch of disparaging iPhone posts and called a meeting. And that’s not how Apple operates.

 

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