Duracell Powermat PowerSnap Kit (for iPhone 5) review

Pros

  • Easy to use wireless charging
  • Decent extra juice from the battery pack
  • Thin and light snap-on case

Cons

  • But that case is a little flimsy
  • Bulky with battery attached

For everything the Apple iPhone 5 does well, the omission of future-tech like NFC or wireless charging remains a point of contention for many. The Duracell Powermat PowerSnap Kit addresses the latter issue, bringing wireless charging to the iPhone 5 via Duracell's established inductive charging system.

It's the same tech behind the 24-Hour Power System for the iPhone 4, but the PowerSnap Kit introduces a new design to mesh with Apple's new Lightning Connector, as well as a snap-on battery pack that turns it into one of the few battery-case solutions available for the iPhone 5.

The kit faces the same problem that previous Duracell efforts faced – namely widespread adoption – and the new case is a bit too flimsy for my tastes. However, if you think that wireless charging is just too cool a prospect to pass up, then the PowerSnap Kit is your best bet.

Design and features

The kit consists of two pieces: A snap on AccessCase and a removable SnapBattery. The former is a thin and light plastic frame that adds wireless charging capability to the iPhone 5. The latter is a battery pack that attaches to the case for on-the-go power.

The AccessCase breaks apart into two pieces; the top portion is nearly indistinguishable from your typical plastic snap-on case, while the bottom piece houses the Lightning Connector and hole for the 3.5mm headphone jack. Unlike battery cases such as the Mophie Juice Pack range, Duracell left the space around the Lightning Connector empty. It definitely helps keep things thin and light, but it also leaves the case feeling unnecessarily fragile. The bottom portion also snaps in and out incredibly easy, which is nice for installation, but entirely disconcerting for security – it feels like it could break off with just a minor drop incident, and the entire assembly has a bit too much wiggle to it.

The SnapBattery slides and snaps into place on the back of the AccessCase, holding itself in place with one tab at the top and two at the bottom. Together, the PowerSnap Kit feels far sturdier than the Mophie Juice Pack Helium, but it's also a good deal bulkier at 61 x 29 x 136mm (WxDxH) and 113 grams (whereas the Helium is considerably sleeker at 15mm thick and 68 grams).

On the back of the SnapBattery are four LED indicators and a Power button to control the flow of juice from the battery to the iPhone. Also on the SnapBattery is a spring-loaded door that covers a microUSB port for charging both the battery and iPhone when connected.

Performance

Charging works exactly like the 24-Hour Power System and older Powermat devices – simply place the SnapBattery or the AccessCase-clad iPhone 5 down on a Duracell Powermat to charge. The magnetic attraction helps guide the accessories into place and a pleasant chime confirms charging. You can charge the two pieces separately, or together with the SnapBattery attached to the AccessCase. Syncing must be done wirelessly, but that's also true of battery cases like the aforementioned Juice Pack Helium. Also bear in mind that you'll have to supply your own Duracell Powermat accessory, which starts at $34.99 (£23) for one device and goes up to $69.99 (£47) for three devices.

With the SnapBattery attached, the PowerSnap Kit is essentially a battery case for the iPhone 5, so we tested it as such using our standard battery rundown test. The PowerSnap Kit was able to add 5 hours of talk time to our iPhone 5 over LTE, which lasted 8 hours and 40 minutes under its own steam. The Juice Pack Helium added 6 hours and 20 minutes on the same test. As a battery case, the PowerSnap Kit is decent, but it provides less power than dedicated cases in a significantly bulkier package.

Verdict

I have to admit wireless charging is pretty cool, but until there's a universal standard and widespread adoption, it's just not convenient enough to be your daily driver. Duracell is facing an uphill battle now as the Qi charging standard is being adopted by a variety of players, including HTC, Nokia, and Google itself with the Nexus 4. If you go the Duracell Powermat route, you'll have to invest in a good deal of accessories to make it really worthwhile.

Neither has truly established dominance in the wireless charging realm yet, but you should keep in mind that if Duracell's standard doesn't gain more traction, you'll be left with a useless set of accessories once you upgrade your device. For some, that will be worth it for wireless charging, but for most it will be a novelty that loses its lustre after that initial wonder wears off.