Kuner KUKE Smart Case: Slim and smart, but lacks polish

16GB KUKE SMart CASE. Photo ©2016 Steven Sande

16GB KUKE SMart CASE. Photo ©2016 Steven Sande

Anyone who has read Apple World Today for any length of time has probably seen more than their share of reviews of iPhone battery cases and Lightning/USB drives designed to transfer files between Mac and iPhone. Today, I’m looking at a crowdfunded iPhone 6/6s Plus case that handles both of those function: the Kuner KUKE Smart Case (also available for iPhone 6/6s).

Design

I was a bit surprised by the slim design of the KUKE as it packs both a 2,400 mAh battery pack and flash RAM (either 16GB or 64GB) into the package. For the iPhone 6/6s Plus version I tested, the case weighs only 88 grams (3.1 ounces) and has a total thickness of 12.3mm (.48 inches). By comparison, a “naked” iPhone 6s Plus withs 192 grams (6.77 ounces) and is 7.3mm (0.29 inches) thick. The iPhone 6/6s version is even lighter and thinner at a weight of 68.5 grams (2.42 ounces) and 11mm (.43 inches).

KUKE SMART CASE PLUGGED INTO IPHONE 6S PLUS. PHOTO ©2016 STEVEN SANDE

KUKE SMART CASE PLUGGED INTO IPHONE 6S PLUS. PHOTO ©2016 STEVEN SANDE

What makes this case truly different is that it uses a proprietary connector to allow a Lightning passthrough to charge the case and iPhone and also let it be seen as a USB device when connected to a Mac or PC. I approve of this idea; I am tired of having so many cases and other devices with micro-USB connectors, so it’s nice to be able to use my standard Apple Lightning cables for charging and data transfer.

PROPRIETARY CONNECTOR INSIDE THE KUKE SMART CASE. PHOTO ©2016 STEVEN SANDE

PROPRIETARY CONNECTOR INSIDE THE KUKE SMART CASE. PHOTO ©2016 STEVEN SANDE

The case itself consists of two pieces; a shell that contains the battery pack and a frame that surrounds the iPhone 6/6s Plus. The frame is black and the shell is white. For the iPhone 6/6s model, the KUKE is a one-piece case that integrates the frame and shell. It’s available in a black frame/white shell version as well as an all-black version.

KUKE SMART CASE FULLY INSTALLED. PHOTO ©2016 STEVEN SANDE

KUKE SMART CASE FULLY INSTALLED. PHOTO ©2016 STEVEN SANDE

The KUKE Smart Case has a good feel in the hand; my concern is that it’s rather slick, which could make it more likely to be dropped. Some ridging or perhaps a less slick material would make the case feel more secure in the hand.

Function

When I first received the prototype unit, I was a bit confused as to how the case was installed onto the iPhone 6/6s Plus as the instructions were in Chinese! Fortunately, the Indiegogo page has videos showing how to properly install and remove the case.

As with just about every iPhone flash storage accessory, the KUKE comes with its own app. That app provides a number of functions; it provides system information on the current status of the iPhone battery, the storage capacity of the iPhone, and the RAM in the device that’s currently in use.

A LOOK AT THE KUKE APP.

A LOOK AT THE KUKE APP.

Another window provides access to the four primary areas where files are stored; Photos, Videos, Musics (that’s the way it’s spelled…) and Documents. I was also pleased to see that there’s a built-in KUKE user guide that features a basic tutorial in how to use the app as well as some other tips. However, my enthusiasm for the user guide was short-lived after it refused to load the second time I tried.

In addition, the user guide made references to several features that could be set through the Settings part of the app — Settings were not available under “About Us” and “Feedback” where they were supposed to be. That was resolved when I first used the battery pack and the device ran an over-the-air firmware update. That update also resolved the slow loading issue with the user guide.

The app worked well in terms of copying photos, videos, music and documents from the iPhone. It supports MP3 and M4A music files; MP4, MOV, AVI, MKV, MPG and WMV video files; and Word, Excel, PPT and PDF files. For a device that’s to be used with an iPhone, it should also support iWork files.

Many of the other flash drives for iPhone and iPad include functions for automatically backing up contacts, calendar, and notes, and those would be welcome here as well. The app also seemed to use a surprisingly high amount of battery power; during the short time I tested it, it resulted in 17% of my total battery usage for the preceding 24 hours.

Conclusion

I like the concept of the KUKE, although it’s not alone in the “battery + storage” world. In fact, if I was going to purchase a case of this type, I’d probably go with the mophie Space Pack instead. Sure, the Space Pack costs more at $150 for a 32GB model (the 64GB KUKE was available on Indiegogo for $129 plus shipping) and is decidedly more chunky, but it has slightly more battery capacity, an app that doesn’t seem to be quite as fluky and adds a Wi-Fi transfer capability, a proven track record, and other accessories like a hip holster, belt clip, dock and car dock. In addition, mophie’s products are MFi (made for iPhone) certified. I see no indication that the KUKE has that certification.

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★