Mophie Juice Pack Access for iPhone XS Max: Plenty of power and wireless charging

Mophie Juice Pack Access for iPhone XS Max. Photo © 2019, Steven Sande

Mophie Juice Pack Access for iPhone XS Max. Photo © 2019, Steven Sande

Since the first Mophie iPhone case came out years ago, I’ve been a fan. The company was the first to figure out how to put a battery pack into an iPhone case to provide extra power while protecting the phone. The latest from Mophie, the $99.95 Mophie Juice Pack Access for iPhone XS Max, continues the legacy of power and protection. However, many users are finding that they can’t charge the case and are giving it poor ratings — in this review, we tell you how to get the Juice Pack Access to work properly, something Mophie needs to communicate to its customers.

Design

In the past, Mophie’s cases were designed so that you did not have access to the Lightning port on the bottom of the phone. That’s because there was a Lightning charging prong in the bottom of the case. To charge the phone and then the case, you simply plugged in a Lightning cable and things were good to go.

The inside of the Juice Pack Access, showing the Qi charging pad within and two-part, easy-to-install design. Photo © 2019, Steven Sande

The inside of the Juice Pack Access, showing the Qi charging pad within and two-part, easy-to-install design. Photo © 2019, Steven Sande

Now that Apple has embraced Qi wireless charging, Mophie decided to go that way as well. The Juice Pack Access provides full access to the Lightning port and speaker openings on the bottom of the iPhone XS Max, hence the name “Access”. So how does Mophie charge your iPhone from the pack? Using Qi wireless charging. There’s a Qi charging pad inside the back of the case that charges the iPhone when the power button is pressed for 3 seconds.

Here’s the real kicker - the battery case itself can also be charged through wireless charging. Place it onto a Qi-compatible charging pad and it will top off the iPhone, then charge the battery in the case. You can also use a USB-C cable to charge the case.

The USB-C Charging port. Is that a reset button next to it? Who knows? It’s not mentioned in any of the Mophie documentation. Photo © 2019, Steven Sande

The USB-C Charging port. Is that a reset button next to it? Who knows? It’s not mentioned in any of the Mophie documentation. Photo © 2019, Steven Sande

The Juice Pack Access isn’t without some negatives. It certainly adds a lot of bulk to an already bulky phone, and packs on an additional 3.74 ounces (106 grams) of weight. The exterior dimensions are 3.19 x 6.33 x 0.71 in (81.02 x 160.80 x 17.99mm).

It’s available in four colors: basic black, gold, a grayish-blue, and red. As with most Mophie products I’ve reviewed in the past, the front of the case extends slightly beyond the iPhone screen in order to provide additional protection in case of a face-down drop. The inside corners of the case are rubberized to protect the iPhone XS Max from sudden impact.

Function

When I began my testing, I just went ahead and placed the case onto the iPhone XS Max and then plopped it onto a nearby Qi charging pad. The Juice Pack Access appeared to be doing its regular pass-through charging of the iPhone (what Mophie calls Priority+), but the case never seemed to get charged. About this same time, I noticed that the Juice Pack Access was getting a lot of negative reviews, with most people saying that it wasn’t charging the battery pack — the same problem I was having

Well, I figured out the problem, no thanks to Mophie. In the PDF manual, there is a noticed that says “IMPORTANT: Before using your Juice Pack Access case for the first time, fully charge it (so that pressing the charge status button lights all 4 LEDs). That is a VERY key point, and it should be printed on a card in bright red letters and placed inside the case.

Once the case was fully charged (I used USB-C and a GaNFast charger), it worked as advertised. If the iPhone charge level is down and I’m near a wireless charger, I can just lay the entire case onto the charging pad and it tops off the iPhone. If the case’s battery charge has been depleted, I can top it off wirelessly. However, I think I’ll still use the USB-C cable to charge the case — it just works faster.

The case’s battery has a capacity of 2,200 mAh, while the iPhone XS Max has an internal capacity of 3,174 mAh. That means that the Juice Pack Access can only “top off” your Max — it cannot completely recharge it. Mophie notes that the Juice Pack Access can extend the Max’s battery life to 31 hours. Considering that Apple’s own testing shows a “talk time” (no internet use) of 25 hours, the Juice Pack Access really adds only about 6 hours of extra usage.

Is that enough? Probably. Most of us usually aren’t more than a few hours away from a power outlet for recharging, and adding an extra 6 hours to the regular battery life of the XS Max is probably sufficient.

Conclusion

To all of the people giving the Mophie Juice Pack Access poor ratings on both the Mophie web site and on Amazon, all I can say is “RTFM”! It doesn’t help that Mophie doesn’t include a copy of the user manual in the box, nor does it make a big deal anywhere else about charging the Juice Pack Access fully before use. Doing so gives you a fully-functional battery case and prevents a lot of frustration. For Mophie’s omission, I’m taking away one star in my rating.

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