UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone Review

There are battery cases, and there are external batteries. What happens when you marry the two together?

UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone: On the plus side

Smartphones run out of power. I don’t care if you’re packing the largest phablet* on the planet, the power runs low.
That’s the market that every single battery case and battery pack targets, because running out of power on the go quite simply sucks. There are challenges with either approach, though; an external battery pack may get left behind, because it’s external, after all. A battery case doesn’t have that problem, but adds constant bulk to the phone in question.

The battery pack -- sorry, pak -- clips onto the case. It's a neat solution.
The battery pack — sorry, pak — clips onto the case. It’s a neat solution.

The UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone does what it says in the title, really; it’s a combination slim case for iPhone 5/5s with an attachable battery that’s only a shade thinner than the iPhone itself.
The idea is that you can use it as a straight case when that’s all you need, or plug the battery in when you’re dipping into the red zone for power consumption, and while it’s sold in an iPhone form factor, there’s no reason you couldn’t charge other

Latch holes on the back of the case allow you to clip the battery into place, at which point you’re left with a rather fat looking iPhone.
UNU rates the ECOPAK as having a 2,500mAh battery, which should be good for around two iPhone charges. It didn’t manage that in my tests — it’s often the case with battery packs that they don’t actually deliver what you might expect — but it could very comfortably manage a 100 per cent charge on an entirely flat iPhone 5. If you’re going to be away from a power supply for longer than a day, a larger battery pack might be a better buy.
The UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone does add bulk to the iPhone when it’s in place, but because it’s the same size and shape as an iPhone, it’s not a terrible imposition for the power it offers. You’ll notice it’s there, but it doesn’t add a whole lot of weight, or make the phone hard to use. That’s a tradeoff, as noted above, for any battery case.

UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone: On the minus side

There are some issues with the UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone, however. The case itself is a straight snap-on type, and that works well, but actually getting it off the iPhone can be tricky.
As an absolute sidenote, I used the UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone while I was attending IDF and the iPhone 5s/5c launch recently, and the case I happen to have for review is the bright blue model.
One prominent blogger saw me using it and rushed up, excited by the prospect that I might have had an early 5c. I felt very bad about disappointing him, but it does highlight the comment I made in my iPhone 5c review; it’s rather easy to fake the colours of the 5c, even when you don’t mean to.

Cables will appear messier than this in real-world situations.
Cables will appear messier than this in real-world situations.

The iPhone 5/5s both use the Lightning connector, but UNU don’t include a cable or connector in the box, which means you’ve got to use your existing cable. That means you’ve got to remember to carry it, and also that you’re likely to be trailing a cable underneath your phone while charging. There aren’t that many licensed iPhone 5 batteries/chargers (Mophie’s the most prominent), so it’s an understandable limitation.

UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone: Pricing

The UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone provided for review came to me via Conexus, but they’re a distributor rather than a sales outlet. Online searches suggest it retails for around $75 for both case and battery pack.

UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone: Fat Duck verdict

The UNU ECOPAK Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone isn’t the cheapest battery pack you can buy, so if all you’re after is power, you could look elsewhere. What it does get right is the balance between style and convenience, for the most part. Undeniably it’d be better with its own tiny Lightning cable to cut down on the clutter, but that aside, it does allow you to take charging with you that’ll get you out of a power pinch.
*I’m sorry. I’m so very, very sorry. I promise not to use the “ph” word ever again**.
** Until the next time I do. I feel unclean now.

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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