Reviewed March 10, 2009 by Jacob Spindel, Chief iPod and iPhone Correspondent
With the ever-growing selection of apps available on the App Store, the things
you can do with an iPhone are almost limitless. Need to research on Wikipedia for your big project? iPhones can do that. Want to locate nearby specialists for the type of project you’re working on? iPhones can do that too. Want to forget about the project and just play Scrabble? You get the idea. In fact, often the only area in which an iPhone can’t keep up with all your interests is battery life; the more you use it, the more battery capacity you need. Luckily, Phone Suit’s new MiLi Power Pack boosts your total battery capacity and maintains compatibility with both first gen and 3G iPhones. Although any add-on battery pack must inherently have some disadvantages, the fact is that if you’re a heavy duty iPhone user, the MiLi is practically a mandatory add-on for your digital lifestyle.
The Phone Suit MiLi is a “backpack” style backup battery that measures 5.1 inches X 2.8 inches X 0.8 inches. It is available in six color schemes, including blue, green, and gray inner lining in a black outer shell as well as orange, green, and gray inner lining in a white outer shell. It snaps directly onto your iPhone (either generation) without requiring any cables and provides a 2000 mAh lithium-polymer secondary battery for the phone. It doesn’t cover the iPhone’s screen, volume buttons, silence switch, camera, headphone jack, SIM slot, or power button, so these items remain fully accessible.
At the front of the base of the MiLi (the part directly below the iPhone) is an indicator button, along with four status lights. Simply press the button at any time, and the MiLi temporarily lights up some or all of the status lights, indicating how much charge it has left. (This is handy since your iPhone’s own battery indicator will simply display the “battery full” icon whenever it is running off the MiLi’s power.) On the bottom edge, you’ll find the USB mini-B “In” connector as well as the “Out” passthrough connector, and on the back, you’ll find... well, nothing, actually (which is good news if you want to lie your iPhone flat on its back).
Wait, hold the phone (literally)! Yes, it really has a passthrough connector, which you can use to plug in and charge any USB device (even another MiLi). This feature is incredibly convenient, especially since many people have numerous devices vying for the limited number of USB charging connections available at their computer or workstation – although you can use the passthrough port to charge another device even when the MiLi is not itself charging. This means that, in a pinch, if you have some other USB-chargeable device with you that urgently needs to be charged before you can get back to your computer, the MiLi can even help you with that.
The input port is, again, also a standard USB connection, which is fortunate if you need something that will connect to a standard cable that’s available just about everywhere – but it’s not fortunate if you were hoping to connect anything based on the iPod Dock Connector that an iPhone normally uses, because you can’t connect them at all without removing the MiLi. Thankfully, if you use a USB cable to connect the “In” port to a computer, the MiLi not only charges itself but also supports both syncing and charging the iPhone it is carrying (if there is one).
The MiLi does also cover the iPhone’s speaker and microphone, but surprisingly this has virtually no perceptible effect on audio quality. (If you’re like most iPhone users, you’ll probably be using headphones or a wireless headset most of the time anyway.)
Similarly, attaching the MiLi to an iPhone makes it pretty much impossible to use any other iPhone cases at the same time, and although it does provide fairly strong protection for the back side of the phone, it doesn’t have any built-in protection for the screen. However, Phone Suit does also sell a Mask Screen Protector that provides at least light screen protection, and as of this writing Phone Suit is including two Mask Protectors with the purchase of a MiLi at no additional cost.
No matter how slim and light it is, a battery pack may initially cause you to ask, “Why would I ever want to snap something additional onto my iPhone and deal with carrying it around with me all the time?” But in the case of the MiLi, all you really have to do is try it out and you’ll be convinced. For web surfing, the MiLi adds approximately 6.5 hours to your iPhone 3G’s existing battery life, and for video playback it adds 8-9 hours. For audio playback or standby, the MiLi adds so much time to your battery life that it almost starts getting difficult for us to measure, but Phone Suit has rated it at 31 additional hours for audio playback or 390 additional hours for standby.
The bottom line is that you can pretty much use your iPhone all day, nonstop, with the MiLi connected, for anything you can do with an iPhone (phone, iPod, apps, etc.) and it is almost impossible to run out of battery charge. This makes it a great accessory for people taking long flights or trips – and for that matter, it is ultimately a great accessory for anyone who owns an iPhone. If you literally intend to use it all day long, you will need to charge it every day, but as long as you do that, you may never need to worry about your iPhone’s battery life again, since you can use it as much as you want with very little risk of running out of power.
It’s A Wonderful (Battery) Life
If you already have an iPhone case that you are simply not willing to part with, the MiLi is not really an option for you. (There are a few types of iPhone cases out there that really could inspire that level of loyalty, at least for some users.) Likewise, if you need to connect something else to your iPhone’s Dock Connector port, you probably can’t use the MiLi either. However, for all other iPhone owners, the MiLi is simply a must-have accessory that will change the way you use your iPhone.