If you have an iPhone, you know very well its two Achilles’ heels: It runs out of battery, and it runs out of space.
That’s right. Here we are in 2014. Our phones can track our blood pressure, the tides and the constellations, but out-of-power and out-of-storage messages are still part of our daily lives.
You can solve the battery problem by adding a battery case — a case that protects the iPhone and also contains a backup battery. Of course, such a case adds weight and bulk to a phone whose hallmark is its lightness and slimness. But some of the battery cases, like the popular Mophie Juice Pack, use clever curves and tapers that mask the additional depth and preserve the good looks of the phone.
But what about storage space? There are few better definitions of the word “crestfallen” than “whipping out your phone to record something amazing or adorable and being told, ‘There is not enough storage to record video.’ ”
Of course, by the time you fuss around and delete enough stuff to make more room, you’ve lost your video opportunity.
Now, Mophie has revealed that it has a solution to that problem, too: a new case for the iPhone 5 and 5s called the Space Pack. It’s the first case in history that doubles both the phone’s battery life and its storage.
It looks identical to the Juice Pack case, although it’s actually 3 millimeters longer. There’s only one other cosmetic difference: On the back of both cases, there’s a little round button that, when pressed, illuminates the light-up dots that serve as the phone’s fuel gauge. On the new Space Pack, this button is silver.
You can pre-order the Space Pack case today; when it becomes available in March, you’ll be able to buy it in 16- or 32-gigabyte models ($150 and $180). That is, your phone gains 16 or 32 gigabytes of additional storage.
When I heard about this concept, my first question was: How invisible will the new storage be? Will it simply double the iPhone’s capacity so that your routine doesn’t change at all except that you have much more space? Or will the new storage be separate? Will it be like having an external hard drive attached to your phone so you wind up with two pools of storage?
It turns out that Mophie has adopted the second approach. There are, no doubt, technical reasons why it couldn’t unify the two pools of space, but it’s too bad. It means that you can’t even see what’s stored in your new locker without opening a special app, called Space.
This app offers icons for sub-apps called Music, Videos and Gallery (which houses photos and videos). Each lets you work with that kind of file as it sits on your Space Pack.
So suppose you’ve stored some movies on the Space Pack to watch during a flight. To play them back, you’d open the Space app, then the Videos sub-app; they don’t show up in the iPhone’s built-in Videos app. The songs and photos on your Space Pack don’t show up in the iPhone’s built-in Music and Photos app, either.
In effect, you’re carrying two phones in one. You can copy photos between your two storage buckets, but other kinds of files stay only on one “side” of your phone or the other. And it’s up to you to remember which half contains which files.
The other problem with this approach is that the sub-apps for music, videos and photos aren’t as full-featured as the iPhone’s built-in ones. In the Photos app, you can view or send photos, but you can’t edit them. You can take pictures and videos, but it’s not Apple’s built-in app, so you can’t shoot panoramas, capture slow-mo videos or apply filters.
In the Music app, you can play your songs and view lists of artists, albums or songs; but there’s no Radio, no More button to view categories like genre, no playlists. In the Videos app, you can play your movies, but there are no captions, and you can’t zoom the picture to eliminate letterbox bars, as you can in the phone’s built-in Videos app.
The external-backpack design isn’t all bad, though. It offers one huge new perk: You can use the Space Pack like a flash drive. That is, you connect the case to any computer with a cable, and it shows up on the desktop like a USB flash drive. You can copy files back and forth from the Space Pack just by dragging them.
The fact that the Space Pack is separate storage also means that you can put it onto a different phone. Load up your iPhone with kid movies for a long drive, and then transfer the case to her phone when you get in the car, so that those movies are accessible to her.
Gallery, Music and Videos aren’t the only icons in the Space app. There are also icons for Documents (any files the iPhone can open, like Word, Excel and PDF files), Other Files (files the phone can’t open), and All Files. These, too, make the Space Pack remarkably useful.
Note, by the way, that (as with regular Mophie battery cases) when the case is on, you can’t use the standard Apple charger to charge and sync the phone; it converts the Lightning connector to a micro USB jack, since Apple won’t permit other companies to develop Lightning connectors. Then again, you can always slip off the bottom portion of the case to charge, exposing the original connector.
As Mophie points out, having this much storage and battery life does more than relieve you of inconvenience. It actually pushes the phone closer to becoming a laptop replacement, a real business tool. (Since the Space Pack storage is separate, you can set up a separate password for it.)
And the Space Pack is actually a more economical way to double your phone’s capacity than just buying a spacier phone. For example, a 16-gigabyte iPhone costs $200; the next model up, with twice as much capacity, adds $100 to the price. But the Mophie case, for $150, doubles the storage and the battery life.
You may be bugged by the charging-connector switcheroo, and you may be bugged by the separateness of the storage. But one thing is clear: The invention of a case that doubles your phone’s storage is a big deal. It’s a first — and a really terrific idea.