By Ben Bowers
on 4.23.14
Photo by Henry Phillips

Nearly everything about smartphone hardware has improved in a few short years. Screens are bigger, brighter and sharper. Processors cores are multiplying. Memory doubled, then quadrupled; data moves exponentially faster with every generation; and cameras have gone from afterthoughts to point-and-shoot killers. The best even monitor fitness and scan fingerprints.

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But amid those gains, battery life and storage space have essentially remained a disappointing constant. Early on, Mophie recognized that the iPhone’s Achilles heel was battery life, and built a burgeoning empire on their excellent line of Juice Pack charging cases. Their Space Pack ($150+) aims to address the iPhone 5/5s battery-life gripe and the ever-disappearing storage space — blame it on the photos, videos and games — by combining a 1700 mAh battery good for twice the charge and a choice of either 16GB or 32GB in additional storage.

The advanced case roughly mirrors the tubby dimensions of Mophies before it, more than doubling the phone’s thickness and adding nearly an inch to its height, but it doesn’t completely ruin the phone’s pocket-ability. Unfortunately, a pass-through extension included with the device is required for connecting certain headphones with thicker audio jacks, further defiling the sleek aesthetics imbued by Jony Ive.

Mophie-Spacepack-Gear-Patrol-Ambiance

Mophie clearly worked hard to make using the external storage as seamless as possible given the xenophobic limitations Apple places on third-party software and accessories. Files can be dragged and dropped on the Space Pack like any other external hard drive when it’s connected via USB. Those who’ve spliced the LOTR trilogy into one continuous fantasy epic should note that files over 4GB in size are not supported. The same thing goes for other torrented files types not natively supported by the iPhone like .MKVs.

Accessing assets from the phone requires Mophie’s free Space app. The software scans and automatically organizes the drive into collections by file type; it’s convenient, but it can get messy as thousands of files are added. Built-in video and music players provide an acceptable experience for consuming media directly via the app, and it even includes the option for AirPlay. Other files already stored on your phone, like photos and email attachments, can also be exported to the Space Pack’s storage using select apps, but you’ll have to manually delete those files from your phone once the transfer is complete to free up space. Apps stay on your phone — they can’t be stored in the Space Pack. If you’ve used the mobile versions of Dropbox or Google Drive, you should have a good sense of how the Space app interacts with iOS.

Mophie’s Space pack addresses two of the biggest gripes about the iPhone — battery life and storage space — in one fell swoop.

Conveniently, the Play app provideds a camera function that allows owners to access the iPhone’s camera while saving shots directly to the Space Pack’s storage. There’s a catch, though: using other camera or photo editing tools like Camera+, Snapseed and VSCO requires importing photos back to the iPhone’s camera roll. The camera app is also basic enough for your granny, so don’t expect Ansel Adams results. These factors transpire to make the Space Pack serve best as an archiving device for photos rather than a primary drive.

Those concerned with power consumption should make sure to toggle the Space app’s sleep mode, which shuts off the app after a period of inactivity. The good news is that the Space Pack also reserves power for running the file-storage functions, so you can continue to access files even if the case is too low on juice to charge your phone.

Though the Space Pack solves two of the iPhone’s biggest shortcomings in a very functional package, retail prices of $150 for the 16GB version of $180 for the 32GB complicate an outright recommendation for some shoppers, particularly considering Mophie’s excellent battery-only Juice Pack Air sells for $100.

Owners of 16GB iPhone models have the most to gain from the Space Pack. Those holding the 32GB or 64GB model with relatively tame media and photo habits may not need the space, particularly with so many affordable cloud storage options available. If you’re factoring this accessory into your decision to buy a new iPhone, we’d still recommend paying the extra $100 to step up a level for more onboard storage and pick up one of Mophie’s other accessories for battery life. Yes, the combination adds up to $50 more than simply going for the Space Pack, but you’re bound to gain some (if not all) of that premium back should you resell your phone down the road.

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