The Seidio Surface Plus is a protective case for the iPhone 4/4S that includes a removable 1700mAh battery that can power your phone for about as long as the internal battery can. It also holds the unique distinction of being the first iPhone 4/4S powered case with a removable battery that is certified by Apple.
I’ve had a chance to review and play with many Seidio products in the past and have generally liked what they’ve had to offer, so when I got a chance to play with one of their cases for a while with an iPhone 4 I was intrigued to see how well the swappable battery idea, typically seen as an Android and Windows Phone feature, would translate.
The Surface Plus consists of three parts: a removable 1700mAh battery, a back/dock section, and a locking front plate that holds the entire thing together.
You can expect that the 1700mAh battery will deliver at least 80% of that directly to the iPhone due to conversion losses and external battery management. When you take power from a battery and put it into another battery to later be used, a general rule of thumb is you lose some juice, and the case battery is designed to never be completely drained so that last little bit in it won’t be used .
The back of the case is solid and feels like it could take some damage. It comes in at under a centimeter of added thickness including the battery and still left the phone feeling a bit tiny in my hand.
The front and side piece of the case has been designed to offer the requisite holes while still protecting as much of the phone as is possible. The volume rocker is covered with a very accommodating plastic shield which allows access to the buttons and also keeps the sleek lines intact while adding protection.
The case has a power button on the bottom right that signals the battery to kick in so your phone isn’t running off of the external charge all day. The case battery will shut off power when the internal battery is fully charged. I’m not entirely sure what the benefits of waiting to charge your phone vs trickle charging all day are, but I generally would probably turn it on when about half drained on the iPhone – no particular logic to this, other than thinking that if the battery in the case died on me, I would know soon enough to not be out without a charge.
One of the big advantages of this case, besides having a backup power source that lasts about as long as the internal battery, is that you can purchase additional batteries and have them lined up in case you need them.
While having multiple backup batteries may seem like a bit of overkill, it can be useful when you’re out attempting to capture all of nature with your camera or you’re stuck in a bunker with next to no signal, or if you’re just going to be away from a charger for a few days.
While I’m sure most think in those situations you should probably put down the phone and enjoy the vacation/outdoors for a few days, for those who are on call 24/7, that is not an option. Things such as camping for a couple of days can become a job-threatening event.
The Seidio Surface Plus uses a micro-USB cable to charge the battery and allow pass-through sync. This is can be useful for travel as you can use a wider variety of chargers but quite annoying if you own a desktop dock or don’t have a compatible USB cable with you.
The micro USB appears to charge at one amp, which is a bit sad – if it could go higher, you could charge both the iPhone and the battery at the same time, as it stands that amp is probably going to be to the internal battery first and then to the external as the internal nears full.
If you’re running off of the case battery, there are four indicator lights that come on if you tap the power button to let you know how charged the phone actually is. I have a serious disagreement with them on an aesthetic level, but they do their job.
All in all, I think the case is a pretty nifty little one, although I would have liked to see a few things added. The things I think would make this a much better case are:
- Higher amp charging / fast charging
- Different method of indicating power
- iPhone adapter cable to use iPhone charger/docks if need be
- Logo cutout, would be nice to be able to identify the phone. I can’t imagine the logo takes too much of a beating
- Dead case battery indicator
- Something to differentiate it from the other phones on the table
Thinking about what I did not like in the case:
- Nothing to differentiate it from any other case on the table. There are some color options for the side, but no back plate options other than black
- No capacity options on battery. It would be nice to be able to throw a 4000mAh battery in there and charge weekly.
- The case looks like their Android offerings. I don’t have any issue with their Android cases, but it would be nice for it to be set apart
While I don’t find this to be the perfect case, it’s a darn good one. I’d worry a bit about top corner protection, but that’s because I’ve seen so many iPhones plunge to their death, damaged in the top corners. I didn’t do serious drop tests as I really couldn’t afford to, but very short drops appeared that the case was indeed doing the job.
It felt good in my hands, although your experience and hand size may vary.
The Seidio Surface Plus is available from Seidio Online for $69.95, or slightly less from re-sellers.