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iPhone XS Max Smart Battery Case review: A battery case that pulls its weight Review

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Apple recently released a Smart Battery Case for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR through its online store without as much as a press release. There had been leaks and rumors about an impending return of an official battery case from Apple for its iPhone line.

Apple last released a Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 7 in 2016 and didn’t release an updated case for the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.

The Smart Battery Case does is just what its namesake implies: A protective case for the iPhone that includes a battery for extending the day-to-day battery life of the iPhone.

For the past week, I’ve been using a Smart Battery Case on the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, and the short of it is that the added battery life far outweighs the added size.

The cases are identical in design, save for the changes in size and camera cutouts on the rear, so with that in mind, I’ll focus on my experience with my primary phone, the iPhone XS Max.

Design


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The cases, which come in black or white, are priced at $129. The outside of the case is made of a soft-touch silicone, while the inside is lined with a microfiber lining. Also on the inside of the case is a single indicator light that turns amber when the case is charging, and green when it’s fully charged.

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Also: iPhone XS and iPhone XR cheat sheets

On the bottom is a Lightning port for charging and connecting accessories to your phone, along with cutouts for the bottom speaker and microphone.

The most noticeable design element of the case is the bump, where the battery is housed, on its back. The hump spans roughly 75 percent of the length of the iPhone, stopping just short of the camera cutout.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Putting the case on an iPhone requires bending back roughly the top third of the case and sliding your phone into the case. Once in place, the case feels sturdy and doesn’t feel flimsy around the edges where it meets the display.

Even though I’ve overcome my reservations about carrying the iPhone XS Max, I wasn’t sure if my open mind to bigger phones would include the addition of a battery case. And while, yes, it does make the iPhone XS Max thicker and a bit heavier, the added size was something I quit noticing after the first day of use.

Really, outside of its unique design, the battery case doesn’t add much more to the overall size than what an Otterbox case would. Although I typically forgo the use of a case at all, preferring to take my chances with accidental drops, the added battery life is something I’m willing to make exceptions for.

Apple’s magic touch

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Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

With every new release, Apple loves to remind us that it can offer a level of integration no one else can, due to controlling the hardware and software, and because of that, the product and the experience benefit. Apple AirPods and Apple Watch are prime examples of this philosophy — and to some extent, so is the Smart Battery Case.

Typically, battery cases have a power button. You turn the case on when you need to charge your phone’s battery, and it keeps charging until it runs out of power or you turn the case off.


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With Apple’s Smart Battery Case, there isn’t a power button. Instead, when the case has a charge, the iPhone is constantly charging — depleting the case as it goes. Once the case no longer has a charge, your iPhone switches to its internal battery. At any time you can check on the status of either battery, either in the Battery widget in the Today view, or on the lock screen when you start charging the case and phone. 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

All this is managed by iOS, because, well, Apple owns the entire stack — hardware and software — and uses that to ensure your iPhone battery isn’t damaged by constantly being charged.

Even how iOS and the case prioritize charging based on the type of charger providing power is unique. Apple refers to this process as Smart Charging.

  • Using the 5W charger that comes with each iPhone, the iPhone will charge first, then the case.
  • If you have a 10W or 12W charger — included with some iPad models — both the case and the phone will charge at the same time but at the speed of 5W each.
  • If you have an 18W power adapter, the iPhone will fast charge and once it’s full, the case will fast charge.
  • Finally, when using a 30W or higher wall adapter both devices will fast charge at the same time.

Furthermore, the new Smart Battery Case is compatible wireless charging pads. Any wireless pad that’s Qi-compatible will wirelessly charge the case and your iPhone.

When using wireless charging, the iPhone will charge first, followed by the case. Both devices will charge at speeds up to 7.5W, which is the maximum speed compatible iPhone’s can charge without the case.

Performance

All those fancy features don’t mean a whole lot if the case doesn’t do its primary job of prolonging the battery life of your iPhone.

For me, that meant not having to charge my iPhone XS Max for three days. For example, after charging the case for the first time, and making sure my phone had a full charge, I put on the case around three on a Friday afternoon. It wasn’t until Monday morning that my phone was under 10 percent battery and needed to be charged.

I repeated the same rudimentary test the following day, with my iPhone XS Max lasting a full three days before needing a charge. That’s roughly double the battery life I typically get from the XS Max on its own.

Also: Apple to iPhone owners: Why you need to upgrade to XR

Granted, every user is going to have a different experience in the exact amount of time the case adds to their use — but I do feel comfortable saying adding the case is not going to provide a minimal gain in battery life.

If you find yourself needing longer battery life from your iPhone, and the idea of carrying around a battery pack isn’t appealing, the Smart Battery Cases is an easy choice. At $129 it’s pricey, but for those who need the added battery boost, it’s well worth it. 

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China’s tech giants promise speculation-free NFTs – TechCrunch

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The future of non-fungible tokens is getting more clarity in China as the country’s tech giants come together to formulate standards for the nascent industry.

The China Cultural Industry Association, along with Tencent, Ant Group, Baidu, and others, jointly issued a “self-disciplined development proposal” for the “digital collectible industry,” a rebranded term for NFT in China to do away with the technology’s financial aspects.

While industry associations do not have regulatory power, they can be conducive to developing standards and best practices within an industry. The China Cultural Industry Association was founded with permission from the State Council and counts Alibaba and Tencent among its members, according to information on its website.

China’s NFT enthusiasts have been watching out for regulatory directions from the top. After China outlawed cryptocurrency trading, the speculation was that NFTs in their purest form — traded with cryptocurrencies on global, public blockchains, freely and anonymously — would not be allowed in the country.

That looks to be the case. In April, China’s financial associations proposed that NFTs must not be used for securitization or transacted in cryptocurrencies.

China’s NFT industry may be a step closer to regulation with the country’s largest platform operators taking a stance. Digital collectible platforms, according to the proposal issued by Tencent, Ant Group, and others, should hold relevant regulatory permits, ensure the security of underlying blockchain technologies, enforce user real-identity checks, step up intellectual property protection, resolutely ban financial speculations, and promote rational consumption among users.

Tech firms in China have been testing the waters before NFT regulations set in. Behemoths from Tencent, Ant Group to Baidu have all launched their digital collectible marketplaces built on private, consortium chains. Users can only make purchases with the Chinese fiat currency RMB, and secondary trading is widely prohibited to prevent price gouging.

One company decided to take its ambition beyond China to explore the full scope of NFTs. In April, Bilibili, China’s top user-generated video streaming site, commissioned a Singapore-based company to launch an Ethereum-based NFT collection inspired by the site’s brand assets.

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Instagram tests ditching video posts in favor of Reels – TechCrunch

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Instagram is testing a change that turns video posts into Reels, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. The company says the change, which is currently being tested with select users around the world, is part of Instagram’s plan to simplify video on the app.

“We’re testing this feature as part of our efforts to simplify and improve the video experience on Instagram,” a spokesperson from Meta said in an email.

A screenshot posted on Twitter by social media consultant Matt Navarra shows that people who are part of the test will see an in-app message that says “video posts are now shared as Reels.”

The message indicates that if your account is public and you post a video that ends up being turned into a Reel, anyone can discover your Reel and use your original audio to create their own Reel. If your account is set to private, your Reel will only be visible to your followers. The message also notes that once you post a Reel, anyone can create a remix with your Reel if your account is public. However, you can prevent people from remixing your Reels in your account settings.

As with any other test, it’s unknown when or if Instagram plans to roll out the change more widely. If the change does become permanent, it may pose some challenges. For example, it could be difficult to post a horizontal video if it gets uploaded in a vertical Reels format. In addition, Instagram did not say how this change will affect current videos on Instagram.

The test comes as Meta has been betting big on Reels. As part of its Q1 2022 earnings, the company revealed that Reels now make up more than 20% of the time that people spend on Instagram. It’s not surprising that Instagram is looking to expand Reels even more by replacing video posts altogether. If the company does end up making this change permanent, it could boast about people spending even more time viewing Reels. 

Last year, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the app was “no longer a photo-sharing app,” noting the company was prioritizing a shift into video amid significant competition from TikTok and YouTube. The company then took a step toward its larger goal of making video a more central part of the Instagram experience by combining IGTV’s long-form video and Instagram Feed videos into a new format simply called “Instagram Video.”

If Instagram decides to turn all video uploads into Reels, it would consolidate the company’s video elements even further. Last year, when Mosseri laid out Instagram’s priorities for 2022, he said the company would double down on video and focus on Reels. He even hinted that Instagram would consolidate all of its video products around Reels and continue to grow the short-form product, which indicates that this change may have always been the plan.

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Crypto wants its own iPhone – TechCrunch

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Image Credits: TechCrunch

Apple’s relative hostility to the desires of crypto developers hasn’t gone unnoticed, and as the industry buckles down for a bear market, some of its proponents are pushing forward plans to rebuild the iPhone with their own industry’s best interests at heart.

Hello and welcome back to the Chain Reaction podcast, where we unpack and explain the latest crypto news, drama and trends, breaking it down block by block for the crypto curious.

This week, my co-host Anita was off, so I was joined by TC+ Senior Crypto Reporter Jacquie Melinek, who discussed some of the wild happenings in crypto, including FTX’s flirtations with Robinhood and the latest drama at Celsius.

We also talked about the big surprise announcement of the week: the Solana-backed Saga smartphone. The new device will operate with crypto capabilities baked into its silicon while serving as a regular Android-based smartphone as well. The device doesn’t ship until next year, allegedly, and Jacquie and I had plenty of thoughts, so listen along above!

Our guest: Doodles CEO Julian Holguin

This week, I chatted with Julian Holguin, who is the CEO of the NFT project Doodles. The collection of 10,000 NFT profile pictures is one of the most popular crypto projects on the web and Holguin just banked funding from Alexis Ohanian to push the startup behind the art even further.

Chain Reaction podcast episodes come out every Thursday at 12:00 p.m. PDT. Subscribe to us on Apple, Spotify or your alternative podcast platform of choice to keep up with us every week.

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