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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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Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch

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The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.

The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).

Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.

“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on]  all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)

The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.

The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.

Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.

Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.

“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”

Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.

These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)

Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.

Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.

If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.

“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”

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Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch

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Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.

Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.

In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.

Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.

On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.

Bitwarden

It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.

Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.

“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”

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downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch

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As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).

Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital. 

Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.

The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.

The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.

Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories.
 and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.

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