Tag Archives: Scosche

Mophie’s Adhering to Magnetism with Its New Products… But This New Case May Repel More Than It Attracts

Earlier this month, mobile accessory maker Mophie announced a new line of products for the new iPhone 7. These accessories utilize Mophie’s Hold Force magnetic attachment system. From their press release: “The base case fits snugly over your smartphone. Magnetic plates embedded in the back of the case allow you to attach any hold force accessory simply by touching it to the back of the smartphone.”

When I read the description, and later saw images (and video, above) of this new line of accessories, it became clear that these magnets weren’t strong enough to hold my interest. And the shame of it is, magnets may very well be the future of smartphone accessories, but it doesn’t look like Mophie’s compass is pointing in the right direction.

Mophie’s been making battery cases for smartphones for several years now, and the value is unmistakable. Instead of having to lug around a separate battery to recharge your phone when it gets low, the built-in battery in their Juice Pack cases recharge the phone with the push of a button. It’s such a useful accessory, that even Apple has jumped into the game, with their own battery case (albeit one of debatable attractiveness).

Still, Mophie is the industry leader (64% market share in the battery case arena): so what they do matters. And let’s take a look at what they’ve done, just this year.

In February of this year, Mophie unveiled their first wireless Juice Pack battery case, tailored to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge models:  This means that their battery case does not interfere with the phone’s built-in wireless charging function (a feature still absent from the iPhone). Now the Juice Pack can recharge the same way the “naked” phones could (see image below), on any Qi-certified charging stand.

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The Galaxy S7, charging wirelessly, without a special case. Source: AndroidCentral.com

NOTE: To learn more about the new Qi standard, visit its page at the Wireless Power Consortium site: https://www.wirelesspowerconsortium.com/about/benefits.html

It’s an exciting technology, and it’s easy to predict as the future for mobile device recharging (as I mentioned in an earlier post, I expect Apple’s gameplan is to go completely wireless in the near future, starting with the removal of the headphone jack. But more on that in a moment).

In May, Mophie expanded its Charge Force line to support the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, and 6S Plus.

Things were carrying on swimmingly. Now iPhone users could finally enjoy wireless charging, a feature built in to many phones across several makers—even Blackberry!— to this point.

I, myself, jumped on the wireless charging bandwagon for my iPhone 6S. I had been using their Juice Pack Plus, along with their proprietary desktop and car dashboard charging cradles. And it wasn’t perfect.

First of all, I bought the Juice Pack Plus almost immediately after the iPhone 6S came out, so I wasn’t sure if it would fit correctly. The package for the case still only said “iPhone 6,” but Mophie’s website indicated compatibility with both the 6 and 6S.

For the record: the iPhone 6 measures 0.27 inches thick, whereas the newer 6S measures 0.28 inches thickDue to the snug fit of the Juice Pack Plus, that .01 inch difference is important, and noticeable. For one, it is near impossible to pry the case off the 6S if need be; and the pressure exerted by the case on my iPhone started to discolor the screen in the middle of my phone.

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An example of the kind of discoloration I noticed in the center of my screen. Source: forums.androidcentral.com

In addition, the charging cradles didn’t always make a solid enough connection to deliver the charge to the case. These cradles feature small metal pins which have to line up with small metal plates on the bottom of the standard Juice Pack case. It’s a terrible feeling to wake up and find that instead of recharging overnight on your nightstand, your phone has worn down its battery, waiting to be plugged in.

 

 

The car charger was fraught in its own way, requiring the phone to be “clicked in” on top and bottom for a secure fit for the ride. If I put it in at the wrong angle—easy to do when in a hurry—then not only would the phone/case combo not recharge in the car, but the misalignment meant that there was the risk of the phone popping right out of the cradle during a drive. This is how drivers get distracted, and how accidents happen.

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The Juice Pack Car Dock, shown in vertical and horizontal orientations. Source: The-Gadgeteer.com

Upgrading to the Charge Force line was a no-brainer. Instead of fussy cradles that may or may not line up, the included wireless charging mat utilized both gravity, as well as a strong magnet, to keep the phone securely charging. Interestingly, this system does require the phone to lie parallel on the mat, as opposed to perpendicular, or at some other angle. But as I said, the magnets in the mat keep things pretty well aligned.

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This connection’s pretty hard to mess up. Source: instash.com

In the car, the only option so far is the Charge Force Vent Mount, which, as you may guess, clips into the car’s air conditioner vent. It’s a solid, stable fit; and with its own strong magnets, I don’t worry about the phone falling off or failing to charge in the car. I am, however, not thrilled with the blockage of my precious AC during long, hot drives in Southern California.

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The Charge Force Vent Mount in use, shown here in vertical orientation, blocking less of the vent. Source: Mophie.com

Hopefully they’ll introduce a dashboard/windshield version to replace their problematic Juice Pack Car Dock.

“Hopefully they’ll introduce” is where we are now. Currently, the Juice Pack connects via the iPhone’s Lightning port to deliver power to the phone. The case itself features a Micro-USB connector on the bottom; and then either Mophie’s unique “frictionless” charging points on the bottom of the Juice Pack, or the newer Qi-compatible Charge Force system on the back of the Juice Pack Wireless. The iPhone 6/6S headphone jack is not easily accessible through the thick case, so Mophie makes a headphone adapter (included with some, but not all, Juice Pack models. Double-check the list of package contents before getting yours. They’re happy to sell the adapter separately, of course).

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Mophie’s headphone adapter to fit bulkier plugs into its Juice Pack cases. Source: Mophie.com

Immediately upon arrival of the iPhone 7, I’m certain Mophie furiously went to work designing a new Juice Pack battery case for the redesigned phone—a case now absent a headphone jack, of course. The hope was—and remains—a pass-through port for Apple’s proprietary Lightning jack. This would allow Juice Pack users to connect Apple’s Lightning-to-headphone adapter and continue to use their wired headphones as they would without the case on.

If Mophie can’t license the Lightning port from Apple, I would also accept an adapter built right in to the case; and thinking about it, I feel that’s the more likely route—after all, third-party accessory makers (like Scosche, below) are already making their own Lightning-to-headphone adapters, so why shouldn’t Mophie just build one into their next case?

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Scosche’s entry in the burgeoning “lightning to headphone” adapter market. Source: Scosche.com

Oh, wait.

“Their next case,” is indeed what they announced on October 3rd. And it has NONE of the features I’d hoped for, nor any of the reliable Mophie design trademarks I’ve come to rely upon over the years.

I honestly don’t understand what they’re doing with the Hold Force case and accessories (currently only designed for the iPhone 7, so they can’t claim this is their new universal platform for all iPhones). Instead of developing a new battery case for the new phone, as they have since the iPhone 4, they’ve pivoted to this strange modular design, allowing for the option to attach an external battery to the “base case,” but connecting to the iPhone with a short, ugly cable. Apple’s “humpback” Battery Case may be unsightly, but at least it has indoor plumbing!

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The Hold Force Case and Battery. Source: Mophie.com

My hunch is that this Hold Force system is the first product of the 2016 merger between Mophie and erstwhile rival accessory maker Zagg. The system has none of the elegance I’ve come to expect from Mophie, and I hope they have something better planned for the iPhone 7.

Despite everything, I’m optimistic, because instead of simply hawking the Hold Force as, “This IS our case for the iPhone 7!,” their website cheerfully displays this banner:

comingsoon

Click above to check on their status. Hopefully they won’t need this banner for long.

Naturally, I signed up to get notified. I’ll be watching their website closely, almost as if I were held to it with… I don’t know, velcro, maybe? ◼︎

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Review: Scosche controlFREQ II (BTBRCBK)

When I’m on the treadmill, I like to watch videos via Netflix on my iPad, which I’ve mounted to the console. This provides an entertaining distraction from the otherwise less-than-thrilling experience of literally going nowhere fast. My biggest problem has been trying to manipulate the iPad while in motion. Say I need to adjust the volume, or pause the video, or even close the app altogether. If I’m walking or running, it’s hard to achieve the precision required to tap the appropriate onscreen icon. Usually I’d end up swiping, which on an iPad, is an entirely different action. My aim was to control the iPad without having to touch it, so I began the search for a remote control.

Historically, there have been three methods of remotely controlling iOS devices, like the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch: Inline with headphones; via a dock connector; or with BlueTooth. The inline connector is the button on the Apple headphone cord that allows for adjustment of volume, or playing and pausing a given track. Some even allow skipping back and forth. I tried this first, using Belkin’s Headphone Adapter with Microphone. While it was useful to be able to adjust my volume and play/pause music tracks (to which I also work out), I was still tethered to my device with a not-quite-long-enough cord, and the play/pause function did not work on the Netflix app. I wanted a wireless remote.

The 30-pin Dock Connector has been the go-to standard connector for Apple’s iOS devices since April 2003 with their third-generation iPod. This meant that every stereo system designed for compatibility with iPods and iPhones (and some even with room to fit iPads) featured this connector. I tried one device, a clock radio from AT&T, which let me plug in my iPhone (but an extra cable was required to connect the iPad) and use the radio’s remote. Alas, the radio was never designed for the purpose I had in mind, and again, the Netflix interactivity was no-go. Plus, it was another bulky piece of equipment I had strapped to my treadmill, which posed certain safety risks. The other consideration I had to make was the now out-of-date 30-pin Dock Connector, which Apple phased out in favor of the smaller Lightning connector in September 2012 starting with the iPhone 5, and extending to their other devices through the end of the year. Not only was this radio not fully compatible, but it was an expensive investment in old technology. My last resort was Bluetooth.

Controlling some functions via Bluetooth is not a new discovery. My Jaybird Bluetooth headphones let me adjust the volume, skip back and forth, play and pause music, and even accept phone calls (when paired with the iPhone, naturally, not the iPad). The two drawbacks are 1.) I’d have to reach up to my ear to press the relevant button, and 2.) This still doesn’t affect the Netflix app on my iPad. Did anything exist that extended my iPad’s functionality past its touchscreen?

As it turns out, one device fit the bill: the Scosche controlFREQ II. Not only does this device (FINALLY!) control the Netflix app’s play/pause function (although the iPad still wants to play iTunes music by default); but it also has a button that acts as the iPad’s “Home” button, allowing me to quit apps and even engage Siri from a distance. App switching (after a quick “double-tap” of the “Home” button) is still possible, but I still had to reach out and touch the icon of the app I want to run. Other than that minor quibble, it’s the best (and frankly, only) remote option for working with my iPad without having to dangle a cord or utilize the now-defunct 30-pin connector.

Some other functions that I haven’t really made use of yet include a remote shutter button, so I can set up my iOS camera and stand back to take a proper picture; a dedicated Mute button, for when holding down the “Volume Down” button is too time-consuming; and, most curiously, a hidden 12-key keypad, numbered 1-0, with a “pairing” key and an “Enter” key. The keypad (hidden under a sliding cover) only works in text-enabled apps (so no trying to dial your iPhone with it), but the buttons only enter their respective numbers. There appears to be no way to program them so that, for example, if I were to hold down “2” it would cycle through “A-B-C” as is the case on some other devices with numeric-only keypads. There is also a button on the remote for bringing up my device’s onscreen keyboard, but again, since it requires me to type on the actual screen, I don’t see the benefit of that particular function.

My only other complaint about the remote is that when the time came to pair the remote to my device, I had to type the pairing code (a four-digit numeric sequence, followed by “Enter”) on easily the smallest number keys I’ve ever used. I’d recommend keeping a pencil nearby so that you can press–with the eraser–the necessary keys for pairing.

I’ve been a fan of Scosche’s mobile accessories for some time, and I expect that this remote will stick with me, for use on my current iPad, as well as future devices to come. Recommended.