Review: Is Brando’s iPower Power Station a “Juice Pack” killer? - Macenstein

Review: Is Brando’s iPower Power Station a “Juice Pack” killer?

iPower 3G battery

When it comes to the external iPhone battery game, the current media darling is the Mophie Juice pack, and with good reason (we gave it a 9 out of 10 rating). However, Mophie’s $100 Juice Pack currently only fits 1st gen iPhones, and their delay in getting their 3G model to market has allowed other companies time to get their 3G offerings on shelves first. One promising contender looking to dethrone Mophie is Brando, a Hong Kong phone/PDA accessory maker who’s $44 iPower charger for the iPhone aims to deliver a few features not found on the Juice Pack, and at half the price. So, how does it stack up? Let’s see:

iPower 3G battery


The iPower comes in both black and white, and is made of a smooth plastic material, similar in shininess and feel to the back of the iPhone 3G, as opposed to Mophie’s more “slip resistant” plastic material. It feels slightly less “solid” than the Juice Pack, in part due to its slightly lighter weight (a good thing in a battery pack), but the material is also slightly more prone to scratches than the Juice Pack. My 1st gen Juice Pack, however, has exhibited a bit of chipping around the edges after 10 or so months of use, so in general I don’t think the Juice Pack has any clear durability title to defend here. If anything I would say any scratches you are likely to observe on the iPower will be on the back of the device where few would see them, where as my Mophie chips are on the front of the device. In general, neither of these is meant to serve as a case-replacement, so take good care of both and you should be fine.

iPower 3G battery
Above: The iPower ships in a somewhat Apple-inspired packaging.

Unlike the Juice Pack’s “open top” design, where an iPhone is slid into the pack leaving the top and sides of your iPhone somewhat exposed, iPower has come up with a pretty cool spring-loaded design that allows you to have full protection around the back and edges of your iPhone. This is nice as in theory it means for some short trips you may be able to go without carrying a separate case – you can just leave your Phone docked to the iPower and keep the back and sides scratch-free.

Another nice thing about this design is that the iPower can fit both the 2G and the 3G iPhone, where Mophie sells a different $100 model for each. So if you are a 2 iPhone household (as am I) this is a nice bonus.

iPower 3G battery
Above: The iPower might look larger than the Juice pack at first…

iPower 3G battery
Above: …but once they have an iPhone in them, you can see they are pretty much the same size.


Aside from the spring-loaded design, another difference between the Juice Pack and the iPower is the Juice Pack connects in such a way as to elevate your iPhone off the dock connector, allowing you to use your iPhone’s speakers and microphone. The iPower takes a different approach, and has included a powered speaker on the back of the unit. This allows your iPhone to slide down lower in the cradle and looks a little nicer than the elevated “scallops” of the Juice Pack IMHO. We were surprised to find in our phone tests this lower, more flush placement did not muffle the iPhone’s microphone in any noticeable way on calls, so you can still use the phone features as you normally would while charging in the iPower. In fact, we wonder if the speaker would not have been muffled as well, thus eliminating the need for the powered speaker (which caused some issues – see below). At the end of the day both the iPower and the Juice Pack add roughly the same amount of height and depth to the iPhone, although the Juice Pack is a bit wider than the iPower.

iPower 3G battery
Above: Good advice that applies to just about everything. The broken “engrish” of the iPower manual will keep you entertained.


Where the iPower really bests the Juice Pack is in battery life. The (not yet released) 3G version of the Juice Pack has an 1800 mAh battery, while the iPower has a whopping 2400 mAh. Charging the iPhone to a full charge from a dead start takes about 3 hours, but of course you can use the iPhone while charging. In our tests we were able to use a fully charged iPower to re-charge our fully drained 3G iPhone roughly 2 (1 full charge, and 1 75% charge – based on the iPhone’s battery icon) times before it was drained, which is awesome.

The iPower does not come with a charging cable of its own – you simply connect it to the dock cable that came with your iPhone to charge. Like the Juice Pack, the iPower gives precedence to your iPhone’s battery. This means when connected to your iPhone, the iPower will drain its own power reserves first, leaving your iPhone with a full charge when the iPower has lost its. It also means if you charge the iPower with your iPhone docked, it will first charge your iPhone’s battery, and then the iPower’s. While you can leave your iPhone in the iPower all day, you cannot sync to iTunes while it is in the iPower cradle, so it will have to come out at some point. Again, this is how the Juice Pack works as well.

iPower 3G battery
Above: The iPower’s spring-loaded design allows it to cover the entire back and sides of your iPhone.


I am so pleased with the battery life, spring loaded design, and price of the iPower that I am perhaps extra disappointed that there are a few design and usability issues that take away from the enjoyment of the iPower. First is the rear speaker issue I mentioned above. The speaker is a great idea, but horribly implemented. The sound coming from the iPower’s speaker is very tinny, and a definite step down from the iPhone 3G’s built-in speaker (which wasn’t going to challenge Bose any time soon). The placement on the rear of the iPower means the sound is being sent away from you under most circumstances. Maybe Brando realized the sound was so tinny that you would want to project it as far from your ears as possible. The iPower has no kickstand and is not designed to stand upright (unless you are VERY good at balancing) so the rear placement means you either have to hold the iPhone, or have it lie face down on a table to use the speaker, which is pretty silly. Placing the speaker on the front, or even on a side would have made much more sense.

iPower 3G battery
Above: Those blue lights will become your nemesis.

You can raise and lower the iPower’s volume via two “up” and “down” buttons located on the bottom right of the unit. Pressing these buttons does not bring up the iPhone’s volume display, however, so figuring out your volume level initially takes a little guess work.

Additionally, Brando claims the iPower reserves the last 5% or so of its battery power so that even when almost fully drained it can power the speaker for up to 7 hours. The idea of listening to music for 7 hours through that speaker gives me chills. I would much rather it use the last 5% to charge the iPhone, which I could then detach and listen to the iPhone’s speakers.

The sound quality will likely be fine for game playing, and if you have your iPhone hooked to car speakers or headphones while charging (as I usually do) it likely won’t be a big problem, but don’t expect to want to listen to music through it. I actually rarely just sit and listen to music using the iPhone’s speaker, but on the rare times I have it has been tolerable. The idea of a powered external speaker is great, but the execution here is lacking. So here’s hoping Brando, Mophie, or some other company comes up with a better take on it.

iPower 3G battery
Above: Another comparison between the Mophie Juice Pack and the iPower.

My other main gripe with the iPower is the LED power indicator lights. Like Mophie’s Juice Pack, they are bright and blue, but Mophie thought to put them on the back of the device where their brightness will not interfere with movie watching, game playing, or web surfing. As it stands, those bright blue lights are always on when connected, and always ready to blind you, especially if playing games in bed at night. I found due to their position, it actually isn’t that hard to cover them with a thumb while watching a movie, but in many games you need to have your thumbs free. You can turn off the LEDs by turning the unit off, but then of course you are not charging the iPhone anymore.

I suppose how annoying these lights are will depend on how and when you charge your iPhone. Personally, I almost always charge my iPhone on my desk, in my bag, my pocket or while in the car – situations where I am not actively staring at the screen (and thus the LEDs). In those cases the LED placement is not an issue, but on the 1 time out of 20 that I want to charge AND play a game, I am upset that I notice the lights.

iPower 3G battery
Above: The back of the iPower.

I also found the indicator lights to be a little less than honest about the iPower’s charge, although it was always the case that it had more power than it told me. For instance, all 3 LEDs are lit when fully charged. 3 minutes after inserting a dead iPhone for charging, I was down to 2 lights. I got a call about 20 minutes in, and afterwards it went back to 3 lights, and subsequently stayed at 3 lights for the next 35 minutes. I found pulling the iPhone back in the spring loaded case and re-seating it would often cause a more accurate reading.

When only 10% of battery charge remains, the single LED will begin to flash rapidly, warning you (although I am not sure why) that you are running out of battery charge. This is extremely annoying, and calls even more unwanted attention to the LEDs when trying to watch a movie.

The iPower claims it is able to charge not only the 3G iPhone, but the 1st gen model (2G) as well. I found that this is indeed true, however I noticed that my 2G iPhone needed to be somewhat tilted in, dock first, in order to make the connection, where as the 3G iPhone just slid in. To be fair, my 2G iPhone has a Colorware paint job, and might therefore be a little thicker than a normal iPhone, but we’re talking millimeters here. So just be aware that the if you are buying this for a 2G iPhone, it will work, but may be a little tighter and harder to get in and out than a 3G iPhone.

One final minor issue is the omission of any type of kickstand to make for video viewing easier. Neither the Juice Pack nor the iPower has one, and it seems like a relatively easy add-on that I would use. Plus it would make the rear speaker placement slightly more tolerable.

iPower 3G battery
Above: I now have the power to watch just about every episode of Wow! Wow! Wubzy! before needing to plug my iPhone in to charge.


Brando’s $44 iPower provides 33% more charging power than the $100 Mophie Juice Pack 3G (which is still almost a month away from shipping) at half the price, as well as providing full back and side protection for your iPhone, plus the ability to use one device to charge both the 1st gen and the 3G model iPhones. Brando got a little ambitious with the junky powered rear speaker idea however, and the annoying blue LEDs on the front of the unit are a trade-off you make for the other benefits the iPower gives.

Brando’s iPower Portable Power Station with Speaker for iPhone 3G/2G

Pros: Intelligent charging gives precedence to your iPhone’s battery, 33% more battery than Mophie’s offering, spring-loaded slim design protects more of your iPhone than Mophie’s case, available now

Cons: Rear speaker is tinny, LEDs on the front of the unit are very bright and distracting, and not always accurate, 2G iPhone fits (but not perfectly), needs a stand

11 Responses to “Review: Is Brando’s iPower Power Station a “Juice Pack” killer?”
  1. iMosaic says:

    I noticed in a pic on their website it shows the top to be retractable for inserting the iPhone. I didn’t notice that you mentioned it and seems to be a good idea.

  2. iMosaic says:

    Spring load design! My bad

  3. dizzy says:

    I have a feeling the new juice pack will be lighter and less bulky than the current one. Also, I believe the new juice pack allows for syncing while in the juice pack. The bigger battery does seem nice though, especially for the 3g.

    I think once the juice pack 3g comes out (hopefully in a week) a direct comparison between the two is in order.

  4. gary leighton says:

    The new Juice PAck doesn’t ship until the 15th. they originally said september, then pre-orders shipped oct 1st. My biggest complaint is the price though. Why is it $100 for a less powerful battery?

  5. dizzy says:

    Yeah, I got mine preordered so hopefully I’ll have it in hand by October 6th! They did say late September so I guess Oct. 1st isn’t too delayed. I have a feeling they made the official date the 15th because they have received a ton of preorders.

    Yeah, the price is pretty steep, but I think it’s all about the design and looks vs just the battery.

  6. TheCos says:

    I don’t think the Mophie is all that beautiful. This thing looks kind of nice in that it doesn’t look much different than a hardcase. The mophie makes the iPhone look bottom heavy, like a fat chick.

  7. Paul says:

    I guess I am sill waiting for the perfect extended battery for my 3G iPhone. This one looks OK, but not what I am lookinge for.

    I would like one that was an iPhone 3G case replacement as well as a battery. I will keep hoping.

  8. KenC says:

    A game controller with built-in rechargeable battery might be the killer in this category.

  9. Robert says:

    I just bought the ipower.

    I am only concern about the number of hours I can use to fstream and internet.

    To my disappointment. The ipower runs out of power after 2.5 hrs of fstream…. I bought the ipower in the hope to listen to fstream for the whole day.

    I wonder how accurate is the 2400mah.

    The box says you can play video up to 3hrs but you can play video up to 4 hrs using iphone’s 1700mah battery. So why only 3 hrs when you have 2400mah?

  10. Robert says:

    I guess this site only allows good review. Guess what I will create a youtube to express my opinion and I might even mention about this ridiculous website..

  11. Troy says:

    This is a piece of junk! I have had two and both batteries have died after 2 weeks of normal use. DON’T buy it!!!!

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