The Gadget: Australian company Life!'s leather iPhone charging case.The Price:$79 The Verdict: Bulky, but a lifesaver. My very first impression of this iPhone case was disappointment - once I opened up the box, I literally spent 2 minutes trying to get my iPhone to connect to the dock connector. There's no simple sliding in, you need to twist the bottom part of the case to get it to line up. But once I knew the trick, it became a simple process. The case itself pretty much doubles the thickness of the iPhone though, so I went from a phone-in-the-pocket guy to a carry-the-phone-in-my-hand-and-hope-to-God-I-don't-leave-it-somewhere guy, which I have to admit I wasn't a big fan of. So much so that after a few hours of trialling it out, I decided that I'd just go back to carrying my iPhone like I used to.
But then I had a busy day in the city, and as I hopped on the train heading home after an evening event, I realised that I hadn't charged my phone all day. Which meant that the battery was in the red zone. When I remembered the Life! case in my bag, I was at about 5% battery capacity. After plugging it in and flicking the power switch on the side, my iPhone was charging - rapidly too. After 40 minutes or so, my phone was full of juice and good to go. The manufacturers reckon you'll get about 1.5 charges from the case, and that's about what I got in my testing as well, which can be an absolute lifesaver, especially considering the iPhone 3G's appalling battery life.
The charging aspect of the phone isn't quite what I expected, in that instead of doubling your battery life, you use it as a portable charger, flicking a switch on the case when your phone needs extra juice. To charge the case itself, you need to plug it in to the AC directly. You can charge the case while your phone is in there, but you have to make sure the case is switched off. It will charge the case first and the iPhone second, which seemed a bit backwards to me as well.
The other thing worth noting is that the Life! iPhone charging case comes with a transparent screen protector for your iPhone. It's just an adhesive piece of plastic that's resistant to scratches and smudges - although you'll want to apply it in a sterile environment. Even though the screen had been cleaned off, and we were very careful, a single speck of dust somehow landed on the adhesive as we were applying it, and there was a visible lump where it connected to the screen.
Overall, the Life! charging iPhone case does exactly what it says it will do, once you work out how to dock your iPhone in there. But the extra bulk just doesn't seem worth it, no matter how many tight situations it may get you out of. At least, not for $80...