Refuel-Aqua_Family-600x600Since the early days of the 4/4S, iPhone owners have had to decide whether they wanted the extreme protection of a waterproof case or the convenience of an extended battery case, but having both was simply not an option. As a result, most people either chose to go with a LifeProof case to protect their investment under all situations or went with a Mophie Juice Pack so their phone would have enough power to last the day. Now thanks to the team at ibattz, you don’t have to make a choice you can have your waterproof protection and power too!

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

The ibattz Mojo Refuel Aqua S is the world’s first waterproof battery case for the iPhone 5/5S. It completely seals your phone making it waterproof, shockproof, snowproof, dirtproof (and perhaps most importantly…childproof) and comes with an impressive interchangeable 2200mAh battery on board as well. A built-in plastic screen protector on the front keeps your screen safe from scratches and all ports and buttons are covered in silicone to keep water and dirt from getting in. The case even has a special material over the home button which allows iPhone 5S users to continue to take advantage of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

Aqua_step2The case is made up of three parts and is quite easy to put together. You simply slide your phone into the main battery portion of the case so that the built-in lightning adapter is inserted into your phone. Then you have two choices, you can either slide the bumper over the top for a lightweight battery-only alternative when the full waterproof protection is not needed, or slide on the Aqua top cage and then the waterproof silicon sleeve over the whole thing for complete protection.

As expected, the case does add a fair amount of weight, but I found it quite comfortable to hold in daily use. In fact, the waterproof silicon sleeve adds a nice amount of grip. All functions of the phone are easily accessible while in the case and it doesn’t feel like you are making any sacrifices for the sake of protection or power.

Having tried several other waterproof cases in the past I was a little concerned with regards to sound quality. While I had minimal sound issues with the LifeProof case, I found it impossible to record video with sound with Incipio’s ATLAS Waterproof Case. So how does the Mojo Refuel Aqua S stack up?

Quite well actually…

Aqua_4857-600x600Due to the fact that the phone is “fully vacuum-sealed inside a polycarbonate shell with only thin membranes to allow the transfer of sound in front” ibattz does warn that the call quality is only about 85-90% relative to normal, however, they have engineered some things to improve sound quality and by simply opening the charging port plug on the bottom of the case when talking you should get near 100% quality. In my testing I found this to be an accurate statement. When fully closed, I did get a couple of ‘could you repeat that’ requests from the party on the other side of my call, but when I had it opened, no one on the other end complained about not being able to hear me clearly.

Like pretty much any other waterproof case on the market, the Mojo Refuel Aqua S falls into a few of the expected gotchas. First there is a bit of the oil slicking effect on the screen which you tend to get from any built-in screen protector. You can try to re-seat the phone in the case to eliminate some of it, but I was never able to get it to fully go away. That being said, I’ve gotten used to it and it really doesn’t bother me all that much. Due to Apple’s restrictions, ibattz cannot pass through the lightning port, so the only port available to the user is a micro USB port, which can be used for charging only. That means if you want to sync your iPhone you’ll either have to do it via Wi-Fi or iCloud. Unfortunately if you currently use a lightning port in your car for both audio and charging, you’ll have to adjust your workflow a little. Either you’ll have to pull the phone out of the case each time (which is not practical), us Bluetooth audio out or use the supplied headphone extender to connect to the aux jack in your vehicle. The headphone jack on this thing can be a bugger to open if you have short fingernails!

As I already said, these issues are certainly not unique to the Mojo Refuel Aqua S, but they are something to keep in mind if this is your first waterproof case.

refuelAquaS_05Keeping you powered up….

When you plug the micro USB cable into the ibattz case, it will charge the phone first, followed by the battery case. It takes bout 7 to 8 hours to charge both items to full (from zero), at which point, all 4 LEDs lights on the rear of the case are on. Once the iPhone is fully charged to 100%, the battery case will switch to “ trickle charging. However, unlike other battery cases that I’ve used, it doesn’t fully power itself off and will continue to trickle charge indefinitely. While I’m told this will not affect or lower the performance of the iPhone’s internal battery in any way, I found this a bit of an annoyance. The times when I turned the battery off immediately after charging was complete, I found I could get at least two full charges of my phone throughout the day (if I turned the battery on when the phone reached around 20%). However, if I forgot and let it trickle charge for extended period of time I noticed a faster drain on the ibattz’s battery. Either way, it was still a major convenience to have the extra power, I just wish they’d add intelligence to have the battery turn itself off when the phone is fully charged.

Is it really waterproof?

refuelAquaS_06Before inserting your phone (or after any major drops or impacts to the case) ibattz recommends doing a waterproofing test where you fully submerge the completely sealed case (minus your phone of course) for 15 minutes to verify that it is indeed still waterproof. I did this before using the case, and as expected, everything worked great. I didn’t give a second thought to using my phone near pools and other water sources and in was a great thing to have in the middle of the torrential downpours that drenched the North East the past few weeks. My phone was 100% usable and nice and dry.

My testing however stopped just short of doing an actual submersion test with my phone inside the case. Both Incipio and LifeProof have begun offering protection plans (for a nominal additional fee) that guarantee the replacement of your iPhone (once) should it be damaged by water while being protected by one of their cases, however ibattz doesn’t yet offer such a guarantee. I can totally see why as I’m sure there are many, many fraudulent claims with this sort of thing. To their credit I was told that while ibattz does not have a replacement plan yet for their customers, “they handle each case that is filed in detail to them so that they can quickly decide and respond to the customers’ claim”.

Due to the lack of any such device guarantee, I just couldn’t risk my phone for the sake of this review…sorry. Though, from what I’ve seen of the case in my month of testing, I suspect that the phone would have survived just fine. I have always seen waterproof iPhone cases as an insurance plan I hope I never actually have to cash in and try not to take unnecessary risks. So while I cannot specifically speak to their submersion claims, the Mojo Refuel Aqua S offers safety and peace of mind in any sort of inclement weather.

In Conclusion

If you are someone who is looking for a waterproof case, then the Mojo Refuel Aqua S should be at the top of your list. The Mojo Refuel Aqua S is comfortable, durable, offers superb iPhone protection and comes coupled with the convenience of extended battery life. The benefits and freedom of all day use that come from having the battery on board more that make up for the slightly elevated price in comparison to its competitors. Why buy two cases when you can get this all in one package? That being said, if you don’t care about the heavy-duty waterproofing/protection and are only concerned with battery life, then I think the (slightly) increased battery capacity and more convenient access to the lightning port offered by the TYLT ENERGI Sliding Power Case For IPhone 5/5s (which I previously reviewed) may be a better fit.