Mophie has already made a name for itself with its handy, battery-boosting iPhone packs.
Now Mophie is rolling out its newest pack, and it’s more than a one-trick Mophie. This one, called the Mophie Space Pack, includes up to 32 gigabytes of extra storage space in addition to the standard battery pack. Through a proprietary Mophie app, you can sync and allocate certain files, like photos and music, to the Mophie pack, instead of taking up space on your iPhone.
The Mophie Space Pack, which is only available for iPhone 5 and 5s, starts shipping March 14. It will cost $150 for a 16GB case, and $180 for a 32GB case. This is significantly more than the company’s top-of-the-line battery pack, the Mophie Air, as well as the slightly less powerful Mophie Helium pack.
Since iPhones don’t have microSD card slots for extra storage space, one might think that the Mophie Space Pack would be a long overdue product. It’s like having a thumb drive stuck in the bottom of your iPhone … right?
Well, not exactly. What I’ve found over the past week while using the 32GB version with a 16GB iPhone 5s is that the pack comes in handy in a couple of circumstances. But otherwise you’re carrying around a $180 battery pack.
In fact, while I have my gripes about the way some cloud-storage services work — including Apple’s iCloud — I think I’d still rather back up my heavy media that way, instead of putting it on this pack. The DropBox app also allows for automatic camera uploads.
The plastic Mophie Space Pack is just slightly larger than the Mophie Air — by about three millimeters — and technically has a larger battery. But it will provide as much juice to your iPhone as the Mophie Air will. This is because the remaining battery life is partitioned off to power the “thumb drive” function of the pack.
Make no mistake, these packs definitely add what I call junk to the trunk of your iPhone 5 or 5s. You’re eschewing the sleek, slim design of the smartphone for extra battery life when you slip this bulky pack on. Also, the case fully covers the sides and top of the iPhone, so pressing on the power buttons or volume buttons on the phone will require a little more oomph (one of the reasons why I liked last year’s Helium over the Air pack).
On the back of the pack there are two buttons and four LED indicator lights. One of the buttons is for power; it also doubles as an “access” button (more on that in a bit). The other button is the standby switch — when toggled to red, you aren’t charging your phone with the pack; you flip it to green to start charging. The LED indicator lights tell you how much juice you have.
When you first snap your iPhone into the fully-charged Mophie Space Pack, you’ll be prompted to download Mophie’s new Space app from the App Store. This is where you manage all of the files stored on the pack.
Let’s talk battery first: The Mophie Space Pack should provide enough extra juice to get your phone from around 20 percent back up to fully charged. In my experience, the pack usually got my phone back up to around 80 percent before the pack would stop charging, saving the rest of the battery power for the storage portion. But I was also still running apps and sometimes talking on the phone while the pack was working its battery-charging magic.
Then there’s the storage feature. When you press the silver “access” button on the back of the pack and open up the Space app, a series of icons appear, like Photos, Videos, Music, Documents and Other Files. There’s also a settings tab in the app, where you can activate auto-sync for all of your photos. For example, I opted to sync all of the photos and videos in my camera roll — about 1,450 total — to the Mophie Space pack.
For as many things as the Mophie Space Pack does, there are just as many things that it doesn’t do.
After syncing my photos and videos to the Space Pack, I still had to go back and manually delete some photos and videos in order to free up space on my phone (as you would on a thumb drive, or if you copied the files to a cloud app).
While you can select and move mobile photos to the Space app, you can’t do the same with music files. You have to plug the Mophie Space pack into your computer using the supplied USB cable, and move your iTunes files over on the desktop. Also, you can send the photos stored on the Mophie pack via AirDrop, Messages, Mail, Twitter and Facebook, but you can’t back them up to iCloud.
Perhaps one of the niftiest features of the pack is that you can shoot photos and videos from within the Mophie Space app and save them directly onto the pack. It seems like every fifth time I go to take a photo with my iPhone, I’m told I don’t have enough space to do so, so I definitely appreciated this feature.
The camera functionality within the Space app is pretty basic — you can use front or rear camera, photos or videos, without panoramic or filter options — but having that option when the main camera app wouldn’t let me shoot was helpful.
But there’s one notable drawback to the storage portion of the pack: When the pack is totally dead, you cannot access any of the data that is stored on the pack. The pack does have a two-hour grace period, so after the pack stops charging your phone battery, you will still be able to get two hours of use out of the storage portion.
After that, the thing is as useless as an iPhone-shaped piece of plastic. You will need to charge up the Mophie again before you can use the storage portion of the pack.
The Mophie Space Pack is still better for battery-charging then it is for providing a totally useful storage pack.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.