It is almost an year since Mophie packed a punch with two battery cases for the iPhone 5 (compatible with iPhone 5s too): the Juice Pack Helium, closely followed by Juice Pack Air. But for a $20 price difference that probably corresponds to a 200mAh battery capacity, both the Juice Packs look and behave pretty much the same way.

But there are subtle things that make the products differ widely. If you’re looking to decide on a juice pack for your iPhone 5s and are stuck between the Air and the Helium, you might want to read this before you proceed.

Mophie’s battery cases (and Belkin’s battery case for iPhone 5s) are one of the finest ways to make sure your iPhone is up and running even when you don’t get to charge it up from a power source. If you are out traveling, it is more likely that you’d go without a chance to plug your iPhone to a wall charger. And with iPhones (and most smartphones), you mostly need to charge it once a day.

Mophie Juice Pack Air vs Helium Battery Cases for iPhone 5s

With the battery case, the idealistic situation is where you get double the battery life and as a bonus, protection for the iPhone. But like I said, that’s the ideal situation. There are obviously some battery packs that offer double battery life (100%) but with battery cases like that of Mophie’s, we’re talking about practical limitations.

Battery Capacity
The original iPhone 5s battery has a capacity of 1560mAh. Mophie Juice Pack Helium stands at 1500mAh which is close to 100% of more battery capacity. In reality, however, you should get much less in terms of backup. The Air, on the other hand, packs a 1700mAh.

With Helium, you should be able to get about 70% more battery time with your iPhone 5s on full-charge. With Air, the same should hit the 80% or more. The problem, however, is that these numbers are broad generalizations. It depends on how intensive your usage is, how you control the radios (Wifi, Cellular, LTE etc.), the screen brightness and the settings of your iOS 7 interface.

But speaking generally, Air gets you more (obviously) than Helium but not at any cost (other than the extra $20).

Design/Aesthetic
The Air definitely scores here. But possibly, it’s because they built it after Helium, as an afterthought, as an improvement. There are not many huge differences between the two and if you were to just use the iPhone occasionally for the call/message etc., you might miss the subtlety.

Where Air differs is in the cutouts, in the finer lining. Of the Mophie Juice Packs, Helium has a rustic design, a coarse look. Air, on the other hand is far more refined, especially with the button overlays and close-cut design. Somehow,, the outlines are more pronounced on Air than on Helium which features curved, monotonic design.

The Case
Both the cases as such are largely superficial and it’s kind of clear that Mophie wanted to focus on the battery. There are some enormous limitations: the microUSB will only charge the case and not provide any data transfer capabilities; the headphone jack is hidden deep inside the case’s shell so if you use a right-angled jack, you’re going to need to use an extender (which is part of the Juice Pack).

The basic build of the case can protect the back of the iPhone but that’s about it. It’s not an extensively protective iPhone 5s case.

Verdict?
Unless you’re saving $20 for something critical, Air is definitely the more recommended Juice Pack. It not only gives you more battery time but it also features a better design.

Mophie Juice Pack tech specs:

  • Air: 1700mAh; 2.68oz (weight); 0.63in (thickness).
  • Helium: 1500 mAh; 2.44oz (weight); 0.59in (thickness).

The Air is $99.95 ($96 on Amazon) Helium costs $79.95 ($69.99 on Amazon.)