Mophie recently announced the availability of a new design for their highly popular and useful juice pack air battery extender for iPhone 4. The Mophie juice pack air snap case (US$79.95) is available at Apple Stores and other retailers, and while it still offers virtually double the battery capacity of the stock iPhone 4, the new design makes it easier to access all of the switches and ports of the smartphone.
Let's look at how the design has changed. The previous model, which I personally use on my iPhone 4 all the time, splits near the top of the phone. That means that when you wanted access to the Dock connector, you basically needed to take the entire case off. That wasn't difficult to do, but it was inconvenient. The old design also had two openings on the left side of the phone for the ringer mute switch and the volume buttons, as well as a two openings on the top -- one for the power switch and the other for the microphone and headphone jack.
The juice pack air snap is quite different. The bottom of the case snaps off, so you can leave the case on the iPhone if you need access to the Dock connector. The same four LEDs for determining charge status are still there, there's still a micro-USB port on one side for charging the case, and the tiny slide switch for "charging" and "standby" is there as well.
Near the top of the case, the two separate ports on the left side have been replaced with one elongated port. This makes the case usable with both the GSM and CDMA versions of the iPhone 4. Previously, the case wouldn't work with the Verizon iPhone 4. Mophie has also opened the top of the case so that using the power switch and plugging in your headset is no longer a bother. With the "old" juice pack air, you slid the iPhone into the case from the top; now with the juice pack air snap, you literally snap the iPhone 4 into the case from the front.
I was perplexed by one fact: the new case is .1 ounce heavier than the previous model, even despite the more spacious openings. My guess is that the extra bit of weight is due to the fact that where the case splits, there are two new connectors that route the power from the battery to the area of the Dock connector. A small change, but it does make the total weight of the juice pack air go from 2.4 ounces to 2.5 ounces.
At our Denver Geek Lunch on Tuesday, fellow TUAWite Erica Sadun wanted to see the case I was using. She felt that the extra weight and bulk of the juice pack air wasn't worth the ability to have a fully-charged battery most of the time. I'm just the opposite -- I like the extra bit of bulk and the "grippy" exterior of the juice pack air as it makes the phone easier to hold, and I love the fact that even when I'm using geolocation-heavy apps, my iPhone's battery level is always maxed out.
The new case is available in two-tone black and silver; it was unclear from the press materials if the snap case will also come in the two-tone white/silver and red/silver models that were available for the previous model.