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article imageReview: Ontrion LifeCharge Samsung Galaxy S4 Battery Case and Power Bank Special

By Milton Este     Oct 22, 2013 in Technology
Need a power boost for your mobile device to get through the day? Don't want to be slowed down by the extra weight? Ontrion's LifeCHARGE battery kits may be the solution for you!
Ontrion's LifeCHARGE series promotes both phone specific battery cases as well as LED flashlight equipped universal power banks. This review will focus on the Ontrion LifeCHARGE Samsung Galaxy S4 2,100 mAh black edition battery case with flip cover and the 4,500 mAh power bank. This combination has proved more than useful, but first let's get started with the battery phone case exterior.
Here is the front view of the package:
Ontrion LifeCHARGE
Ontrion LifeCHARGE
Just a heads up, the Galaxy S4 battery case is also available without the flip cover and also has a white color option.
Continuing on, here is the back and inside view:
Ontrion LifeCharge
Ontrion LifeCharge
Ontrion Lifecharge Inside Product
Ontrion Lifecharge Inside Product
Similar to my earlier review on the iHangy phone case, the product packaging is very efficient and compact. The embedded magnetic locks are definitely a plus when it comes to storing the case when it is not needed. This is probably more useful with the power bank as it's probably only needed for longer trips for most people. When the power bank is not in use, what could be a better storage case for the battery back and its cord than the case itself? Coming back on track, keeping the case is a huge plus as Ontrion has definitely done a great job with the packaging. There are also two single seals that are act as tamper security. Once the seals come off, it will slightly rip the paper and if it is ripped, this can pretty much guarantee that the the product you bought is used or, at least, not in its brand new in box condition. This proves to be a very simple, yet effective way to verify purchases from resellers.
Moving onto the case itself, I have provided a few images showing the front of the case with the cover on, the inside of the case, and the back of the case. Let's start off with a closed case image:
Ontrion LifeCHARGE closed lid
Ontrion LifeCHARGE closed lid
Unfortunately, this image was taken with my Samsung Galaxy S4 so the phone is not actually visible in this case. However, I can assure you that this is a nice fit. The flip lid doesn't just cover up the screen entirely, but also the bezel area as well. This includes the two embedded "options" and "back" touch buttons as well as the physical "home" button. What's the benefit of this? I am one of those people that keep my phone and keys in the same pocket. Having the flip lid protects the surface from scratches. For those that do have a Galaxy S4, you've probably noticed that the Gorilla Glass feels wimpier than other phones, most notably the HTC One. As a result, it never hurts to add this extra layer of protection. However, high sensitivity has to be turned off when using the flip lid as I've pocket dialed from my emergency contacts more than once as the lid activates the touch screen.
In terms of the materials used, I can only speculate here. Based on a first look and feel, there is a combination of materials used. There is a leather like feeling with a rubberized edge covering a plastic foundation. The quality is definitely there. At first I did have the concern of a crease developing over the hinge, which I can confirm it will not happen any time soon. With decent care, the case will look like new. The hinges showed no sign of tearing or cracking, which is another good sign.
My only dislike right now is that the hinge covers up three-quarters of the volume rocker. This means that volume up is easier pressed than volume down. I would have liked to seen a groove of some sort to tell the two apart. Otherwise, it would probably be better to just uncover the volume rocker entirely. This is not a big issue, but it does slow commuters down when trying to do a quick volume adjustment without taking the phone out of their pocket. I have tried to just feel the volume rocker and press either the area covered by the case or uncovered to differentiate the volume up and down controls. This did not work too well as the hinge doesn't cover exactly half of the volume rocker so pressing the area covered by the case can still be both a volume up and volume down control.
Moving on to the interior, here's a look at the case opened up:
Ontrion LifeCHARGE case opened up
Ontrion LifeCHARGE case opened up
The first thing you notice is the inner material used. It is a felt-like feel cushioning the phone against the hard battery shell. I would not say that this makes the case shock proof. If you dropped your phone with the case, chances are it will still break as this not what the case is designed for. This also does not mean that there aren't any advantages for the felt-like material. In fact, this is very useful, serving as a quick screen cleaner to wipe away those oily fingerprints. This eliminates the need to carry a separate screen cleaner as the flip case serves as one. The hinge does give some leeway allowing the lid to move back and forth just a little, which serves this purpose quite nicely.
The only slight drawback I've noticed with the "felt" material is that it catches dust very easily, which can make it quite a disgusting sight over time. I've been using the hose on my vacuum cleaner to clean this off until recently when I discovered a simpler solution. The dust doesn't actually stick to the felt. Instead, it can easily be wiped off with your finger or a cloth. It will take a few wipes, but give it five minutes and all the dust will come right off leaving you with a like-new interior.
Over on the other side, the top two corners are slightly grooved, which wraps around the two corners of the phone. Along with the micro-USB charging port sticking out, these three components are responsible for keeping the phone in place. So far, it does the job nicely. Putting the phone in place is as simple as lining up the phone's micro-USB slot with the port on the case. After this is in place, just simply push down and the two grooves will click the phone in place. The removal process is as simple as pushing in the camera and popping the phone out.
Before I move onto the actual performance, I have an image of the back of the case. This image shows the initial charging of the case.
Ontrion Lifecharge
Ontrion Lifecharge
This is where you will want to choose the Ontrion LifeCHARGE case over other leading brands such as Mophie. The LifeCHARGE is the only case that comes with a built-in kickstand. How useful is this? I can attest this to be quite useful. The kickstand is great for reading e-books, watching a movie, and even surfing the web without having the need to constantly hold the device with one hand. Of course, this is not for everyone and can be a useless feature for some. Using the kickstand can be a bit hard as it does require quite a bit of effort and nails to actually pull it out of its place. On the bright side, you don't have to worry about the kickstand becoming loose and eventually unable to lock into place. The rubberized back provides the non-skid assurance as well as effectively blocking off the heat generated from the battery.
Next, you'll notice that there are five blue dots. This is actually a battery life indicator. Constant solid dots means relatively how much the battery is charged. Each dot represents a 20% charge so if two dots are constantly lit, then it simply means that the battery case is 40% charged.
I am a heavy phone user. I have Wi-Fi and 4G turned on simultaneously and my phone will manually switch between the two depending on the networks in range. Since I'm a commuter, I switch between gaming, reading, and video streaming quite often. Not surprisingly, these are the three biggest contributions to battery drainage. Prior to the battery case, my phone would usually end up at 3% or so by the end of the day and eventually shutting off entirely. This is where the battery case comes in.
The battery case packs some heavy ammo for another round of battle. Right now, I turn on the battery case when my battery hits the 5% level. The case will supply power, but it will be distributed to charging my phone's battery and powering my current needs. I did several runs at this. Initially, I powered on the battery case and continued to use my phone. My phone charged to approximately 40% before the battery case is fully drained. For 2,100 mAh, it really delivers quite the performance. Although the Mophie 2,300 mAh case is supposedly more powerful, I have noticed that it doesn't hold a charge as well as the LifeCHARGE.
I did this run again, but did not use my phone while the case was in use. I managed to get as high as a 63% charge on my phone with the average fluctuating around 60%. This proves quite useful, giving me slightly over an additional half a day's usage. In comparison, I still find that the Mophie Juice Pack delivers a slightly higher charge. However, that doesn't really mean it's better. Many, including me, have complained about how light the Galaxy S4 is and one way to beef up the weight is with a battery case. I find Ontrion's LifeCHARGE adds just the right amount of weight to my Galaxy S4. It sits comfortably with the rubberized back grip. Meanwhile, Mophie adds a bit too much weight and it lacks a kickstand and screen cover which I've found to be quite useful.
Let's sum up this case with the good, bad, and ugly. The good is pretty straightforward. This case is very well thought out; one of a kind I would say. So far, I have not been able to find another battery case that delivers this much juice with a flip cover screen protection and kickstand. The ugly is simply being a dust magnet. The felt on the inside of the flip cover attracts dust very easily, but there are two easy solutions. One is to clean it, which literally takes five minutes. The other is simply to buy the battery case without the flip cover, which I do not recommend. As for the bad, this has to do with the micro-USB connectivity. My computer no longer recognizes my device and, as a result, file transfers have to be done over Bluetooth 4.0. It's not as fast as a cable transfer, but Bluetooth 4.0 does have significant speed improvements. At the same time, NFC and S Beam no longer work. Does this mean you shouldn't get this case? The answer is not this simple. These are generic issues affecting all cases. My Otterbox Defender faces the S Beam and NFC connectivity problems. The Mophie case also faces the micro-USB connectivity issue. However, GPS is not affected. Unless you are heavily reliant on these features, this case is definitely worth considering. It carries a $69.99 price tag, making it more affordable than just about all other battery cases on the market. Use the coupon code "10ontrion" and save 10% off the retail price at the checkout so this case is really just $62.99 after savings.
Speaking from an economic standpoint, the LifeCHARGE is significantly more affordable. It sits at $69.99 compared to a $99.99 Mophie. Yes, the Mophie does carry a greater charge, up to 80%. Is this really necessary? Let's keep in mind that a battery case to to provide enough juice so your phone won't die on you as you make your way home to the charger. At a 60%, it is more than enough to make it home in time to charge up the phone and battery case for another long day.
Like the LifeCHARGE battery case, the LifeCHARGE power bank features the same packaging style. Here is a quick front, back, and inside view of the package:
Ontrion LifeCHARGE Power Bank
Ontrion LifeCHARGE Power Bank
Ontrion LifeCharge Power Bank
Ontrion LifeCharge Power Bank
Ontrion LifeCHARGE Power Bank
Ontrion LifeCHARGE Power Bank
If you notice, the power bank does not come with any instructions. This can be a bit intimating until you figure it out; then you will slap yourself on the head and realize how simple it is to operate this power bank. Before we get there, let's get a quick overview.
Inside the box, you will get the 4,500 mAh power bank. Unfortunately, it only comes in black with a silver side and ring surrounding the power button. There are four lights embedded in the silver ring to show the approximate charge left in the battery. In the picture below, you can see the power bank being charged with a micro-USB plugged in on the right side. As you charge, you will notice the four lights flash according to the charge's progress. Once all four lights are lit with the fourth light remaining constant (no longer blinking), this will signify a full charge. On the top of the power bank, there is a standard USB 2.0 port. Any device that has an USB 2.0 port can be charged with this power bank. Interestingly, USB 3.0 devices may also work. Here is an alternate view showing the top:
Ontrion LifeCharge Power Bank
Ontrion LifeCharge Power Bank
Ontrion LifeCHARGE Power Bank
Ontrion LifeCHARGE Power Bank
Beside the USB 2.0 port is the LED flashlight. This super bright light will use the power bank's internal battery. This flashlight proves to be an useful safety/ emergency tool. The first test I did was putting the power bank on stand by. After two weeks, more than 75% of the charge held. On the initial turn on, all four lights were lit with the one of the lights disappearing while the remaining three remained constantly lit. At least 75% of the charge held over a two week period, but I would say it is closer to about 85%. I can only speculate that the power bank can be stored three months without use and still hold a charge. This can work in your advantage in two ways. The first is to equip it with an emergency kit. This power bank is a great light source in case of a power failure and can help you stay connected during natural disasters. You now have your own power supply to charge your phone if in need. The second benefit is the reassurance offered during long term traveling, especially outdoors. It's always a comfort to know that you have another power source to rely on in case your GPS or phone goes dead when you are outdoors hiking or simply bustling around in the city. On a few occasions, I did charge my Galaxy S4 with the power bank. It does emit a slower charge, but it did charge my phone full with plenty left over for another device.
Other than the slow charge, there really is nothing for me to complain about. It's about one-fourth the size of a Mophie power bank and twice as light so I hardly ever notice the power bank and cord sitting in the back pocket of my bag.
Do not fear the plastic construction. This is hardened plastic. I dropped the power bank on my marble and hardwood floor as it slipped out of my bag. The plastic structure held up quite nicely, making no marks nor visible signs of damage. No cracks or scratches on the plastic appeared, but this is a different case with the silver ring surrounding the power button. The silver ring is also plastic, but it is more prone to scratches. As the power bank got tossed and turned in my bag, the silver ring looked quite ugly with the various scratch marks on it. Not to worry, the charge lights embedded in the ring are fine. I would classify this as an appearance issue, which I'm not too concerned. After all, the charge hold capability is quite impressive. This issue can be avoided simply by keeping the plastic seal on the power bank.
It would be beneficial to actually include the a quick start up guide or a brief instruction manual outlining how the power bank works. It doesn't take too long to figure it out, but I did have to fumble around with it for a while to understand how to use the various features.
Simplicity is key on the LifeCHARGE power bank. It only features one button, the power button. I don't mind this; in fact, I actually prefer to have just one button. Less moving parts means less likely it will break down. The more keys a device has, the greater the chance that one of these keys will stop working over time so having one key makes it the ideal design for me.
The power key pretty much controls all. It controls when the charger kicks into place and when the LED light will turn on. To turn on the charger, simply press the power key once and the embedded lights will flash in sequence signalling that it has powered on. The remaining constantly illuminated lights signal the juice left in the power bank. In order to turn off the power bank, simply press and hold the power button for approximately five seconds and the power bank will no longer emit a charge. On the other hand, turning on the LED flashlight is as simple as just pressing and holding the power button for five seconds. Simply press and hold for another five seconds to turn the LED off. You may have noticed that there is a conflict here with turning off the charging capability of the power bank and turning on the LED flashlight as both require holding the power button for five seconds. Unfortunately, this is a drawback I have noticed with the power bank. It doesn't always differentiate which feature you want to enable and disable so it works at random. Sometimes the LED light will kick in, requiring me to turn that off first before the power bank. Other times, the power bank will just turn off without involving the LED light as well. It terms of operations, I wouldn't mind seeing another key solely for flashlight operations. Right now, it will have to do.
I've pretty much summarized the good, bad, and ugly. In terms of the cost versus functionality, the LifeCHARGE power bank is by far the most competitively priced. For a 4,500 mAh power bank at the price of $44.99, it's definitely a bargain. Mophie's 2,500 mAh power bank retails for $59.95 so why pay more for less?
In conclusion, both are very nice deals. I would give the LifeCHARGE battery case a 9.5 out of 10 for its unique features not seen elsewhere, but I would still say there is room for improvement. As for the power bank, it deserves a grade of 9 out of 10. Other than the choice of materials used for the silver ring, the power bank is quite solid. Charging is a bit on the slower side compared to a wall charger, but that's just the output charge. Just make sure to keep your boxes as they make great compact storage units for your LifeCHARGE kits when they are not in use.
More about ontrion, Portable, Battery, lifecharge, Case
 
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