When there’s a question like that you need answered, who better to turn to than the inquisitive crew at iFixit? As always, they were on top of the situation and ready to crack open the Smart Batteryto see what it’s all about.
In a nutshell: it’s a case with a battery stuffed in it that you can charge while it’s attached to your iPhone. In that respect, it’s no different than third-party cases like Mophie’s Juice Pack. Closer inspection, however, reveals some clever touches by Apple’s design team.
Peeling away the microfiber lining, they discovered a small, aluminum plate that sits atop the battery. It’s there to provide stiffness and prevent damage to the battery — and to an iPhone that’s been tucked inside. There’s also a layer of mesh interfacing between the microfiber and silicone, which iFixit figures is there to keep the Smart Battery case fitting snugly even after being taken off and put back on repeatedly.
Also lurking behind the microfiber: a passive antenna, which you can see just to the left of the camera cutout. Apple didn’t want the Smart Battery interfering with cellular reception. With the liner and plate removed, iFixit was able to get at the heart of Apple’s case: an 1877mAh lithium battery. For comparison’s sake, the Lifeproof FRE Power packs 2600mAh and a Juice Pack beats that by another 150mAh.
About all that’s left is the small board that contains the passthrough Lightning connector. The board doesn’t appear to add much in the way of smarts. It doesn’t do a heck of a lot besides send power into the battery and then on to the iPhone. iFixit figures that most of the actual operational smarts are supplied by iOS.