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iPhone 11 Pro Smart Battery Case Review: A whole new way of taking pictures

My short review: it’s amazing.

The one thing that drew me to Apple’s latest Smart Battery case has nothing to do with extending the life of the phone: it’s all about what it adds to the camera.

The Smart Battery Case for iPhone 11 and 11 Pro includes, for the first time, a mechanical shutter button for taking pictures and video.

My short review: it’s amazing.

My long review:

The shutter button

I’ve often used the volume controls on the side of the phone in the past to trigger the camera. However, their placement often requires using two hands. Having this new button for the camera near the bottom of the phone makes taking pictures an ease.

The button fits the index finger well. It feels natural and sturdy, like something you’d have a larger camera.

Holding the button for about half a second will open the camera app anywhere you are on phone, even if it’s locked. I do wish the camera launched quicker, but it’s super simple and has become the most frequent way I get to the camera. I’m not as concerned about accidentally triggering the shutter as much as I am missing the moment I’m trying to photograph.

While it makes sense that the button will open Apple’s Camera app, one downside is that you can only use it to take pictures in that app. There have been times when I’ve lauched a third party app like Hailde or FiLMiC and tried to use the shutter button to no avail. Apple could open this up to developers, since they currently can use the volumne control buttons to trigger the shutter.

Something else I noticed that was frustrating was not being able to use the camera trigger when I had directons throgh the Maps app. Hopefully this is a software bug and will be fixed.

I would love to have a regular case with a shutter button or even have it added to the iPhone hardware. I know Apple doesn’t like to add buttons to their devices (they’ve only removed them) but, as someone who uses my iPhone as their main camera, it would be a welcome addition without the bulk of the battery.

I’ve taken the case off or used a different case a few times and missed the button: my muscle memory adapted quickly. I’ve kept the case on most of the time because of this and have a hard time imaging taking pictures with my iPhone any other way.

The extra battery

I recently took it on a four-day trip to Las Vegas and I only really needed to charge my phone twice. It was great to have the camera shutter (of course) but also to have the peace of mind that, no matter what happened, I had enough battery life to get me through 24 hours plus.

The case is bulky, as expected, but the design feels sleek. You only really notice the bulk when a) you first put the case one b) you take the case off or c) you have another phone that is ceaseless or has a case. I’ve stopped minding the extra weight and size.

What makes the Smart Battery Case so good is the intrigation that Apple includes. You see a battery status when you connect it and the percentage of battery shows up in Control Center. My favorite feature of previous versions of Apple’s case is the iPhone also knows when it’s drawing power from the case and will not perform intensive backup or other processes. Using other battery cases, the iPhone will think it’s charging connected to the wall.

For all the other “smarts” fo the case, Rene Ritchie has a deeper dive over on iMore.

At $130, the Smart Battery Case is a pricy upgrade, but the only battery case to consider if you use your iPhone as a camera. A forewarning: once you start using the shutter button, it might be difficulty to go without it.