Apple iPhone owners who long to keep gabbing, Web surfing, and enjoying photos, music, and video beyond the limitations of their handset's battery will find the FastMac TruePower iV a sturdy solution. Despite its relatively high price and bulky design, this $99.95 accessory will not only revive your iPhone nearly three times, it will charge other devices simultaneously, and give your phone's integrated camera a much-needed flash.
At first glance, the TruePower iV looks very much like a holster, but it lacks the swivel belt clip found on the Case-Mate iPhone 3G/3GS Fuel. The 5.3 x 2.5 x 0.5-inch device has a sturdy build and a soft-grip exterior that feels good in the hand, despite its bulk. When we slid an iPhone 3G into the 3.8-ounce charger (the heaviest of those we've reviewed recently), the weight together was a relatively heavy 8.5 ounces. And the TruePower iV's size brings with it features that its rivals lack: A USB port that lets the battery charge other devices, an iPhone dock connection port for simultaneously powering the charger and the iPhone, and an integrated camera flash.
Flipping over the TruePower iV reveals its USB power slot, which allowed us to charge a first-generation iPod touch from 50 percent to full power in just over 30 minutes. The USB port, unlike the 30-pin iPhone connector housed in the bottom of the device, is activated by pressing a Power button on the back. Adjacent to that button is another, which, when pressed and held, shows the charge level of the TruePower iV with four LEDs that flash in sequence from left to right (four lights means the battery is full; one light means it's nearly empty). When an iPhone is plugged in, a lone red light glows to show that it's fueling the phone. For the sake of convenience, we would have preferred if these buttons and indicators were on the front of the device.
The TruePower iV also comes with a thin screen protector for your iPhone. We say don't use it; tapping icons works fine, but multitouch gestures can be tricky.
The TruePower iV is rated to provide an extra 24 hours of talk time, 21 hours of video playback, and 30 days of standby time. When we connected the device to a completely dead iPhone 3G, we could use the phone within a minute; fully charging the iPhone took just over 1.5 hours. These times were among the fastest we've seen among competing chargers. Charging the device itself took a lightning fast 1 hour and 50 minutes, which was faster than the Energizer Energi To Go (1 hour and 57 minutes), Mophie Juice Pack Air (2 hours and 10 minutes), Case-Mate Fuel (2.5 hours), and RichardSolo 1800 (4 hours and 50 minutes).
Moreover, the TruePower iV had enough remaining power to charge the iPhone 1.75 times before running out of juice; other chargers typically provide enough power for 1.5 charges. Like the Case-Mate iPhone 3G/3GS Fuel, Energizer Energi To Go, and Mophie Juice Pack Air, the TruePower iV can be toggled on and off, so you can charge a phone as needed.
Built into the upper-left side of the unit is a switch to activate the flash. We tested the flash's light by snapping photos of a subject standing 5 feet away in a darkened room, and it made no difference; our photos were just as murky as they were without the flash. The flash does come in handy, however, when taking close-up shots.
FastMac also sells a version of the TruePower iV that is compatible only with the iPhone 2G ($79.95), and another that works only with the iPhone 3G ($99.95).
Priced at $99.95, the FastMac TruePower iV is more expensive than competing chargers, most of which cost about $79.99. But its higher price includes a camera flash, the ability to charge other devices, and almost double the charge capacity of similar devices. Although we would have liked a sleeker design, the TruePower iV's performance and versatility help it earn our Editors' Choice award.