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Review: Third Rail System for iPhone 4 and 4S

- May 28th, 2012

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It seems that no matter how much planning we do to keep our gadgets charged we could always use a little extra juice, especially our iPhones, where apps are plentiful. Of course, the challenge is always the bulk of carrying around extra batteries, chargers adapters etc., so Third Rail Mobility, has come up with a 3-in-1 solution to help keep your iPhone 4 or 4s and all your other gadgets charged without adding too much overhead to your pocket or purse.

The Third Rail System is a combination ultra-slim protective case, removable smart battery, and universal external charger/battery backup all in one. Many other devices have a slim battery built right in a case, but Third Rail has a different philosophy. It’s designed on the premise that you can have additional power only when and where you need it.

 

Removable Components

Each component is stand-alone. The rubberized hard-shelled case has a 2-piece design. The top portion slips over the iPhone and the lower portion slips over the doc connector and snaps together nicely into place. It’s compact. The case measures 4.96” x 2.43” x 0.46″ and weighs a mere 0.85oz, so it adds virtually no bulk to your iPhone at all.

It leaves easy access to all you phone’s features except the doc, but it does have a micro-USB port, so you can charge or sync your iPhone with the supplied USB cable by connecting it to a power source.

 Third Rail System 2

Snap on Battery

When you’re on the road and need more power, the 1250 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery, which has small notches piggybacks onto the rear of the case and locks neatly into place through the 4 small slots that run along its backside edges. Power is then seamlessly transferred without cables through the 3 gold rails located on both the battery and the case.

To draw power from the battery, simply select the recessed on/off switch located on the bottom of the case.

Third Rail System big

Smart Battery

The battery itself is quite functional. It has 5 green LEDs that with a push of a button indicate how much power is left in the battery, along with 2 unique USB ports. The “IN” port allows the battery to receive power, so you can charge the battery on its own, or charge both the battery and your iPhone at the same time.  While charging the LEDS will flash and will switch off along with the system, once the battery is fully charged.

 universalcharge

Universal Charger/ Charging Hub

The smart battery also acts as a universal USB charger. Connecting to the “OUT” port using the pig-tail (short) mini-USB cable allows you to charge a plethora of other compatible 5V USB devices, like mp3 players, cameras, Bluetooth headsets and iPods directly from the smart battery whether or not it’s attached to the slim case.

What’s also cool is that the Third Rail Smart Battery system can also operate as a charging hub, allowing you to stack batteries and charge them as well as other devices at the same time.

Also, should you decide to upgrade to a new phone model at a later date, you don’t have to toss the entire unit, you simply need to get a need case, as Third Rail has indicated that future cases will be designed to work with their current battery system.

 

Test Run

Conceptually, I really like the idea of the Third Rail. Unlike those with the built-in battery, you’re not forced to carry around the extra bulk all the time. I also liked the idea of being able to draw power when you need it and charge multiple devices from it while saving space especially when traveling.

I wasn’t totally keen with the 30-pin dock connector being closed off. It forces you to remove bottom portion of the case to get to it, if you need to dock it at night like some do, as well as carry the micro USB cable along with you.  On the other hand, partly covering the bottom of the iPhone had its plusses. Interestingly enough, the mic still maintained its sensitivity. As for the speakers, the sound actually seemed a little deeper, perhaps because it was resonating off the case material. It’s strange, but true.

I was also a little surprised with the battery. It delivered as advertised. However, I would have hoped for a bit more power than 1250mAh. The iPhone’s battery is about 1420-1430mAh, so you won’t exactly be able to fully recharge it. You might get 70-75% at best.

One other small thing, but that’s probably just me, is that I carry tons of things in my pockets, gadgets and otherwise.  On a couple of occasions, while fussing about in my pockets, I accidentally detached the battery from the case.

Overall, while it has a few little quirks, for the right person, the Third Rail System is certainly on the right track. In addition to what was already mentioned, the fact that you can stack the batteries, as well as use them on another phone just by getting another case (or if you have 2 iPhones), certainly adds value in a world where products can become obsolete in no time at all.

 

In Canada

Third Rail Slim Case for iPhone 4/4s Combo comes with a removable smart battery, Micro-USB cable and USB adapter and retails for $89.95 CAN. Additional batteries may be purchased for $59.95 CAN.

If you’re looking to get Dad one of these for Father’s Day, you can get them from Third Rail Mobility, on-line at Amazon.ca, but they have recently become available in Canada at Best Buy and Future Shop.

 

PROS

Slim/Lightweight

Removable battery

Universal Charger

Expandable/Stackable

 

CONS

Only 1250mAh (vs. iPhone 1440mAh)

Covers doc connector

 

Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg or Empire Avenue (e)GADGET1.

 

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3 comments

  1. John Grubb | June 5, 2012 at 4:56 am

    Thanks for the great tip but can you help with replacing the internal battery to an iPhone 4 and are they available in larger capacity than 1450mA.

  2. Greg Gazin | June 5, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Hi John,

    You’re welcome! I haven’t tried to replace an internal iPhone battery, but I did come across the process at Geek.com. http://bit.ly/KcAQ6j I’m sure there are also videos around. The other option would be to visit and Apple store and find out what they would charge.

  3. Big Zack | June 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    There’s a place on gladstone that changes internal batteries in Apple products, I-Pods, I-pod touch and I-Phones.

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