“My phone is too thick” said no one, ever, yet the latest handsets boast of shaving fractions of a millimeter from their profile. What we really, really want, is longer battery life and less cables. If Apple offered a brick phone with wireless charging that lasted a week, I’d buy that. But they don’t, so it falls to third party manufacturers like Dog & Bone to add those critical extra features.
Wireless charging isn’t a new technology, but Apple has so far resolutely refused to make their devices compatible. Combined, the Dog & Bone Backbone wireless charging set and battery make a formidable combination, and then throws in some shock resistance just to sweeten the deal. At the end of this review, we’re giving a complete set of case, charger, and battery pack for iPhone 6/6S, to one lucky reader.
Design and Specifications
The Backbone starter pack contains:
- Backbone case
- Wireless Qi charger
- Wireless Qi receiver module
- Rear cover, and screen protector
- Long micro-USB cable
- 3.5″ headphone socket adaptor
The battery pack upgrade contains:
- 1,500 mAh battery module
- Short micro-USB cable
A version for the iPhone 5/5S is also available, though not yet for the iPhone 6 Plus.
The Backbone case adds considerable thickness to the iPhone: a couple of millimeters on the sides, half a centimeter on the back, and a good centimeter on the bottom where the ports and speaker grilles are. It’s for this reason that it’s military certified as shockproof to 1.2 meter drops. The added thickness is actually welcome though, as combined with the slightly rubberized texture of the case, I found it made my phone a lot more comfortable to hold and use.
It’s also worth noting that with the wireless receiver module inserted the Backbone case weighs just over 60 grams, adding around 50% to the 129 grams of an iPhone 6. Of course, 200 grams is still an entirely negligible weight for a supercomputer that fits in your pocket, can charge wirelessly, and has shock protection to 4 feet, so I’m not complaining.
Wireless Charging and Battery Modules
The main purpose of the Backbone case is obviously to add wireless charging capabilities, a revolutionary technology that simplifies the charging process. A charging pad is supplied, but the case is compatible with any other Qi chargers, such as the new range of Ikea furniture with chargers built-in, or any number of Qi hotspots now popping up in airports and cafés.
I was a little disappointed to find the wireless charging and battery are a case of either/or: you can either insert the wireless charging receiver into the accessory slot, or the 1,500mAh battery pack module. You can’t have both a battery and wireless charging capabilities at the same time. Hopefully they can combine the two modules in future; I’ll be all over that.
The battery module is simplistic, with a single LED to indicate charging status. There’s no array of LEDs or LCD indicator to show what percentage of charge is remaining.
Swapping between the two wireless charging receiver and battery module is easy – just slide one out, and the other in. They click into place and require a little nudge to pull out again, so this won’t happen accidentally.
No More Lightning
The biggest downside I found to using the Backbone case is that the Lightning port is no longer accessible. Instead, the base of the Backbone case provides a micro-USB port, for when you need to charge but don’t have access to a wireless charging pad. This is consistent with the micro-USB port on the battery module and the charging pad, but I’m not sure if this was a deliberate decision, or a necessary design alteration, a cost-cutting measure, or perhaps even a licensing issue (I should note, the Backbone is MFi certified, unlike some third party wireless chargers).
If you’re living in a house of mixed devices, you probably already have micro-USB cables everywhere, so this might not be an issue.
However, if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, it’s possible you have a couple of Lightning port accessories, such as headphones, car adapters, or other standard Lighting port chargers, which you’ll no longer be able to use (at least, not without removing the case entirely, which is more trouble than it’s worth).
Because of the extra bulk on the bottom of the case required to completely envelope the Lightning port safely, the hole through which you access the 3.5mm audio port is quite restrictive. Most headphones will no longer fit, in fact, which is why Dog and Bone supply you with a short adaptor cable with a slim plug.
This is fine if you have a single headset you can leave the adapter connected to, but if you have multiple headsets for different purposes, or regularly connect a stereo cable to your Hi-Fi, it would get frustrating to have to remove the adapter each time and carry it around separately.
Most users will be able to work around both these physical limitations: your iPhone will sync over the Wi-Fi network when it’s charging, so you don’t need a Lightning cable to sync content; and you could use Bluetooth headphones and speakers instead of the stereo port (which it’s rumored will be removed by Apple soon anyway).
But if you do use the Lightning or stereo port often, this will likely be a deal breaker.
Should You Buy the Dog and Bone Backbone Case?
For some people, the iPhone is undoubtedly a mere fashion accessory. They probably won’t want the Backbone. They don’t need shock resistance, they don’t need wireless charging functionality, and they certainly don’t want the added thickness to ruin their status symbol. Not until Dog and Bone teams up with Versace to make a diamond bedazzled version, at least.
For people like me, who choose function over form, the Backbone is a great bit of kit. The shock protection, the optional battery – this is powerful package.
However, if you only want the wireless charging capabilities, there are cheaper options on the market to consider (but they might not be MFi certified).