Manufacturer: iWALK
Price: $49.99
Device Reviewed With: iPhone 5, iPod touch 4

Usability Rating: Rating: ★★★½☆
iOS Integration Rating: Rating: ★★★☆☆
Hardware Design Rating: Rating: ★★★½☆
Reuse Value Rating: Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

So iWALK came out with a useful little external battery pack recently, the iWALK Link 1700i. It claims to offer just about a full phone charge in an adapter that could fit on a keychain. It’s more convenient than lugging around a separate power brick with USB cable, or using one of those bulky Mophie cases. For iPhone 4S and earlier owners, it promises to be an extremely useful device. Just one problem: it’s got the “old” 30-pin dock connector, not Lightning. So, iPhone 5 owners are out of the loop with the Link1700i, right?

Well, not necessarily. Apple does make a 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter, which provides charging and audio support to the iPhone 5. Which means that the Link 1700i may just be useful for iPhone 5 owners just yet.

Using it with the adapter on the iPhone 5 gives it one big advantage: it’s actually more comfortable to use it in portrait versus on a 30-pin device, as the Lightning adapter provides enough space to grip the phone and do things like typing and scrolling with the Link 1700i safely out of the way. Landscape is a different story, as the i-Walk already provides a bit of an uncomfortable barrier; it’s ludicrously bigger on the iPhone 5. I’d suggest not playing games while charging with this thing, though I could hold it in a way where my thumb was not reaching over the battery. Still, I don’t recommend it.

While the box claims that it has 1700 mAh battery capacity power, in practical circumstances, I could rely on it to recharge about 3/5 of my battery, particularly with it being used occasionally in that time. Part of the problem could be the connection: I noticed that the iPhone would act as if the Link 1700i was being occasionally disconnected and reconnected when unlocking the screen, or even just periodically while it was in my pocket. I haven’t noticed this when using the adapter otherwise, and haven’t seen it in testing on my iPod touch 4th gen either. Using it with the dock adapter does leave some space for headphones, but it’s a tight fit, and would likely cause damaged headphone connectors.

The Link 1700i comes with two lids by default: one with a slot for the loop to be put on a keychain and one without. As well, it comes with the micro-USB cable to recharge it, the port being conveniently located on the side of the battery.

While it’s hard to measure the device’s actual effectiveness because it’s working in a roundabout way on the iPhone 5, it is far from an ideal solution. However, this is in part thanks to Apple: by using a new proprietary connector and then only selectively licensing it and not giving it to peripheral manufacturers before its unveiling, those looking for a convenient external battery are forced to turn to less-than-ideal options. Have an iPhone 4S or earlier? This seems like a perfectly fine solution. iPhone 5? Be prepared to deal with the imperfections thanks to Apple.

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