Provides: iPhone 4 protection from drops and scratches Developer:Element Case Minimum Requirements: iPhone 4/4S Price: Starting at $99.99 for Vapor Comp, $129.99 for Vapor Pro Availability: Now
Element Case makes some of the best looking, well designed, and well constructed cases available for the iPhone. You pay a premium price for them, but as we suggested in our review of the Vapor Pro Limited Edition iPhone 4 case, it’s worth it if you’ve got the money to spare. The CNC machined aluminum frames just seem like such a better match for the iPhone aesthetic than, say, silicon or plastic.
Whereas less expensive cases often seek to distinguish themselves with color and fashion, Element Case stuck to more sophisticated colors (there’s a reason you can’t buy a purple Lexus, after all). But Element has come to realize that most colors look good with that brushed aluminum texture, so they’ve diversified their options for the Vapor Pro and Vapor Comp lines. And now that they’ve got so many colors available, they’re letting you mix and match them as you see fit.
For this review, I’m focusing on the Vapor Pro model, but it mostly applies to the Vapor Comp, as well.
The main points of customization come from the frame pieces themselves, and you can follow the appearance online throughout the process. Begin by telling Element your iPhone color, then select your frame and cap colors. A couple of the color options do cost a bit extra, but most fit into the initial price of $129.99. You can also add extra frame pieces for the specific price of the frame piece (starting at $55.00).
You then customize the accessory colors from more limited options: the aluminum power button, the polymer insert (a small area over the antenna to prevent reception issues), and the screws you’ll need to connect the pieces. Finally, Element now includes an ultra-suede back plate for scratch protection. Extra back plates are only $9.99, and considering they’re held in place with adhesive, picking up a couple may be a good idea.
That’s it. You can add an extra screen protector, zipper case, or Vapor speed wrench, but you’re otherwise good to go.
Now, when it arrives you’ll have a high quality case that, depending upon your color choices, will add another layer of sophistication to your iPhone 4. As you can see, my green and blue color scheme served a specific purpose.
I wouldn’t have gone with these colors if they were meant to match the iPhone instead of my Seahawks skin from SkinIt. Because of that, I didn’t apply the back plate, but it’s handy for when I will need it.
The case itself still has a couple of drawbacks. You need to remove screws to get it off the phone (although the Vapor speed wrench makes this easy to do, and the screws themselves haven’t stripped at all), and because the bottom frame extends past the iPhone’s base, you’ll likely have to remove the Vapor Pro to dock with your various third-party devices. You can work around this by getting a dock extender or by going with the fully compatible Vapor Dock from Element.
In addition, the headphone jack hole is a bit tight (although I didn’t have a problem connecting my various headphone models), and the frame came in too close to the mute switch to allow for simple access.
The problems, however, are offset by the excellent impact protection provided by the snug fit and cushioned corners. An additional benefit to me is that my iPhone’s sleep/wake button has lost its click. The phone works, but I have to push it down pretty far to activate it. The Vapor Pro’s sleep/wake cover actually makes this easier to do.
The molded foam zipper case is a nice touch, too; perfect for travelling.
If you’ve had your eye on the Vapor Comp or Vapor Pro frame cases but couldn’t get into the more masculine color options, that’s no longer an issue with their customizer. Now, you have a great way personalize the cases for gifts or, as with me, to highlight a skin you already own. I’m all set for football season, but will need to add a Fire colored frame when I shift focus to hockey, I guess.