I absolutely loved the original version of e13ctron’s s4 for iPhone 4. It was a sleek aluminum case that protected the iPhone, didn’t add too terribly much weight and had a beveled shape in strategic areas that just felt great in the hand. Yes, I loved the case and I used it… For a day.
I was a bit heartbroken when I quickly discovered that the all aluminum case wreaked havoc on my signal strength. The case was specially designed with a gasket insert that kept the metal case away from contact with the iPhone and was, theoretically, supposed to prevent this from happening. It didn’t. This wasn’t something with which we were unfamiliar as Judie and I have documented numerous examples of metal cases that looked gorgeous, felt great but were unacceptable thanks to the signal degradation. I was bummed. Seriously bummed.
Well imagine my surprise when I received an email that their new hybrid case was in the mail for review. The Hybrid e13ctron s4 case for iPhone 4 is a combination of a front plate made of aluminum and a back plate in which the original aluminum has been replaced by a plate made of Acetal (hard durable machinable plastic). It is available as either the back plate (for those who already own the case) or a full kit consisting of an original case AND the Acetal back plate.
From the Company:
Aluminum Acetal Hybrid e13ctron s4 & s4v case for the iphone 4. Recommended for U.S. consumers who live or travel through low signal areas. The hybrid case does not improve nor degrade signal strength. The s4 & s4v case is a two piece design having a front and back cover held together by your choice of 6 black or silver screws both colors included. The top Aluminum portion of the e13ctron case is CNC machined from a bar of 6061 T6 material. The bottom Acetal (hard durable machinable plastic) portion of the e13ctron case is also CNC machined to precisely fit around your phone.
The s4v & s4v cases are available in many colors and color combinations to suit your look, style, and mood.
e13ctron s4 fits the AT&T (GSM) iphone 4
e13ctron s4v fits the VERIZON (CDMA) iphone 4
The Hybrid case ships with the traditional front and back pieces made from aluminum (middle and right) and the new machined plastic piece (left) for those of us who have encountered signal issues.
This case is NOT for people who doe not have fine motor function or access to someone who does. Yes, the two pieces are held together by six tiny screws. Fortunately you can also purchase a hex tool for $8.99 that makes things far quicker and easier.
I was sent two sets of screws. Each came with its own hex-driver and two extra screws. I tried using the stock tool and then used the specialty tool that was also sent to me. Trust me, if you are getting this case buy the special hex tool. Its design makes life far easier. It is definitely worth the money, especially if you are someone who may be removing the case at various points.
The original design included a special insert that kept the aluminum frame from coming into contact with the iPhone’s external antenna. Since the new hybrid design uses one aluminum piece it comes with the gasket and it is an absolute necessity that you use it since it not only is important for reception but it also assures a tight fit.
At first I tried to put the gasket in the case…
And place the iPhone face down into it. That didn’t work since the gasket is a super-tight fit around the iPhone.
No, the proper way to get the case on is to place it into the Acetal back piece (it does not need to gasket) and carefully place the gasket around the front rim of the iPhone.
When done properly it will look like this.
You then place the front piece on top and carefully press down until the two pieces meet.
When this is done properly the two pieces fit together like a glove. You can see the space around the iPhone’s screen and the inner edge of the case. That is the spacer gasket in action.
From there it is as simple as placing all six screw in place and using the hex tool to tighten them.
It takes a few minutes to get this case on properly so it is not ideal for people who change their case to match their clothing or mood (yeah, there are people out there who do that) but if you tend to use one case consistently the work and effort are definitely worth it.
The cutout on the bottom is precise but this is one of those cases that might pose a problem if you are using a cable with an extra thick dock connector or dock the iPhone in various accessories. I have not run into any issues but I should point out that, other than charging my iPhone, I never plug it in or dock it.
The top cutouts are also precise and I have not run into any issue with accessing the Sleep/Awake button.
The same goes for the volume buttons and the mute toggle.
My biggest issue with the case is the fact that it leaves the back exposed. I wouldn’t worry as much if the back were made from plastic or metal but, as you know, the iPhone 4’s back plate is glass and that carries with it all sorts of potential issues. Still, if you aren’t worried about the back, or use some sort of protective film, this case is awesome.
Judie took a close look at Element Case’s Vapor Pro and raved about it. I’ve had a chance to use that case since and I love it. I appreciate the fact that Element Case stuck to their same design but found a solution to the antenna issues. That case is gorgeous. It is also pricey at $149 (and currently sold out.)
The Hybrid e13ctron s4 case for iPhone 4 is also gorgeous (in my opinion) and it is just $69.99. I love the look. I love the way the beveled edges prevent the case from looking too boxy, and I love the way it feels in my hand. For me this case is as near to a home run as I have found.
You can check out al the color offerings and order your own over on the company Web site.
What I Like: Looks awesome; feels great in the hand; new design fixes antenna issue; various colors available; a great company with whom to deal
What Needs Improvement: Six tiny screws may be a challenge for some; Won’t dock in all accessories; adds some bulk and weight; back is left exposed