Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

September 9, 2010 • News

Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in its Box.

I’ve spent today with Daniel Lim (SlashGear); Andru Edwards (Gear Live), Jon Westfall (Android Thoughts), Steven Hughes (BHighlyMobile & Boston Pocket PC), Brad Sams (Neowin), at the Cedar Park, Texas location of ETS Lindgren. I’ll have a full article about the things we saw and what I learned about this fascinating company a little bit later, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about an experiment they conducted for me.

As you may recall, Larry, Dan & I recently reviewed the Element Case Vapor 4. All of us agreed that it was easily one of the most beautiful cases we had ever used, but we all experienced a significant signal drop when our iPhones were in them.

One of the things that ETS Lindgren is able to do is scientifically measure the antenna strength of a mobile phone inside one of their isolation and testing chambers, in this case the ETS-Lindgren Model AMS-8923 Over-The-Air Test Lab.

I asked them to test my iPhone without any case on, and we were able to establish a control of 26.8015 dBm as its antenna strength.  With the Element Vapor 4 case on the iPhone, that number dropped to 7.706 dBm (!!!). When you consider that every three dBm is a 50% drop in signal strength, and that for every next three dBm you have to remove 50% of the previous remainder, we were told that figure roughly translates to a loss of 99% signal strength. No wonder I couldn’t make or receive calls consistently when my iPhone was in the case!

More interestingly, the naked iPhone went from 26.6917 dBm (we retested it because its battery had dropped and the phone was warmer from being in use)  to 28.2659 dBm when it had the Apple Bumper case installed — which means it got an increase in signal strength of roughly 15%!

The moral of this story? Not all bumper cases are created equally. The Element may look fantastic, but I now have scientific proof that it will just about kill your iPhone 4’s antenna strength. Your best bet is to buy an Apple Bumper or another similarly designed, non-metal case; you may even see a signal improvement!

Update: Here is the video Andru, from GearLive, made of the process – complete with comments from ETS Lindgren Engineers:

19 Responses to " Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in its Box. "

  1. Mitchell Oke says:

    Wow that’s a HUUUUGE difference!! It may look nice, but I can’t imagine anyone buying it with that sort of signal degradation, especially since the iPhone can’t afford to lose any 😛

  2. Trey Sparks says:

    RT @GearDiarySite: Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in… http://goo.gl/fb/iOf2T

  3. RT @geardiary: Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in its Box. http://bit.ly/cxLK2O

  4. RT @geardiary: Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in its Box. http://bit.ly/cxLK2O

  5. Ewdison Then says:

    RT @geardiary: Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in its Box. http://bit.ly/cxLK2O

  6. RT @GearDiarySite: Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in… http://goo.gl/fb/iOf2T

  7. Daniel Chow says:

    Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4… http://goo.gl/fb/izkPr #iphone

  8. Edmund Ng says:

    RT @GearDiarySite: Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in… http://goo.gl/fb/iOf2T

  9. Joakim G says:

    “@danielchow77: Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case and Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4… http://goo.gl/fb/izkPr #iphone”

  10. Vapor case verminderd ontvangst van iPhone 4 volledig | iPhone Nieuws Blog says:

    […] gebruik zijn genomen blijkt dat de case het ontvangst probleem van de iPhone 4 nog meer verergert. Gear Diary heeft samen met SlashGear, Gear live en andere bloggers de Vapor case grondig onderzocht en daaruit […]

  11. […] no doubt seen the Element Vapor 4 case, with all of it’s carbon-fiber and aluminium design. Gear Diary have compared it with the standard Apple bumper, and they say you should just leave that Element Vapor in it’s […]

  12. Bernie Rico Jr. says:

    I tried the Vapor 4 also, ordered the blue/stainless version and loved how it looked, functioned and how it felt but experienced the same issues with loss of signal strength. I was at a conference out of town recently and the majority of the training was in the basement level/first floor. I rarely could text or call. No big deal I thought until I say everyone else being able to place calls and text without issue. What added insult to injury was the fact that my training partner had his 3GS with him and he simply said something along the lines that he was glad that he didn’t have the supposed latest and greatest because of my problems trying to communicate on my iphone4. I couldn’t do anything about it because I didn’t have that little tool to remove the case and didn’t want it unprotected so I left it on thinking when I went on to the next training a few days later in a much more open facility everything would be fine but same issues. I’ve since changed the case out for a Scosche bandEDGE (g4) and immediately noticed a difference in my call ability and quality and data transmissions. The bars are at 4-5 instead of 1-2. I returned the Vapor4 for a refund.

    I have a problem with the bumper case too though as well as the Scosche which is connecting it to my Alpine head unit connector. It utilizes a larger connector and the connector won’t remain seated. The Vapor was open enough but too deep to make any connection whatsoever. I just don’t get why case manufacturers feel they need to create these minimal openings especially at the connection end of the case?!

    Sure you can modify the opening but then it looks like crap, no matter how careful you are.

  13. @OmarCorrea You should read our Gear Diary review & test – http://bit.ly/cM1CyY http://bit.ly/cHzmyq

  14. Ungas says:

    RT @geardiarysite: Why You Should Buy the Apple Bumper Case & Why You Should Leave the Element Vapor 4 Case in its http://bit.ly/cxLK2O #fb

  15. Anon says:

    WOW great findings! Did you hypothesize why the (I assume Apple Rubber) bumper generated a better signal strength? Was the phone being held onto during the tests? You would think with the hand covering the metal antenna that surrounds the phone would be the culprit, but covering this in rubber/plastic seems like it would hinder signal strength, not increase it.

  16. […] way to quantify the signal loss I had perceived when my iPhone was in the lovely Vapor 4 case. I wrote about those findings in another article, but in case you missed it, this is the video Andru shot of the testing […]

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