The ElementCase Vapor 4 is a beautiful case for the iPhone 4. It looks great. It feels great. And it is, as Judie explained last month, totally unusable.
As she explained in that post
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!
It was a huge disappointment since we all truly love the look and feel of the Vapor 4. Unfortunately, wrapping the entire iPhone’s edge in aluminum did a number on the signal. The iPhone’s radio is problematic enough without adding insult to injury so… the Vapor 4s went bye-bye.
It got me thinking, however… what if the edge weren’t wrapped entirely in aluminum? What if a case like the Vapor 4 left open a channel all the way around that would let the signal out? What if there were a case like… this…
Well as luck would have it there is such a case. It is made by KarasKustoms, it comes in 6 different colors and it is just $39 shipped in the US or $49 shipped internationally.
I ordered one in Black, put it on my iPhone and crossed my fingers. I quickly realized that, while I liked the way it looked, I really didn’t like the way it felt in my hand. So I did what I normally do with interesting gadget accessories that I’m not sure what to make of… I sent it to someone else. In this case I sent it to Judie. A week later… I got it back. Judie explained to me that while it looked interesting to her it did a number on her iPhone 4’s signal. “What???” I wondered, “How can that be? The sides are open. It must be a Texas thing.”
So I took my iPhone…
Showing three bars…
Put it in the new case…
And the signal promptly dropped to one bar and then… none.
I removed it and the signal jumped right back up to three bars.
Conclusion: It doesn’t matter what design you use, aluminum cases and iPhones are only good together if you want… an iPod touch.