People spend a whole lot of money on their smartphones… a whole lot of money. iPhones are, certainly, no exception to that rule, with the latest model (the 4S) costing, at minimum, $199 for the base model (buy it without an upgrade discount and you will spend hundreds more). Make one mistake with that phone, do one thing wrong, and you’re going to shell out a whole lot more cash for a new one (because you won’t be upgrade eligible). It is for these reasons that people, after spending a lot on a phone, turn around and spend a lot on a case for that phone.
It was with that in mind that Element Case has introduced their latest iPhone case, the Vapor Pro “Black Ops” Limited Edition Kit. Retailing for what some would consider a whopping $149, the case works on both the iPhone 4 and 4S, and unlike some iPhone coverings (which lack a large enough opening), can accept headphones beyond simply the apple earbud without issue. On the backside, it can also accept older iPhone/iPod charging cables as well (which, again, is not always the case).
Yes, the price will instantly put some people off, but the Vapor Pro looks stellar, consisting of a metal band that goes around the entire side of the phone, and an Ultrasuede backing and ear pad. In fact, the nearly all black metal band—as you can see there is a bit of amber there as well—which is made of aircraft grade aluminum is truly beautiful in its simplicity. For those worried about it, the case also features an “aerospace polymer RF insert” which will stop that pesky iPhone 4 “death grip” from affecting you.
Beauty, momentarily aside, the Vapor Pro is not without at least one nagging flaw which ought to have been addressed. The metal band has no lip around the edge and isn’t quite flush with the surface of the phone at all points. There is not enough room for the phone to move around—the phone is unquestionably protected—but not being even more snug and lacking a lip, one can see light between the phone and the case which gives a “luxury” case a distinctly pedestrian look. No amount of tightening the four tiny screws (the case does come with two spares and a tool to tighten them) will alleviate the gap. It is, in short, the sort of thing that one would easily accept from a 30 or 40 dollar case, but which is a little harder to stomach when one is paying three to four times that much.
Back on the plus side, the case feels absolutely wonderful. The aircraft grade aluminum from which it is manufactured is cool, but not cold, to the touch and seems truly substantial despite its thinness. While I do not have the weight specs, the phone does not feel significantly more heavy with the case on than it does with the case off.
Outside of the aforementioned case, backing, extra screws and tool, the full kit also includes a phone carrying case (zippered) as well as a clear plastic protector for the phone’s face. It would have been nice to get a second clear plastic piece to protect the phone’s face, but one is not included.
Ultimately, when looking to purchase a case, one generally has to balance look and feel against cost and to make a judgment about where the two sides intersect. After trying out several cases, I went around for a number of months with an AmazonBasics iPhone case which cost less than $5. However, on a regular basis when I pulled the phone out of my pocket the case popped off and I had few illusions that it would do anything to help the phone were I to drop it.
The Vapor Pro “Black Ops” case suffers from absolutely none of the problems the Amazon case did. Where Amazon’s was blah, the Vapor Pro is a definite wow. Where the Amazon one always seemed cheap and flimsy, the Vapor Pro looks well manufactured.
While testing the case out, on more than one occasion, I lent my phone to someone to make a call and received compliments back on impressiveness of the iPhone’s housing. To me, that was perfect – I like a case that is subtle, that doesn’t stand out in the crowd and doesn’t add heft to my phone, but which, when examined, garners unsolicited praise. The Vapor Pro does exactly that – you won’t notice it from across the room, but you will as soon as you hold it, and for me that is as it should be. It is annoying to see light between the case and the phone, but the rest of the piece looks so good, and is so nice to hold, that the space can nearly be forgiven.
It certainly isn’t a perfect phone case, and it does cost a pretty penny, but the Vapor Pro “Black Ops” is a wonderful little iPhone case… and hopefully it will work with the iPhone 5, whenever that may emerge. I can’t say that you need to spend $150 on an iPhone case, but if you’re in the market for a high-end case for your phone, the Vapor Pro is a great choice.