An iPhone might not be your idea of standard cycling equipment, but your cell phone is one of those things (like your keys) that pretty much go with you on all your rides. I recently got an iPhone 4s and was very happy when Kurt sent me the Vapor Pro Chroma case to review.
I had not put a case on my iPhone yet. There’s just something about being a mechanical engineer and a cyclist that makes me cringe at covering up beautiful stainless steel housings with brightly colored silicone rubber or plastic covers. I’m also a bit skeptical with the fact that you are putting in extra effort to protect something that probably will not be an heirloom in your family passed down from generation to generation.
Here is where the Chroma comes in. If you’re going to cover up a nice metal housing, what better than to use machined and anodized aluminum? And despite my “heirloom” comments above, nobody wants to accidentally drop their phone and crack the screen or accidentally scuff it across the parking lot.
So, here’s what came in the box. A black anodized case, a nice little zippered case (more on that later), a little keychain/hex wrench for assembling and with a couple extra screws, a microsuede cover for the back, a smaller one for the front, and a screen protector.
A couple of features on the case that I liked was the integrated button on the top, and the dove-tail press fit (see below). I did notice that on the black phone, most of the housing has a slight matte finish but the dove-tail piece is more of a brushed finish. It’s different enough to notice but not different enough to look like it was intentional. Some of the other color cases use a completely different color for this piece.
Installation was pretty easy. The installation tool has a nice little o-ring for grip. I am willing to bet that the small diameter of the installation tool is designed to try to prevent you from stripping out screws so use it! The frame really doesn’t add much physical size to you phone, but the phone feels much bigger. It’s a lot easier to grip and hold, especially with your full-finger cycling gloves on. The frame has a generous cutout around the headphone jack but a standard 90 degree non-Apple one may not fit.
I was pretty skeptical of the microsuede back cover. It’s just kind of weird to go from smooth glass to living room sofa. I was curious if over time it will start looking like my living room sofa, but a couple months in it looks fine. So what is it for? Want to put your phone on your legs while your sitting legs-up on the couch? The microsuede grips your jeans perfectly. Also the thickness is just close enough to the frame height that if you set your phone on flat surface, the frame contacts the table but you can’t accidentally slide it around and off the table due to the friction from the back cover. It’s different but it’s really grown on me. With that said, I chose not to install the little microsuede cover for the front. At first I put the screen protector on the front instead. Then I decided that de-resolution of the screen wasn’t worth it. Maybe the front cover would help with grip but the frame is already doing a great job on that.
Another thing I was skeptical of at first was the zippered case. Looks nice but why do I need a zippered case for my phone? I pretty quickly figured out why the case is awesome. I use my iPhone on all of my commutes and lunch rides and runs to track miles using the Strava app. I don’t have a handlebar mount or anything. I don’t really care where I am or how fast I’m going in the moment (that is until someone invents the hands-free bluetooth heads-up display), but I’d like to track my miles and see how I did when I’m done. This means starting the app, stuffing my iPhone in my pocket or bag and heading out. Not a problem in nice weather, but when you’re talking about a lunch time mountain bike ride in the rain, I need something better. I didn’t test if the case is waterproof, but it’s in my bag anyways. I figure the added protection against water and the added padding protection against any superman-over-the-bars moves are totally worth it.
As far as durability goes, While changing for one of my lunch rides I dropped my iPhone about 3 feet onto a hard tile floor. If I look hard I can find a little dent in the frame. No issues with the phone. As with most cases, you will get some dust between the case and phone over time, so you might want to take the case off every once in awhile and dust.
My main gripe is actually the difficulty I had finding an armband for running. The frame is not big, but it’s big enough so you won’t be able to fit it in most iPhone specific armbands. I found one from Cygnett which sort of works. Maybe if you got one for a larger phone. You do have the tools to take the frame off, but that’s not something you want to do every time you go for a run.
So if you have an iPhone and you are looking for a case that doesn’t totally ruin the looks of your phone you should check out the Vapor Pro Chroma. Being a machined metal cover, it’s going to cost more than an injection molded silicone cover, but you probably already guessed that.