Over the next few months, I will be reviewing a half dozen or so iPhone 4 cases to better protect my smartphone. For a long time, I used my iPhone without a case….at least until a very scary tech-moment. I was in the gym working out on an ellipse machine, watching a show. When I finished working out, as I was getting off the machine my iPhone went flying across the gym (every AR tech-geeks worst nightmare). Thankfully before going to the gym I put on the Sena Sarach Leatherskin case I reviewed a few months ago which did a great job protecting my iPhone while skidding across floor. At that point, I decided that I needed rock-hard protection on my phone 24/7 but without too much added bulk or weight. Case-Mate’s Jett Metal case for the iPhone 4 seemed like an ideal candidate to get the job done.
The Jett Metal case is machined from a single block of aircraft billet aluminum (T6061). It is tumbled and deburred with ceramic media for over three hours. It is then anodized which increases corrosion resistance and overall toughness and infuses the aluminum with color. Their laser etched logo completes the look. The case is form fitted for the iPhone 4, completely surrounding the corners and edges. The case is available in black, gray, red, hunter green, and blue. It is compatible with both Verizon and AT&T iPhones.
Along with the Jett Metal case, Case-Mate includes screen protectors for the front and back of the iPhone, push-thru buttons for power, volume, and mute, two extra screws, and a tiny screwdriver.
There is a bit of assembly required but the case comes together very nicely, like a jigsaw puzzle.
In good Gadgeteer style, I attempted to install the Jett Metal case without consulting the instructions. It took me several tries but I figured it out on my own (thankfully without hurting anything in the process). Admittedly, taking a peek at the instructions would have been easier and faster ;).
The inside of the case has a soft micro liner in the corners and on the sides to keep the iPhone from rubbing against the case.
As you can see, the push-thru buttons are perfectly fitted and work just as designed.
The left side has the push-thru buttons for volume and slider switch for mute. This side and the top have a plastic seam that I assume is to allow better signal reception. The case’s raised edge holds the front and back of the iPhone off of whatever surface it sits on.
Along with the plastic seam, the top has a push-thru button for the power and recessed cutout for the earbud port.
The only thing on the right side is the laser etched Case-Mate name and logo.
The bottom of the case as cutouts for the sync/power plug and speakers. Case-Mate also designed a hard-point into the case for attaching a lanyard to wear around your wrist.
Like the sync/power port, the earbud port is recessed 3-4 millimeters making it impossible to insert L-shaped plugs into the iPhone.
Straight shaped plugs, like the Sennheiser/Adidas MX 680i Sports earbuds you see here, work fine with this case. But sadly none of my high-end earbuds and monitors (all with L-shaped plugs) work with the Jett Metal case. A definite negative…..
…..another negative is that the case does not allow the iPhone to work with any of my dock-enabled sound systems. I know there are extender plugs and cables that solve these issues, but you have to acquire/buy them and then lug them around.
Since the case completely surrounds the iPhone edge, it does impact signal reception, not heinously so but noticeably. I tested reception at many locations. The case reduces signal reception by one full bar (maybe a bit more). There are several places where cell services is marginal and with this case on I can not receive calls, email, or dance the net.
The Jett Metal case does add weight (1.2 oz) and a bit of bulk to the iPhone (4.8 oz). Actually not that unreasonable considering the added protection the case gives the iPhone. The case has a nice look, feel, and (believe it or not) heft to it.
Even though the case’s design/engineering has negatives in terms of accessories and signal strength, it is currently my case of choice….by far. The Jett Metal case is well made, feels nice to hold, great protection, and accentuates the iPhone’s good looks. Pricing on form fitted aluminum iPhone cases, has definitely become more reasonable and at $50 the Jett Metal case is a worthy contender in a crowded market.