Review of the e13ctron hybrid (iPhone) case, leaf skin (backing), SGP oleophobic screen protector and Lucky Labs Spectra Wrap.
Nov 25, 2011 at 8:28 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1

cravenz

Headphoneus Supremus
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I apologise as this will be a rather long post as it contains a review on 4 different iPhone products, but I didn't want to create separate threads for each. On top of that, I'm not even sure if this belongs here. I thought because I had done the review, I might as well share it with you guys as well. Hope that is alright!
 
e13ctron hybrid case (http://www.e13ctron.com/Aluminum-Acetal-Hybrid-e13ctron-s4-case-for-iphone-4_p_45.html; $69.99 USD, note: code E1315 for 15% off)
 
I first started hunting for a case when I realised that I was going to upgrade my iPhone 3GS. I’ve had several experiences with various types of cases already then and decided that with the 4S, I’d get something that I liked and wanted i.e. something that would last me the stand of time (hopefully). With the 3GS, I had several that really didn’t last or just looked weird due to normal usage after some time, I’ve used Switcheasy, Griffin, and a carbon fibre OSIRdesign case for my 3GS. It is also because of the OSIRdesign case that made me realise that I had to research carefully and rather meticulously into what case I would get with the 4S because the OSIRdesign case affected the signal of my 3GS in a bad way. That’s the preface, or part of it, into my hunt for a case.
 
Personally, I wanted something aesthetically simple i.e. minimalistic, but sleek. I started looking at various threads from Mac Rumors, Whirlpool and several other places and my attention was first drawn to Element cases, but I thought their look didn’t sit right with me. Further, their price was rather over the top, in my opinion, though it could be argued that the e13ctron cases cost for others may similarly, be considered to be over the budget, and you’ll have no argument from me there. Suffice to say, I did a fair bit of research and came up with a few choices, the e13ctron being the eventual one, but here are a couple of links that might aid your search for a nice aluminium/metal based case if that tickles your fancy: http://www.gadgetmac.com/gadgetmac/top-5-best-aluminum-iphone-4-bumpers.html and http://www.appfreakblog.com/blog/finding-the-best-aluminum-case-for-your-new-iphone-4s.html. There are some really nice cases there and I like the Drago if I’m honest, but the signal loss and functionality worried me. Not that the e13ctron full aluminium didn’t either, but from most of my perusal of the testing of the e13ctron hybrid, this wasn’t an issue.
 
Alright, time to get stuck in with the e13ctron review.
 
The e13ctron hybrid is an aluminium style bumper case for the iPhone 4/4S. The problem with a fair few aluminium cases has been that it degrades the cellular signal. This led e13ctron developing the hybrid style case which consists of an aluminium style top and acetal hybrid bottom base as evidence by the picture. This was made to help with any potential signal issues that people may encounter. Plus, it is cheaper as well. Further, both the full aluminium and the hybrid cases come with composite spacers that fit between the bumper case itself and the iPhone which helps isolate the metal from the antenna.
 
Packaging
 
I have to admit that the packaging seems rather industrial in that there really isn’t much to the box, it was plain and pretty much, no frills. That said, you could argue either way. For the price, one could look for more professional packaging, or on the flip side, be happy to pay less without more professional packaging. I’d like better packaging, but I’m really not fussed over this. The package itself came with two colours of screws to choose from, one being black, and the other silver. I went with black which I though suited my case better. However, that really isn’t the most important aspect. I bought the case, not the packaging.
 
Picture of the box:

 
Picture of the actual package:

 
My rating: 3.5/5 (it could be more professional)
 
Fit
 
The e13ctron fits almost flawlessly on the iPhone 4S. Some may be worried about the case itself “cutting” into the iPhone sides. I can comfortably assure you that that is not something to worry about, at least not with the e13ctron hybrid. I’ve had the case for approximately a month now, and have taken it on and off several times for various reasons. I’ve had a look at the sides which showed markings of the case on it, but I took a cloth and rubbed it off and it was as good as silver after. Just as a precaution, I have however, now got a Spectra wrap around it to protect it, but also, to add aesthetically to the design of my phone.
 
When I stated that it fits almost flawlessly, this is because there is an area on my case, that leaves a bit of a gap despite every other side of the case “clicking” into place. I state “clicking” because when putting it together, ensure that you “click” all the sides into place or you might have a space inbetween the top and bottom, which can, in theory, attract dust. That brings me to the issue of dust accumulation. I’ve read a few reviews and no one talks about this. Because it is a bumper style case, and because of its design, there are a few areas that can “collect” dust.
 
On my usage, the area just above the screws collect dust, nothing that can’t be blown away. The cut out areas can also collect dust. There was a “slight gap” in between the top part of the case and the phone, but I think having the wrap has now solved the issue and it fits like a glove, though almost too tightly now as I’ll talk about it in the wrap section. Another area which is prone to collecting some dust is the area on the top and bottom, just between the iPhone and the e13ctron case itself i.e. the areas that wrap around the phone where there is a little space to collect some dust. However, a little blow is sufficient to rid most of the dust from the phone. Also, upon opening the case, the inside of the top of my case had a fair bit of dust. This was prior to installing the wrap, so I can’t report on the changes since just yet. Though I’ll be happy to report that there was none on my mobile phone. I’ve stated before that I’ve had experiences with various other cases. This is where I can draw some comparisons, though not with the same mobile phone, but a similar one, the 3GS.
 
The Switcheasy and Griffin cases I had were snap on cases, hard silicone etc. Again, this was what I had with the 3GS, not the 4S. From that experience I’ve had, though those cases are snap on cases, they attracted a lot of dirt/dust inbetween the snap on areas (so it is nothing that is only evident in the e13ctron, but happens with other cases). In my opinion, because a case is silicone, it is more malleable than metal, and in that sense, a metal based case tends to have a better fit, though issues may arise as to whether the fit ends up scratching the iPhone itself. The e13ctron hybrid doesn’t. Over time, the cases I had discoloured as well, and I don’t think that will be an issue with the e13ctron, hopefully!
 
My rating: 4.5/5 (almost perfect bar the little hitch and dust)
 
Design
 
I think the e13ctron is pretty sweet on it’s own, and I prefer the interchange of colours in the way it is done re: top and bottom, rather than other cases which do just one side (left or right) with a different colour which looks odd in my opinion. I think the Drago for example, tickles my fancy, but ultimately, the e13ctron seemed to come out tops with efficiency in regards to the signal issues that some have experienced. That said, I think the e13ctron conforms to the shape of the iPhone 4S the best without any edges popping out at odd areas, which I appreciate. It fits to the form of the phone, and more importantly, to my hand without adding much width to the phone. There is enough lift on to top and bottom of the case to ensure that if you do place the phone on an even table for example, the phone itself will not be in contact with the surface i.e. giving adequate lift to protect it from any potential scratches, especially if you leave the back unprotected.
 
The finish of the e13ctron case itself is also flawless. The colour is uniform and if anything, the part with the e13ctron s4v splashed on the case, adds aesthetically to the design. For me, 3 colours is the basic rule of thumb for design. Anything more is at risk of making the design or object too flashy or too contrived, in my opinion. I’ve gone with dark grey matte, black and the letterings in silver fit in well with the silver from the buttons itself, 3 colours.
 
All that aside, I think some people might have a gripe with either the cut out areas of the volume button (this isn’t an issue with the sleep button), or issues with their earphones fitting into the earphone jack. Firstly, I have to admit that previously, I had no issues using my iPhone with one hand and increasing or decreasing the volume with one hand, that is not the case with the e13ctron. I require one hand to hold the phone, and the other to press the volume buttons. The plus side is that the volume buttons will not be accidentally pressed. The down side is that if you only have one hand free, it can become annoying e.g. I’m on the bus frequently and may be standing, I need one hand to hold onto a railing to keep my balance, and the other to hold onto my mobile phone. In such an event, the issue with the e13ctron becomes pertinent. Another time it may be an issue is when you need to change the volume when speaking on the phone, that could be another tough ask. But all these may be minor issues for some people, or bigger issues for others. I’m just flagging these up.
 
Secondly, if you use the iPhone as an all in one phone like myself, i.e. to listen to music, and you are a fair bit of a music junkie, you may have various earphones that you use. The e13ctron cut out at the headphone jack may not fit everything. Shures for example, have a block type adapter which doesn’t seem to fit (I don’t have one myself to be fair), whilst I have tested a pair of Sony, UE 700s and my Sennheiser IE8s  and they all don’t have an issue with fitting into the earphone jack with the e13ctron case one.
 
Picture with the Lucky Labs Spectra Wrap:

 
My rating: 4.5/5 (love it, wish I had the black chrome piece though)
 
Protection
 
I think one important note to highlight (on top of the “lift” mentioned earlier which is helpful) is that with a bumper case, it is unlikely to provide full protection. If you are risk averse, then the e13ctron hybrid wouldn’t be something I would immediately recommend, especially if you are prone to dropping things. However, that said, I think the bumper case, because of its weighting, when dropped, should ensure that the corners or the bumper case itself will be the first to touch the ground, and should in theory, protect the case. I don’t intend to test this out obviously! But that would be my two cents.
 
I personally am very careful with my phone (usually). That said, I have a small scratch which is almost negligible in plain view on the acetal bottom. But it is not a case that I would readily throw into a bag of things either because I’d be afraid of having the case itself scratched. To some extent, it could be argued that the case requires a fair bit of gentle care, I just prefer to treat things that I like carefully most of the time, so this carries forward with my phone. Plus, the phone itself does cost a fair bit already as is!
My rating: 3.5/5 (on account that it probably wouldn’t give full protection, but that is a sacrifice when going for design above protection)
 
Performance (wireless and signal, GPS not tested)
 
I don’t drive, so I haven’t been able to test the GPS, so I can’t comment on the case performance in that area. However, I can comment on both the wireless and signal tests that I’ve done. I’ve reset my phone as new since, and will have to utilise old test results and unfortunately don’t have a picture to show for it. That and the fact that I am now doing this review in another country at the moment.
 
In terms of noticing a signal loss, I definitely have noticed that my signal bar on the top left of the iPhone drops by one bar. In my area, I have about 3 – 4 bars usually, but since having the e13ctron on, it varies from 2 – 4 bars. That worried me a little at first, however, I did a “field test” to check. With the case off, and with the case on, there really wasn’t much difference in my results. I got between -85 to -100db on both. In terms of a speed test, there wasn’t much difference, if any, either. The tests were conducted soon after each other because signal from towers can drop from time to time, so I wanted to eliminate that variance in my testing.
 
Note: to conduct a field test, go to “phone” and to your keypad, and enter “*3001#12345#*” and then dial and it should bring up the “db” on the top left where the signal bars are usually. To conduct a speed test, download any app for free, just do a search for “speed test”.
 
My rating: 4.5/5 (I have experienced the bar drop, but it hasn’t significantly affected my phone unlike reported cases on other
brands)
 
Final Thoughts
 
Some people may have a preference for an all aluminium case. In fact, I probably would like that myself, but after receiving the hybrid version with the acetal bottom, I don’t have any regrets whatsoever, especially where there has been some noted issues with signal in Australia with the full aluminium cases. If I had a choice between this and any of the other cases, as mentioned prior, the only other case I’d have a look at is the Drago. I have a soft spot for sleek designs. The Element cases just don’t do it for me and the ones I like are double the price of the e13ctron which makes this case a no brainer for me. I’m guessing that if you are considering a case like this, your budget would be higher than most. The e13ctron is a case based on design, and not full protection for the phone. After all, it is still a bumper case. Would I recommend it, yes. But if you want full protection, then you’ll have to look at something like the Otterbox Defender or the LifeProof cases, to name a few.
 
That aside, if this case is within your budget, I can’t recommend it enough. I think it is a case in a class of its own. That said, everyone has different preferences, some may prefer any of the other aluminium cases, or some may just prefer cases from other manufacturers utilising different materials. In my opinion, what’s important is that you like what you use. For some, the phone is just a functional object that one uses to make calls, send messages etc and place less emphasis on the design of it. With that in mind, I’d probably steer you away from the e13ctron hybrid case. Others, potentially including myself, view it as something that they can design and choose something they like/love as part of their tools/gadgets. I got the e13ctron ultimately because it was what I liked, I don’t get a case to be blingy or for others to like. It is ultimately your own item and your own choice, and that is why I think it is important you like what you have and get something you won’t regret.
 
All this aside, I have to admit that I’m a sticker for good customer service and unfortunately, this is where e13ctron falls short. It is a small issue, but I found that they responded faster on facebook than for example, email. They were slow on email and it took a few emails on my part just to chase them to figure out what was going on with shipping. For some who don’t worry about such things, it won’t be an issue at all, but for those who like to know what is going on, it may ‘matter’.
 
My overall rating: 4.25/5 (packaging, customer service let it down for me)
 
Recommended? Yes.
 
Leaf skin for the back (maze) (http://iamleaf.com/maze.html; 34.95 AUD, note: it was 29.95 AUD when I got it)
 
This is an Australian company and I must first start out by saying that their customer service, in my opinion is top notch. I won’t elaborate why, but they were both prompt with their responses and were willing to engage in discussions over their product which I found both helpful and receptive. That is a big thumbs up from me. The product itself isn’t exactly very cheap, but it is aesthetically pleasing. I will not be dissecting this part of the review into parts like what I did for the e13ctron case.
I have to admit that at first, I was wondering why there was no adhesive around the camera area for the skin to fit, but I haven’t had any issues with the backing coming off. There has been one reported case of this happening which worried me, but a month in, and I still don’t see any evidence of this happening with mine nor has there been any reported issues from what I’ve read with other users on the iPhone 4.
 
The skin itself is not thick, it isn’t heavy either, and it fits neatly to the back of the iPhone. On top of that, I like the feel of it on the back because it feels a little grippy when I have my hand wrapped around the phone. It just feels good and right. The cut and finish of the product is fantastic without any sharp edges protruding out as well. And because it is thin enough, there is still some space between the table and the leaf skin because of the e13ctron bumper case I have on, which is perfect for me.
 
All in all, this is a wonderful case, coming from a “local” company, that I cannot say enough good things about. It may not be for everyone because if you get a case with a built in backing, then the leaf skin will not work at all for you. There are other choices in the market, including Lucky Labs, the people whom I got the Spectra Wrap from who do backings, but I love the designs from leaf, and again, it may not suit everyone, but I’m very happy with the product from them.
 
Perhaps the only drawback with a metal backing, as was with the e13ctron case is that scratches may become more obvious when it does occur, but one month in and all is well so far! On the plus side as well, their packaging was nice, simple and stylish.
 
Picture of the leaf skin still in the packaging:

 
Picture of the leaf skin on the back of the mobile:

 
Note: I’ll try and get a better shot when possible and will update.
 
My overall rating: 5/5
 
Recommended? Yes, definitely.
 
SGP Oleophobic screen protector (http://www.sgpstore.com/cell-phone/apple-iphone/iphone-4/sgp-iphone-4-screen-protector-steinheil-ultra-series.html; $13.99 USD)
 
This was quite clearly, a wonderful addition to the whole ensemble. I’ve never used a SGP screen protector before, but I have had experience with others including my brother’s Invisible Shield and another one on my 3GS, plus a generic cheap one that I got for the iPhone 4S whilst waiting for my SGP one to arrive.
 
My brother’s Invisible Shield wore out pretty easily, so I stayed away from that. My 3GS screen protector was actually pretty good, but it did have an issue with oil and fingerprints over time. With the cheap one I got free along with a case I got earlier to tide me over till my accessories came for my 4S, the screen protector was really uncomfortable. It made scrolling hard because it just didn’t feel smooth. That is by far, the biggest and most important difference to me.
 
The SGP protector is a dry application and I prefer them by far, it just doesn’t make sense to me to use a wet application type protector though others have their own preferences. At first upon application, the SGP had a lot of air bubbles and I freaked out! I then proceeded to use the squeegee they provided and pressed on the bubbles, and all, I mean all, the bubbles disappeared! I was impressed. Then for the first day however, it was really rubbery to the touch which worried me, but a lot of reviews had noticed this and said on the second day, it was fine. That is exactly what happened for me, on the second day, it became smooth and I’ve had no issues since. Fingerprints and oil are easily wiped off. Maybe I got lucky with the application, but it has so far been the easiest screen protector for me to apply. I like the product and it has been fantastic thus far. I’m not sure I could ask for more. To some a screen protector is just that, but having used various ones, this is the smoothest, best results with fingerprints and oil, though I have to admit I haven’t done a scratch test, but have no reason to!
 
If you need to figure out the best way to put it on, check out some youtube videos or even their official website which shows how to do it. I followed their official one and it worked a treat.
 
Picture of the phone vertical:

 
My overall rating: 5/5
 
Recommended? Yes, definitely.
 
Spectra Wrap (black) (http://theluckylabs.com/iphone-4-spectra-wrap.html; $9.99 USD)
 
I have to say that the cut-out sections for the wrap don’t fit perfectly, but if it did, it would be virtually impossible to get it right. I think I found this a lot harder to apply than the SGP screen protector. I’ve already wrecked part of the bottom wrap when putting on the e13ctron hybrid because of the close fit, but because it is now covered, it can’t be seen. That said, it doesn’t fully cover the sides entirely, and some parts though lined up perfectly to the lines as suggested, ended up being too long for the particular section still. I wasn’t fussed because I knew that I had my case to go over it. It was just for the protection and aesthetics really. But if I had to have it on its own, it really doesn’t, in my opinion, give much protection at all. If the e13ctron was low on protection, this would obviously be lower because it is just a wrap.
 
I probably didn’t apply it very well, but as an addition to the e13ctron, it works a treat and I think it prevents the dust going in as well. On its own, I wouldn’t have it and prefer the 4S plain instead. But the Spectra adds a nice touch to the 4S that just seems right.
 
Picture (same as previous one in the e13ctron section):

 
My overall rating: 4/5 (the difficulty I experienced on putting it on and potential ease at which it stretched)
 
Recommended? Yes, but the least of the lot thanks to my butter fingers!
 
Final comments
 
[size=11.0pt]I think it is important to remember as I have stated earlier, everyone has their own preferences and I respect that what I like may not be what you like. Plus, we all have different vices/hobbies/interests. This is merely my experience with the products that I have used and hopefully, some of you may find it useful. Further, if you have any other questions pertaining to the products, please feel free to ask and I’ll try my best to answer them to the best of my ability (admittedly, I haven’t and won’t be able to cover everything on your mind).[/size]
 

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