Review: Just Mobile AluFrame for iPhone 5
We've been vocal about our disdain for bumper-style cases, but admittedly, few look as nice as Just Mobile's AluFrame for iPhone 5 ($70). Available in black or silver, the frame is pretty much what we'd expect from the company, with high quality, thoughtful aluminum construction, and easy installation. As bumpers only cover the edge of the iPhone, Just Mobile includes film for both the front and back of your device to protect the glass and metal body. Unfortunately, it suffers from the kind of signal issues often seen in metal cases.
AluFrame is hinged at the top right, splitting into two equally sized L-shaped segments. The corners are chamfered just like the iPhone’s. Unlike other metal frames we’ve seen, this aluminum bumper doesn’t require any sort of tools to assemble; it opens and closes around the iPhone’s body using a simple clasp system located at the bottom left corner. To install the iPhone, you first fit it in the piece that protects the bottom and right edges, and then rotate the other arm around, snapping the two segments together. For removal, you simply press the top of the catch mechanism and pull away.
The aluminum is lined inside with silicone; this helps protect the antenna band from metal-on-metal contact. Along the bottom there’s one rounded rectangular opening for the headphone port, microphone, Lightning port, and speaker. Button protection is handled very well, as there are raised aluminum covers for the Sleep/Wake button and volume buttons. They look and feel quite nice.
For as sharp as the whole thing may look, there’s a serious problem. In our testing, we found signal degradation of up to three bars of cellular strength, and one of Wi-Fi, when AluFrame was installed. In the same location, the iPhone 5 would almost immediately begin to drop bars with the bumper on, and gain them right back when it was removed.
We appreciate that Just Mobile made something beautiful; we only wish it was more functional. The inclusion of films does help negate the weakness of bumper style cases. Unfortunately, the signal loss is too big of a problem to look past. It’s not acceptable for an accessory to reduce the functionally of the iPhone, especially not when that functionally is the ability to make a phone call, and especially not at the $70 price. With all this in mind, AluFrame earns a C- rating.