Review: Rokform Rokbed for iPhone 4
We've seen a handful of metal cases for iPhones in the past; they're rather uncommon these days due to pricing and their tendency to affect wireless signal strength. Regardless, Rokform has introduced its own take on the style called Rokbed for iPhone 4 ($79-$99), machined out of aluminum in a variety of colors and patterns -- there's even a 24K gold version that retails for $299. While it's not the most protective case around, the style is pretty cool, and matches Rokform's Rokstand V.1 desktop stand. Like Rokstand, Rokbed is expensive enough that the company can afford to include a $5 Starbucks gift card as a "thank you" for the purchase.
Rokbed’s structure is pretty basic, although the shape is a little bit different than other cases we have seen. The top of the frame is rounded at the edges, while the bottom is squared off; usually manufacturers stick with the former shape. Long openings along all four sides leave all the ports and buttons fully exposed, as well as most of the iPhone 4’s stainless steel antenna. The touchscreen is left accessible, although Rokbed does just slightly cover the bezel. On the back is an X-shaped cross that protects perhaps a third of the rear glass—certainly not as much coverage as we would like to see, but enough to raise the case above “bumper” status.
To insert and remove the iPhone 4 from Rokbed, you need to take off the bottom portion of the frame using screws: two small screws at the bottom corners of the back of the case hold the assembly together. A screwdriver is included in the package to separate it, as are two extra screws. While we didn’t see any scratches, we did feel a bit anxious each time about the glass and steel rubbing against Rokbed’s aluminum.
The one thing that’s undeniable is how incredibly strong the case is: it feels incapable of being bent, so we wouldn’t worry too much about doing any damage to Rokbed itself. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about an iPhone 4 nestled inside of it. Having so much surface area exposed isn’t a great idea, and the metal frame can conduct shock waves directly to the iPhone 4’s body rather than absorbing them. There’s also the question of whether or not you like the feel of the case in your hand. It really is a matter of preference, but we weren’t big fans.
Rokform claims to have tested signal performance with AT&T iPhones, and is open about the fact that it has received reports of signal loss on Verizon models. That’s a good part of the reason that most developers aren’t putting metal into their iPhone cases, and haven’t been for years. The AT&T iPhone 4 lived up to the expectations the company set: cellular signal was not noticeably affected by the case. Occasionally, Wi-Fi would drop by one bar—a legitimate issue, but probably not a deal breaker for most users.
At almost $80, Rokbed is pretty expensive by comparison to most iPhone 4 cases, and what you’re paying for is style, not function. We kind of like the industrial look, but wouldn’t choose to use it and sacrifice protection; the inconvenience of needing to unscrew a case to remove it is also significant. Similarly, though it was intended to be a nice “gift” for users, it’s hard for us to get excited about the included Starbucks gift card—it just reinforces the fact that Rokbed is twice the price of a typical iPhone 4 case, and doesn’t do as much. While it does score some points for a cool look and nice material, the aluminum Rokbed is ultimately an okay case overall, worthy only of consideration by the most style-conscious AT&T users, and probably worth skipping entirely by Verizon iPhone 4 owners. We’d like to see Rokform apply its obvious design talents to the design of a case that’s more practical.