Core Cases has made many of our favorite metal-bodied iPod cases over the past several years, but the releases of the iPhone and iPhone 3G have created challenges for this and other companies: the more and denser the metal that covers the iPhone’s wireless antennas, the worse the device’s cellular reception may become. Thus, the last generation of iPhone cases tried a number of tricks: some had full cut-outs around the device’s antenna compartments, others used mesh-like matrices of holes, and others tried to disregard the antennas altogether, on the assumption that if you’re buying a case, you’re looking for protection and willing to make some compromises.
The Aluminum Slider Case for iPhone 3G ($30) shows how Core Cases has evolved its perspective on the issue of metal iPhone protection. Its same-named predecessor for the original iPhone was a full, two-piece metal sheathe with big holes for the screen and for the device’s antenna compartment. The front half slid together with the rear half, using tiny half globe-shaped locks on the sides to stay together. This version of Aluminum Slider preserves the same basic scheme, but covers the entire iPhone 3G back with the same anodized silver or black aluminum, unashamedly letting you know that if signal strength is your key concern, this mightn’t be the right choice for you.
In our tests, the iPhone 3G’s signal took a hit of something between half a bar and a bar, depending on the strength of local network signals. For users in areas with marginal signals, this might be important, but for those in areas with stronger signals, a drop from five bars to four or from three bars of Wi-Fi to two might not matter. You’ll need to make the decision as to whether added protection or signal strength is the best choice for your needs.
Core makes that choice difficult. Aluminum Slider is unquestionably a handsome metal case—moreso than its predecessor, thanks to better front, side, and rear tailoring choices—and the normally fragile iPhone 3G instead feels like a little tank when it’s inside. A headphone port just large enough for the biggest plugs, and an open bottom that’s fully compatible with accessories, including Universal Docks, seem just right by metal case standards, and though Core doesn’t use rubber or any other sort of protection for the iPhone 3G’s side or top controls, the rest of the case feels very solid; it’s nicely, though lightly padded on the inside.
Aluminum Slider’s one major omission, and one that we don’t think is trivial, is the case’s lack of screen protection. Core’s earlier iPod cases featured hard plastic screen covers, and obviously, most iPhone 3G cases include film to protect the touchscreen against light damage. Slider continues to lose out on our high recommendation due to its incomplete approach to protection, though this version obviously has its plusses and minuses relative to its iPhone predecessor. It’s also worth noting that the case includes no other pack-ins for its price; there are many very good to great plastic cases out there that offer more frills, such as video stands and optional covers, for less.
Overall, though Aluminum Slider forces you to make a compromise on wireless performance, it’s such a nice case otherwise that we’d understand why many users would want to consider it anyway. We’re particularly partial to the clean-looking black version, which is nearly as handsome as Apple’s older black metal iPods and nanos in finish. That said, it’s not hard to imagine a version with more top, side, and face protection, say nothing of other frills, and we continue to hope that Core will take these issues more seriously in a sequel.
Updated: In late December, 2008, Core provided us with an updated sample of its iPhone 3G case that is now packaged with a screen protector. The company’s web site shows the screen protector as offered with all three current colors of the case: black, silver, and purple.
Company and Price
Company: Core Cases
Model: Aluminum Slider Case
Compatible: iPhone 3G