Metal iPhone cases are uncommon because they can impair wireless reception, but they can also look really nice if the material and design come together in the right way. The question then becomes whether those looks are nice enough to justify a lost bar of signal strength. Cygnett’s new Metalicus for iPhone 4/4S ($40) is an example of what can be done with aluminum and plastic: it’s available in silver, grey, and black finishes, each making for an extremely nice-looking case, but like earlier rivals, Metalicus just can’t overcome the issues that metal presents.
Metalicus is split into front and rear frames. The core is plastic, extending to the outer edges and all of the openings. Over that is a thin layer of aluminum; this combination of materials keeps the case light, and avoids rubbing metal against the iPhones’ metal or glass. The only place where the aluminum extends all the way to the edge of the case is the frame around the display. Here, the protective lip is tapered with a diamond cut finish, creating a very attractive reflective surface. An included screen protector provides almost complete coverage for the rest of the iPhone’s glass screen. While the opening for the Dock Connector port is quite large and should accommodate nearly any third party accessory, the headphone port hole is tighter and may lead to some compatibility issues.
After establishing that Metalicus looks nice, the question then turns to signal issues. Unfortunately, attenuation was present. In our testing, which compared two iPhone 4S’s, both on AT&T’s network, side-by-side, the iPhone inside Metalicus consistently showed a lower cellular signal—one to two bars fewer—than the bare one. At no point did it fail completely though; the lowest we saw was one bar of service, though users in areas with weaker signal strength could have serious problems. It’s also worth noting that the encased unit did drop a bar of Wi-Fi signal at one point, but this happened only briefly and it popped right back up.
The ultimate decision as to whether Metalicus is a good option for your personal needs will depend on many factors. We found the design to be truly handsome and protective, although button coverage would’ve been appreciated. This is also a relatively inexpensive metal case, which is a plus. But the signal drop is a serious issue, and may mean the difference between being able to make a call or not; lower signal strength can also lead to serious battery drain. For those in areas with already weak signals, Metalicus isn’t a good option; for everyone else, we offer a limited recommendation. If you’re unperturbed by the attenuation issues, it’s a pretty nice case, but it’s hard to recommend more broadly given the serious battery and reception consequences that signal strength loss can have for iPhone users.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 4/4S