Apple's Bumper Case

The iPhone 4 is Apple's second product to launch with first party accessories. Like the iPad before it, the iPhone 4 is available with an Apple fabricated and sold case, dubbed the "bumper." At launch, this was the only case available. Most Apple stores (and online) only had black in inventory, though I'm told a few also had pink in stock. As of right now, the Apple store shows other colors shipping on July 16th - white, pink, orange, green, and blue eventually. I just went with black. 

The bumper is an interesting beast. For $29.00, you get a hard plastic strip that runs atop the stainless steel antenna band, completely around the phone. On the outside of the hard plastic are two stiff rubber bands that seal over the side of the phone. If the Otterbox Defender is a bomb proof suit for iPhones, Apple's bumper is more like a slightly-scandalous bikini. It's literally just a continuous strip of material. 
Apple brings the exterior metal volume and standby buttons out to the edge of the phone, and from what I can tell they're also metallic.
Buttons are metal and brought through the case, except the vibrate/silent switch.
Inside the case, there's a felt-like mask which rests atop the buttons and aligns itself up. It works surprisingly well, and the buttons feel like those on the device itself. There's no gap inbetween - hey, the buttons just work.
Putting it on is a little bit of a struggle. I've found the best way is to insert the top, standby button side first (so you don't accidentally turn it on and off while inserting it), and then shove the bottom part in. After you've got it in, there's just a bit of massaging to get the rubber seats settled, and then you're good to go. It's very snug, there's no flexing.

At the top, there's a break in the hard plastic for the headset jack. Instead, this is entirely rubber. No doubt this is to allow jacks that come out and have a 90 degree bend to be inserted, something we're all too familiar with being a problem on previous iDevices. There's a tiny hole next to it you want to be absolutely certain isn't blocked for the noise canceling microphone.

The nice thing about the rubberized strips is that you get a grippy surface to hold the phone with, and you raise the front and back glass panes about a millimeter off the surface you're resting it on when you lay it down flat.
The idea of having a glass back is fine and dandy until you lay the iPhone on another glass surface directly. The result (if both surfaces are very clean) is that the two will come in optical contact and become very hard to pry apart. It's the same sort of reason coasters aren't glass - the two seal together, and become difficult to separate. Not to mention any particulates underneath will make those hairline scratches (sleeks) I talked about before. Even the strongest of glasses will get micro scratches when rubbed in optical contact with other glasses. It's obvious that raising both the front and back were design objectives here.
Look ma, I can rest the phone face down and not scratch it up!
Apple's bumper case is unique that it doesn't cover the back of the phone. At all. If you prefer a case that covers every square inch of the device and offers total protection, don't get the bumper and instead wait for something else. If you want to show off as much of the iPhone 4's design as possible, Apple has done it with the bumper. If you already purchased an iPhone 4, well, you know that outside of a plastic bag or a rubber band, the bumper is really the only option. 
Like we talked about before, the other hugely notable benefit is that the bumper insulates the stainless steel band from being detuned by your meatbag extremities (read: hands). Instead of a 24 dB drop, you'll incur a 10 dB drop completely in line with every other cellular phone ever made. 
The only problem with the bumper is the dock connector port. It's about a millimeter too small. 
That doesn't fit inside. Frustrating? Yes.

The unfortunate result is that all of my third party accessories don't fit. My Alpine iDA-X001 head unit in the car, three different vehicle accessory port car chargers with dock connectors, all my third party cables, and not to mention docks all don't fit.

If you've rolled with other cases, this is an all too familiar story that seems to repeat every single release, but it's frustrating in this case because the connectors don't match up by seriously under a millimeter. You can jam the dock connector in, but it doesn't go far enough inside to snap into place, and comes right back out. 

The result is that I drive around with the bumper case halfway off, like this:

It's not the end of the world, but I would have to file down that edge a half millimeter on both sides to make my accessories work again. Considering just how much the bumper improves signal and protects against accidental scratching, it's arguably a must have accessory. One that should maybe be given away with every iPhone 4 purchase. But you already know our thoughts on that. 

No doubt within a month or two the usual assortment of iPhone cases will pop up again, tweaked to meet the iPhone 4's slightly thinner dimensions. For now, however, the bumper is essential.

Incredible Battery Life Living with the 4


View All Comments

  • Spoelie - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    You have to understand that that list was NOT originally compiled as a comparison to Android but was the negative part of a "what can you expect with this upgrade" (positives vs negatives) list. The iOS4 upgrade is offered on the 3G and that's why the point has merit: what does the upgrade mean for 3G users?

    However I concur it can read as a comparison since most of these points are Android features on SOME phones (social networking integration for example is mostly part of the proprietary custom UIs like HTC Sense and TouchWiz and not part of Android itself).

    Personally, since I do have an Android phone, it reads more like a "what would I miss if I made the switch" list. But only some of the points.
  • darwinosx - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Thats a really idiotic list composed by someone who knows nothing about iPhones.

    -Anyone who wants flash on a mobile device is not paying attention.
    -Comments on IOS4 on the 3G are silly. Especially since Apple says its not supported except on the 3GS and 4. Funny how they don't comment on how many Android phones are still on 1.6 and will never be upgraded including some pretty new phones.
    -"True' multi-tasking? I don't think they understand how Android multi-tasking works. It's certainly not "true" multi-tasking as on a desktop os. It's also highly inefficient and a major cause of poor Android phone battery life.
    -Android phones have widgets, which are intrusive and resource consuming because the stock Android OS UI is so awful.
    -There are plenty of ways to USB mass storage with the iPhone.
    -You can mass mark e-mails as read.
    -There are plenty of ways to access the file system not that 99% of users will ever want to.
    -You don't need vibration feedback when touching the screen because the iPhone screen, unlike many Android phones, actually reacts easily to touch.
    -You can do bluetooth file transfers.
    -SMS/MMS has multiple delivery notifications.
    -I play Xvid and Divx all the time and there are multiple third party apps for that.
    -You can add to the iPhone from other apps including Double Twist and others.

    Truly an idiotic list.
  • bplewis24 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Whether or not the list is idiotic, you just solidified your own standing with this post. I'm not sure why I even bothered posting to such an idiotic retort.

  • mesiah - Thursday, July 01, 2010 - link

    lmao, not to sound like an android fanboy, or even an apple.... haterboy (hmmm new term there.) But your reasoning for alot of those missing features just further backs up the apple fan stereo type.

    Any time an apple device lacks a feature its because "That feature is not needed.' "That feature is useless." or how about "Anyone who wants ___ isn't paying attention."

    But when the next gen phone comes out, and it finally does have those features. You know, the ones everyone else already had and you said you didn't need. You know, like... a camera. You then talk about how your new feature reinvents the phone its self. How "no one has ever done it like apple did."

    Seriously, its pathetic. I know every phone out there has flaws. I also know there are plenty of things apple gets right with the iphone. I will even go as far to admit that smart phones wouldn't be where they are today if it weren't for the iphone. But you people need to admit when you are missing features you should obviously have simply because the all knowing Steve doesn't think you need them. But then again, coming from a company that can admit no wrong, even when their products have a serious design flaw such as the new antenna issue, I can't really expect the followers to act any differently than the ceo.

    "If you want flash you aren't paying attention. If your reception went through the basement you don't know how to hold a phone. And if the AT&T network sucks its because you and all the other people are actually trying to use it."
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, July 01, 2010 - link

    One of my friends on facebook posted a screenshot of one of iOS4's great new features... can change your wallpaper. Really?
  • bregalad - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    -There are two main reasons to keep Flash off mobile devices: battery life and mouse-overs, a commonly used Flash feature that doesn't work on a touch OS. Given the choice between incomplete support for a resource intensive plug-in and all-day usefulness I'll take that all-day battery life.
    -Multitasking approaches still up for debate
    -iOS 4 runs slowly and lacks features on older hardware - agreed, but does Android do any better? Does your carrier even allow you to upgrade your OS or do you have to get a new phone?
    -Given how much battery life iOS 4 stole from me I really wish there were quick toggles
    -I don't live in any social network. I rarely even launch the facebook app.
    -Something akin to home screen widgets would be very nice
    -Every iPhone and iPod touch has the same sounds, it's terrible in an office with lots of them.
    -Agreed on the mass marking as read
    -Access to the file system is another thing Apple is philosophically opposed to. The iPhone is supposed to be an appliance not a computer.
    -Early iPods had disk mode which was very useful. I wish Apple wouldn't be so inflexible.
    -You want tactile feedback and all day battery life? Maybe next decade.
    -File transfers assumes you have access to the file system and aren't trying to transfer DRM'd files. Not going to happen.
    -I don't know about you, but I've never needed to mass delete contacts from any phone or computer. Do you suffer from multiple personality disorder?
    -Better notifications of all types would be welcome.
    -Smart dialling would be a good feature addition
    -An app whose sole purpose is to play "illegally" downloaded files. Yeah, Steve's going to approve that one 'real soon now'.
    -The dependency on iTunes is a philosophical one. Steve believes your computer is your digital hub, that it contains the master copy of all your stuff. By definition your phone, with its limited storage capacity, contains a subset of that data. I think that makes sense for the vast majority of the public. You're a niche Apple doesn't want to deal with.
  • Griswold - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Must be nonsenseday today.

    And before you say it, yes I got a 3G and I will replace it with a i4 when they're available around here instead of an android phone as I originally planned, but for other reasons than the fictional ones you just stated.
  • Bateluer - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Agreed, there are several Android phones that are out now that offer parity with the iPhone 4, and several within 2 months of release that will handily surpass it.

    As usual, Anand's reviews were very well written and detailed, but I'll still pit my year old Moto Droid against any iPhone product. :p
  • JAS - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    As Anand pointed out in his review, the Google/Android operating system feels more like using a computer; and the iPhone (iOS 4) operating system feels more like an appliance. The Android OS is apt to appeal more to the geek than to the "normal mainstream consumer," just as Microsoft Windows is a favorite of people who like to tinker with their computers.

    For better or worse -- each person has to make their own judgment -- Apple's products are defined as much by features that are purposefully withheld as by the cool innovations that are added.
  • The0ne - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Actually, Anand likes the performance of the iPhone and i don't blame him. It is smooth, well implemented and thus makes using it more enjoyable, quantifiable or not. Features be damn, what counts is how a user perceives the device he/she is using. And once attached or rather use to them it's hard to like something that isn't the same or better.

    For the most part, android OS and WebOS are fine for the vast majority of users. The slight sluggish performance is really not hindering anyone from doing anything practical. It is really just a matter of perception.

    As for features and design, I can honestly say unless you been in the design phase yourself many decisions are made prior to production. Missing features such as Flash memory support is a choice left out purposely. Don't kid yourself they are doing it because they either can't or because of lack of money/resources.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now