Review: Element Case’s Vapor Pro

Element Vapor iPhone Case

When you’re attempting to sell a $129 iPhone case you need two things: A kick-ass case, and a big set of balls. Element Case appears to have both with the latest version of their popular, if not controversial Vapor Pro.

Element Vapor iPhone Case

I reviewed Element Case’s original Vapor case back in 2010, and while I loved the look and feel of the case, there was an unfortunate “reception hampering” aspect to the case that, when compounded by Apple’s own iPhone 4 reception issues (yes, I am one of those fanboys who is willing to admit I had antenna issues with my iPhone 4) I just ultimately could not recommend the case. Well, I am happy to report that those reception issues are no longer issues, and the Vapor case is now ready for buying, assuming you find it worth its somewhat hefty asking price.

Design-wise, there is much to love about the Vapor case, starting with the ability to customize the color of nearly every aspect of the case using Element Case’s online design tool. The Vapor comes in two flavors – the thinner Comp model, and the larger, more aluminum-heavy the Pro. I have the Pro model, in a wonderful (to my mind) black and orange combo.

Element Vapor iPhone Case

Despite not looking insanely different from the previous version, the new Vapor Case has some subtle design changes, and all of them for the better in my opinion. The case is still machined from two pieces of aluminum which perfectly join with the included hex screws to form the most solid-feeling case you’ll find. In fact, the case feels like it IS a part of the iPhone.

The most obvious and appreciated design change as far as I’M concerned is the shrinking of the Element logo which took up the entire side of the previous model. The new design is much more elegant and in keeping with the idea of what I feel a $129 iPhone case should be (not that I necessarily think ANY case should be $129). The right side of the case has also been opened up a bit. The previous version had an opening which allowed for the SIM card to be removed, as does the new case, but there are now two other SIM card-sized holes cut into the aluminum along the edge of the case that appear to be solely cosmetic, but perhaps aid in reception. Either way, I like them as one of the most appealing aspects of the Vapor case is the sensation one experiences when running your fingers along the various perfectly-machined edges. Similarly, if you are someone who is able to leave your iPhone alone on a table for a few minutes (something that is diffuclt for me) the case will get a wonderfully cool metallic feeling.

Element Vapor iPhone Case

In addition to the SIM tray hole, the Vapor case has openings for the dock connector, volume buttons, and headphone jack/noise canceling mic. The Hold button on the top of the phone is covered by a built-in cover that you can customize the color of if you wish.

Along with the case you will receive a screen protector, cleaning cloth, and a nicely redesigned hex screw driver and a couple extra screws. Also included is a zipper case you will never use.

Element Vapor iPhone Case

Protection-wise, the case is a bit of a mixed bag. The basic case forms a metallic “bumper” around your iPhone, providing protection against drops, and keeping it slightly raised off of tabletops, so if you are someone who is fairly careful with your iPhone, that may be all the protection you need. However, you can also buy optional back plates in the form of Ultrasuede “stick on” inserts. There is also a matching Ultrasuede stick-on ear cover for the top front of your iPhone. I must say when I first saw these, I was not overly impressed, and still sort of am not. My original fear that the suede back plate would pick up dirt and look ratty over time appear to have been unfounded, however the color choice (at least for those of us with orange Vapor Cases) are FAR from a perfect color match, and just looks horrible in my opinion. The frame is sort of a burnt orange while the back is a brighter, non-matching orange. The good news is that the online color picker does a great job representing the colors, so if your color combos look horrible together online, don’t expect anything better to show up.

Issues

The Vapor case is elegant, looks great, feels wonderful in the hand, but is certainly not for everyone. The first thing you need to remmeber is that putting on and removing the vapor case is not done idly. While with much practice you might be able to get it down to a 2 or 3 minute affair, you still won’t be doing this on a lark, so if you are someone who likes to swap cases when you exercise, go to the beach, or biking etc., you may find the case annoying, especially keeping track of the tiny screws. Secondly, the case will likely not fit in a good percentage of docking accessories you may own, including speakers. It actually still fit just fine in my iHome iD9 speaker, but not so great in my iDapt charger. Again, given how hard it is to remove, if you regularly use a certain speaker or dock, there’s a chance you may be out of luck. Also, the Ultrasuede sticker back is not designed to be removed at all, so if you like to switch up your cases, you’ll probably want to skip getting this altogether and perhaps opt for a clear sticker back to protect the back of your iPhone and still allow it to fit in other cases.

It should also be mentioned that the metallic Vapor case will increase the “volume” of your iPhone when in vibrate mode on a table, specifically a glass one).

Element Vapor iPhone Case

This picture doesn't quite do justice to how NONmatching the Ultrasuede is to the orange case.

Conclusion

I have been using the Vapor case as my sole iPhone case for nearly 2 months now and love it, but admit it will not be for everyone – the main issues of course being accessory compatibility and removing the case is a bit time consuming and requires special tools (not to mention keeping track of the tiny screws that hold the machined aluminum piece together). I would not say it is a case for the “Active” iPhone user who changes cases depending activity or mood – more perhaps for the refined, organized executive who has a fairly predictable day and wants a refined-looking case for his iPhone. That being said, the case is the best-looking and best-FEELING case I have ever owned. If you are someone who appreciates the finer things in life, such as Grey Poupon mustard, and can justify spending the money for such a luxury, then the Vapor Case will likely be a “perfect fit”.


Price: About $129 – price depends on configurable colors and options
Pros: Looks great, feels great. Feels very solid, provides decent impact protection.
Cons: Hard to remove, not compatible with many speakers and charging docks, not a fan of the Ultrasuede stick on back plate, does not provide over-all protection.

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Comments
9 Responses to “Review: Element Case’s Vapor Pro”
  1. facto says:

    Do want!

  2. Mariah Hay says:

    I am very disappointed in Element Case. I have been using a Vapor pro with nothing but good things to say for the past 7 months. I recently upgraded to the iphone 4S and my case does not fit correctly. When I screw it down the whole way the button on the top is held down, disabling the phone. When I e-mailed to report the problem I was told I was out of luck as the warranty is up. I expected more service than this for a $170 iPhone case.

  3. Brian says:

    Bad press on the no warranty for a malfunctioning case that costs $170.00 Element. Are you listening? Have read a lot about these but this kind of ignoring the customer will keep me from buying one. You really should step up for that kind of money. Hope this gives you a little help Mariah.

  4. JUSTIN WOOD says:

    Well I’ve got an iPhone 4s and it’s great. came across these cases and fell in love. they are definitely bad ass looking and when i got it i was super excited. got the vapor comp, fit great and looked sweet. however the aluminum case has killed my service. when i received a feedback request from element case and told them this same thing I’ve still 2 months later yet to get any return from them. now still using it even with the lack of service because i have paid so much for it it’s gotten worse. i have to take it off every other day so that i can clean the dirt out from underneath it that is scratching my phone to shit and the black anodized bolts have worn off and look like shit. recommendations, do not buy any cases from them! not worth the money at all

  5. Stephen says:

    The case gets badly scratched from (careful) use. Upon calling support they said buy some hobby/model paint! That is unacceptable! For $160 they should provide the paint instead of that STUPID carrying case!! Unless it a granny w/a handbag who wld use that? By time U find, unzip & answer U’d miss call or text. I agree with all other comments; such bad service & basic courtesy (touch up paint) that I can’t recommend! And PS, my roommate dropped his Vapor Pro & back of iPhone cracked. How’s that for $150 case “protection”!?

  6. Austin says:

    A little over a year ago (before the release of the iphone4S I purchased a Element Case Vapor Comp for my phone4 and it is made mostly of machined metal and the left side is plastic. The plastic side attaches to the machined side with the small screws that are provided. Well it’s now about 14 months later and the plastic is cracked where the screws attach the plastic piece to the machined metal piece and the case is loose. I am pretty disappointed that they do not have the plastic piece available for purchase online, and I do not expect to pay more than $20 for a new part. I have contacted customer support and am waiting on a response. If they reply telling me there is no replacement part, then it will be the last product i buy from them. The case was far too expensive to be cracking with no replacement parts readily available.

  7. Robert Liss says:

    Element is a company that makes a fairly nice product at unreasonable prices and has zero customer service. My Vapor Pro case worked out well, but when I went to order a new case for my iPhone 5 from them my credit card was charged 2 weeks before the shipping date and they refused to respond to a request to cancel the order. I am filing a complaint with PayPal, and it seems that the only way I will be able to get my money back is through an outside influence.

  8. ray c says:

    they are so full of sh*t. i ordered a ronin on the 15th dec and they are supposed to send it by the 20th. it didn’t happen and when i asked their customer support the first time they replied and said they would send it that evening via fedex, which they never did. And the second time when i asked about it, they gave me a refund and said that paypal had security issues with my account which is such a lie, because i’ve done plenty of transactions with other vendors and this never happened before. don’t do business with these amateurs.

  9. scott says:

    too bad I’m just reading these comments…..

    love the case concept look and feel, but after 6 months of very regular but careful use, my cool blue case is nicked and scraped and scratched and looks like hell. 6 months and $129! unacceptable.

    responses from company are indifferent and not helpful and at the end it feels sarastic when they say “thanks” and “best”

    these customer service troubles signal trouble all around for them. you’d better back up your product if you are going to charge for it like you do!

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