Yay, my iPhone 4 Metal Back finally came in! Only took a month. I posted a review over in the Penny Arcade forums, but since I originally heard about it here I figured I'd leave my impressions in this thread as well.
So yeah, I ordered this thing way back on October 19th, and it just finally came in this morning. Actually, it came on on Thursday, and after 2 days of fighting with the post office trying to get them to actually deliver it to me, I finally got it today. But that's another story. In any case, it took forever to come in, but was it worth it?
The standard iPhone 4. Pretty? Yes. Fragile? Very. My main motivation for getting the metal back was so that I could finally start using my iPhone naked, like it was meant to be. I've been using a bumper since I bought it, and though it doesn't look bad, you just can't beat the look of an iPhone 4 with nothing else on it. Enter, the Metal iPhone 4 Back!
This little guy was purchased from Cellular Nationwide Network, a Chinese online OEM store. Or something, I don't really know much about this place, just that they (eventually) delivered exactly what I ordered from them, so I guess they're trustworthy enough. It's currently out of stock, but I bought it for something like $15, so if they release more that's about what you can expect to pay for it. Here's another look:
Installation of the back is a pretty painless process. First, you look all over your house for a phillips head screwdriver small enough for the tiny iPhone screws. Then, after you finally give up and drive down to the hardware store to buy one, you come back and remove the two little screws on either side of the dock port. Then, you just push up on the back cover, and it slides right off. Here are the two backs side-by-side:
I've read complaints that this back feels cheap, but honestly, it doesn't feel any less cheap or flimsy than the original glass back. One is a flimsy piece of plastic with glass on top of it, one is a flimsy piece of plastic with metal on top of it. The quality seems fine to me, but maybe I'm just not picky enough. After you've removed the old back, you simply slide the metal back into place, replace the two tiny screws, and you're done. Easy peasy, and now you have a swell industrial looking iPhone!
So the question is, how is it? So far, I really like it. From some of the pictures I saw before hand, the metal looked like a completely different color than the antenna band around the phone, but in person the two are actually very close in color. The main difference is the finish. The antenna band is more polished, while the metal back has a bit of a brushed look. Overall, they match pretty well. Not perfect, but good. Speaking of the finish, the new back is not slick at all like the glass was. It offers a nice texture that makes it easy to grip. I don't feel like I'm going to accidentally let this thing slip through my fingers.
The only complaint I have is that the bevel on the metal back kills the nice symmetrical look of the original back. It used to look like an ice-cream sandwich, now it looks a little more like a hamburger. The back is a little fatter than the front now, and the edges don't exactly match up like with the original glass back. However, you only really notice this when you're really looking closely at it, and the bevel was apparently a design decision to avoid a super sharp metal edge. I don't think it's going to bother me at all in the long term. Here's a close up:
Another concern I'd heard about was the antenna issue. In other words, was this huge piece of metal going to effect signal performance? I was skeptical that this would be an issue since the iPhone 4's design uses an external antenna anyway, and so far I'm happy to say that my suspicions have been confirmed. I've only used it for a few hours, but I'm seeing little-to-no difference in signal strength from what I used to have with the glass back. So I'd say if that's a concern, you probably shouldn't worry about it much.
I personally am going to drop the bumper, but if you wanted to keep using protection, could you? The answer is yes, the bumper fits on it just fine.
I don't like the look of it with the bumper though. The bevel shows, and with the bumper around that it looks a little tacky to me. Just personal preference though. One issue for people who might want to do this is that, since the metal back is a bit thicker than the normal glass back, it is basically flush with the bumper. Before with the glass back, you could set it down and the back would be lifted up off the surface thanks to being a bit recessed by the bumper. Now though, if you set it down, the metal back will likely be contacting whatever surface you set it on, even with the bumper on it.
I mentioned earlier how the back took forever to get to me, but I will credit CNN with sending me an extra gift since it took so long. It's just a screen protector, and I'm not even sure if I'll use it or not, but it does at least take some of the sting out of having to wait so long for it to come in. I don't currently use a screen protector because I used the bumper, but I may put it on now that I don't have any other protection for the front of the phone. You can't beat free.
Overall, if I had to give the metal back a letter grade, I'd give it a B. Good, but still room for improvement. The finish and look is fantastic, and I love that I can finally go naked with my phone now without the worry of scratching up the original glass back. On the negative side, it does make the phone just a smidge thicker, and some people may not like the beveled look.
I give this product the Big Dookie seal of approval, and if it is ever back in stock, I would recommend a purchase.