Review: Fusion of Ideas' Carbon Fiber Stealth Armor case for iPhone 4

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Carbon Fiber. Made up of many tens of thousands of intertwining strands to give it incredible strength, it’s the material of the future. You’ve undoubtedly decked out everything you own in carbon fiber, right? The hood of your car? Carbon fiber. The grill you flash at the lady folks when you hit the club? Carbon fiber. Your iPhone 4? Carb — wait, that’s glass. That doesn’t match at all! EVERYTHING IS RUINED.

Chillax, Brocahontas. Fusion of Ideas’ Stealth Armor case promises to help your iPhone 4 meet its daily Carbon Fiber intake requirements — or at least pretend to (it’s not actual Carbon Fiber. It just looks the part.) So is it worth the $35 price tag?

What’s in the box:

  1. The “Carbon Fiber” back cover
  2. Cleaning Spray
  3. Application instructions
  4. Squeegee
  5. “Brushed Aluminum” side covers
  6. Transparent screen cover

Application:

Though we refer to this thing as a case for the sake of simplicity, it’s a bit of a misnomer; it’s not so much something that encases the iPhone 4, as it is a set of fancy adhesive sheets. It’d probably be more accurate to call this thing a “skin”.

If you order the “full body” case skin ($35), it’ll come in three parts: a transparent screen cover, the Carbon Fiber back, and a multi-piece set of brushed-aluminum style covers for the sides (read: the antenna). Applying the Carbon Fiber back really couldn’t be easier; you line it up, and plop it on. The back is a fairly thick material, so bubbles aren’t an issue.

The brushed aluminum-esque antenna covers required a little more thought, as it’s 5 separate pieces that come on one unlabeled sheet. I had to spend a few minutes stepping through the good ol’ process of elimination to figure out which piece went on which section of the antenna, and then a few more getting each piece perfectly lined up. All in all, the antenna covers probably took about 10 minutes to get perfect.

The transparent screen cover was pleasantly easy to put on, though the process seems a bit daunting. You spray your hands with the cleaning spray (which, as far as I can tell, is water with a drop of baby shampoo), then spray a bit on the screen cover. The spray on your hands keeps the oils from your nasty digits from wrecking the cover, while the spray on the cover itself makes it possible to slide it into the perfect spot without having to reapply it a dozen times. You then use the little squeegee to scrape the extra spray out from under the display.

Then you hit the whole thing with a hair dryer (on a low setting, of course) to make sure it all stays in place.

Now, you might be thinking: “Wow! They expect me to stick this big wet thing on my $500 electronic doodad and then hit it with a hair dryer? That’s nuts!”

Indeed – it is nuts. To say I was hesitant would be a bit of an understatement. I went ahead and bit the bullet, however, and walked away unscathed with a fully functional iPhone 4 in hand. Odd as it may seem to put anything wet anywhere near your iPhone 4, you should be just fine as long as you follow the instructions.

Of course, you could also just skip out on the transparent screen cover; in fact, I’d recommend it. The iPhone 4’s glass display is mostly invulnerable to whatever crud it is in your pocket, and the silky smooth slide of glass just feels so much better than anything a plastic cover can offer.

The Looks:

This thing — specifically, the Carbon Fiber back — is gorgeous. The iPhone 4 is already a damned fine looking handset — but if you want something just a little bit different, this look is a good one. It covers up the Apple logo entirely, which, depending on your stance on branding, may or may not be a good thing.

I asked a dozen or so people what they thought of this alternative look. The only one who didn’t like it? One of the guys who works on the iPhone. I’m pretty sure he’s inherently not allowed to like it.

With that said, there is one thing about the skin that drives me crazy: Remember how I mentioned that the brushed aluminum-esque side covers come in multiple pieces on one sheet? Well, one of these pieces is cut into the sheet in a different direction than the rest. As a result, the “brush” lines on this one piece of the “brushed aluminum”-style design go in a different direction than those on all the rest. Trivial? Sure. But on a design that otherwise seems so clean, this little flaw just screams oversight.

Durability:

I had this case on my phone for about 3 1/2 weeks — and for the most part, it held up well. The transparent screen cover (unnecessary as it may be) stayed strong and clear, and the Carbon Fiber back looked gorgeous throughout. The side covers, unfortunately, did not fair so well.

You see, the side covers are precision cut to wrap around every nook and cranny, with a rounded cut-out contouring the silence switch, speaker ports, etc. These cut-outs look pretty great, with one major caveat: they’re really, really pointy, and just love to get caught on things. It seemed like each time I pulled the iPhone 4 out of my pocket, one of the points on one of the side covers would snag on the way out. Within a week, they were all a bit frayed. Eventually they all seemed to wear down to a rounded edge — but in the mean time, it’s terribly annoying.

Removal:

All three sections (the Carbon Fiber back, the transparent screen cover, and the side covers) came off clean and left absolutely no adhesive. Beyond the aforementioned wonky corners on the antenna covers, I saw no unintentional peeling during my 3 weeks of use.

Conclusion:
If you dig the look, it’s probably worth the $35 bucks. If you don’t care for the screen protector or the brushed-aluminum-esque side stickers, however, it brings the price down to $20.

I’d actually almost certainly recommend going for the cheaper option; while I dug the executive look of the Carbon Fiber back, the little pattern change/corner breakage of the antenna covers and the fact that the screen cover is mostly ineffectual keeps me from recommending the full $35 kit.

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