Review: Apple iPhone Bumper (Second Revision)

by on February 16, 2011

Way back in 2010 Apple released a case along with the iPhone 4 that featured metal buttons to press the actual buttons on the iPhone and was lacking in one particular area—the entire back of the case. This, of course, was the infamous $29 Bumper, a rubber/plastic combination case available in six colors and not only protected the various “impact points” of the iPhone, but remedied any reception issues due to bridging the antenna gaps.

Bumper Bumper Bumper Bumper

A few months later, the Bumper was one option as the giveaway in the iPhone Case Program, but still remained a rather solid seller. After that, Apple released an iPhone compatible with Verizon’s network, featuring a slightly redesigned antenna and moved silent switch. As a result, the only OEM case for the iPhone 4 also needed to go under the knife.

The much-maligned Bumper is the type of product that seems to be an oddity of Apple’s lineup. Many who use it and understand the intended purpose love it. Many who see it as expensive (which it is when you compare it to cases that fully enclose the iPhone) are quick to write its design off. In some ways, it is like manufacturer-sanctioned accessories for many cars—overpriced, guaranteed to work and fit quite nicely, and there are plenty of cheaper and more diverse third-party accessories. The Bumper feels like an extension of an iPhone, taking the brunt of day-to-day use, but feeling like part of the iPhone itself, with the added bonus of being easily-replaced if damaged or worn. Imagine if you could replace certain corner parts on other everyday objects due to wear or damage. It seems that’s Apple’s goal instead of providing something to fully hide the iPhone.

The current Bumper, appearing at Apple Retail Stores and a few other retailers only recently, has two notable changes—the cutout for the silent switch is wider to accommodate those found on both the GSM iPhone 4 (AT&T and most of the world) or the CDMA iPhone 4 (Verizon) and the cutout for the Dock Connector is slightly larger. This seems to be a response to a lot of criticism that Apple was trying to push an agenda to make the iPhone in a Bumper incompatible with many older third-party accessories. The rest of the Bumper remains the same.

In short, those two fixes opened the Bumper up to a wider audience, as it works with almost any sort of Dock Connector cable we threw at it. The fit-and-finish are outstanding, especially with the mix of rubber, plastic, and metal. That being said, the price may still be hard to swallow for some, especially since there are cheaper alternatives, both in traditional and backless cases from third-parties.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The Bumper is a simple, understated, well-designed product for those who want the most minimal of cases and some extra cash.

Pros: Button extensions are well-designed and nice-looking, simple, good fit, does not interfere with the camera flash

Cons: Pricey, no protection against scratches or cracks on the back of the iPhone

The Facts

3/5Product: Bumper
Company: Apple
Platform: iPhone 4
Price: $29

This post has been filed in Cases, iDevices and Reviews