back in February of this year, i decided to splurge on a carbon fiber case for my iPhone. my only requirement was that it be a slider style case to provide maximum coverage.
my preference: i prefer to use my iPhone as naked as possible. anything that adds bulk to it is generally unwelcome, so my protection solution is PowerSupport films for the front and rear and the Apple Bumper when i leave the house for basic protection. when indoors, however, i immediately remove the bumper. but there are times in crowded public settings where a full coverage, slider style case is nice to have since the chance of an accidental drop is increased exponentially.
at the time, the only manufacturer of a real carbon fiber slider case is DRO Concepts and their Guardian case. at $80, it’s not necessarily a bargain until you compare it with the low coverage, snap-on style cases the majority of carbon fiber cases tend to be. i promptly ordered and was given a 2 week delivery time.
i finally received the case, after a few excuses about a “bad batch,” a whole month later.
despite the delay, i was excited to receive the case. first inspection yielded unsatisfactory results however, especially for the price. i’m quite aware that carbon fiber is not nearly as expensive as manufacturers claim it to be as it’s the manufacturing process chosen that determines the majority of the production cost. that said, DRO Concepts advertises their cases as “aerospace carbon fiber.” i’m actually quite familiar with carbon fiber, especially it’s application in aerospace due to my previous career and i knew from the get-go this was not “aerospace grade” as it was extremely flexible. true “aerospace grade” carbon fiber is woven, resin injected, and baked all inside of an autoclave and once cooled, it extremely stiff. but carbon fiber is also sold in pre-woven sheets much like fiberglass, and is often hand laid or machine pressed just like fiberglass panels, thus offering the masses the look of carbon fiber, but none of its load bearing qualities for a very low production cost. this was obviously hand or machine laid and not custom woven in a vacuum autoclave.
because of this, there were many visible bubbles in the resin, the weave was unevenly distorted at bends, and it was overall very flimsy. considering the cost, i accepted these issues and pressed on with installation.
the upper half slid on just fine but i noticed they manufactured this with very wide tolerances, depending on foam rubber covering the whole interior to take up the slack. this of course wreaked havoc on the alignment, allowing the device to get misaligned far enough to prevent access to the headset port. noticing this, i pressed on with attaching the lower piece, and instead of a comforting “click”, i heard a nasty “snap” and “crack”. i immediately pulled the lower half back off and saw the clip used to hold the two halves together had snapped off the upper half. a phone call later it was on it’s way back to DRO with an RMA, but of course shipping was on my dime despite it being an obvious manufacturer defect i should not be responsible for.
2 and a half months and many, many excuses later, i finally receive a replacement case. this one is of their new design, specifically redesigned to alleviate the exact issue i had with a broken attachment clip. instead, they surrounded the whole seam with a very poorly machined, including tooling marks and rough edges, aluminum clip they also claimed was “aerospace grade.” this clip wraps all the way around, completely covering the seam between both halves once installed. the edges of the clip also come perilously close to the screen (just how close i was about to find out). against my better judgment, i attempted to very carefully slide on the lower half, the one with the metal clip, and immediately, it gouged the screen.
again, i called them and notified them of the problem. i also took notice at that point that the clip, which had been resined on, was crooked, obviously intensifying the improper fit that caused the screen damage. despite all of this, only a fool would even begin to design this case the way they did in the first place. regardless, i received another RMA, but this time for a refund as i no longer have the patience to deal with them. i labeled the package exactly as prescribed and shipped it off, again on my dime.
but now, i wait as they are refusing to take delivery of the package. i have tracking and signature delivery on it, obviously, and for 3 days it has been shown “undelivered.” they are actually refusing to take delivery just to refuse me the refund i’m entitled under their “lifetime warranty” and “30-day, guaranteed satisfaction of money back” policies.
my recommendation? avoid them at all costs. do NOT do business with this company at all. maybe they were decent in the past or they only treat the recipients of review units with a modicum of respect, but as i was a normal consumer, they’re still treating me like crap.