It's time for a quick look at the Draco aluminum bumpers for two of the hottest Android phones available — the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. These are nicely crafted combinations of plastic and metal that wrap around your smartphone in the usual bumper style, leaving the screen and the back of the phone exposed.
And they do so with a premium price. You need to know that up front. The Hydra bumper for the Galaxy S4 runs $99 direct, and the Draco One bumper is $79. These aren't cheap. But neither do they feel cheap. That's evident as soon as you pull them from their boxes.
That's where a little bit of frustration comes in, however. Despite having different names, the bumpers for the GS4 and HTC One are pretty similar in design, as well as how you install them. Both come already put together, and there are no real instructions for how to take them apart. You're left having to reverse engineer the instructions on the back of the box. That's maybe not a huge deal, but neither is it all that intuitive. A simple piece of paper that says "Locate the hex wrench in the bottom compartment of this box and use it to remove the hex screws" would have gotten the job done.
Or maybe all that's obvious and I'm just used to less-complicated accessories. But I'd err on the side of helping folks out.
Anyhoo. You use the extremely small hex wrench to remove the extremely small screws that are pocketed into the corners of the bumpers. They could come out easily enough. From there, you work the two parts of the bumpers apart. Be careful not to lose any of the pads for the power button or volume rocker — our HTC One power button pad is clear and managed to go missing for the first couple days. Side the two parts back together, and tighten the screws again. (Be sure not to overtighten them.) And that's it.
What you have now is a rather odd-feeling bumper. It looks classy enough. But it drastically changes the shape and feel of the phone, particularly on the HTC One. The sides bow in ever so slightly, almost giving the impression that you just HULK SQUEEZED your phone. The bumpers are pretty angular, which affects the feel of the Galaxy S4 more than the HTC One. One way or another, this all takes some getting used to, especially since we're making a couple of pretty big phones even bigger here.
Functionally speaking, things seem to work just fine. The buttons on the bumpers all work as you'd expect (again, so long as you don't manage to lose any in the installation process like I did, but I'm pretty sure that was operator error). Casual use didn't reveal interference from the aluminum. There's a little Ducati sticker that comes with the Hydra bumper for the Galaxy S4, but we have absolutely no intention of sticking it to our phone.
If you're willing to drop nearly $100 on a bumper that significantly chances the way your phone looks and feels, the Draco bumpers are stylish and nicely manufactured ways to do it. Just take care with the installation process, and you'll be good to go.