Well I searched and found a reference on the web. It seems quite complete and from what I understand quale can be apocopate (keeping in mind some rules) but does not have to. http://en.allexperts.com/q/Italian-Language-1584/2010/8/apocope.htm. Hope it helps. In any case, seach for "apocope" and you will get different references. Sorry I couldn't find a straight forward answer. Hope someone can.
Apocope (or cutting of) is a phenomenon where a syllable or a phonema is "temporally" removed from his word for sound/pronunciation reasons. Otherwise you'd have heard a bad sound.
For example: un bello fiore.
All parts of that sentence are grammatical correct but it is wrong from the sound point of view. Instead, what happens here is that the final syllable lo from the adjective bello is removed and you will say un bel fiore.
The same process happens for Qual è. It is subject to apocope process and never to elisione (to remove or to suppress), e.g. Quel'è <== WRONG.
i too found this frustrating! after doing a bit of reading, this page was useful to me : http://iltavoloitaliano.com/enhanced_beginner_2_Italian_6/ It's basically quale & quali (sing. & plur.) for all genders, with qual only used before è.