Provides: Protection for iPhone 4/4S
Minimum Requirements: iPhone 4/4S
Price: $69 to $119
When it comes down to it, the iPhone is really just a well-put-together panoply of metal, plastic and glass wrapped around pretty pedestrian electronics, running an admittedly nifty operating system. And yet, there’s an odd emergent property that arises from those parts, which I’m not sure can be rationally explained. I have friends who haughtily tout the superiority of their Android phones, yet none of them seem to have the outright emotional (if admittedly irrational) psychological connection I do with my iPhone. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Said psychological connection has led to some heartache on my part, though (as all relationships inevitably do), and that heartache has primarily come from hunting for the right case. Sure, I want to protect not just my investment, but my precious, as well. I’ve spent what must be by now more money than I did on the iPhone to begin with on cases that I’ve since discarded for no other reason than that they didn’t feel right. Too plasticky. Too gaudy. Too impersonal. Too mass-produced. (Another irony, I know, since the iPhone rolls off a production line like any other. And yet, it feels more personal than that.)
Enter a less plasticky, less gaudy, more personal iPhone 4 case. GroveMade’s handcrafted bamboo cases certainly aren’t for everyone (and even if the aesthetic had universal appeal, the $69-$119 price tag is sure to scare off a good number of potential customers). But this…this is the iPhone case I’ve been looking for. It’s organic. It’s gorgeous. It goes a long way toward alleviating that discombobulating disconnect between the fact that my phone was churned out in a factory and the fact that it indelibly feels like mine. And since each case is hand crafted, no two are exactly alike. That’s before you take into consideration the fact that you can select from oddles of beautiful artwork to have laser-etched on the back of your case, or even upload your own design for a truly personalized experience.
I also can’t deny that there’s just something about the company itself that appeals to me: a bunch of kooky-looking dreamers in Portland, Oregon, with a passion for craftsmanship and individuality. Wanna know who hand rubs four coats of custom natural oil/wax blend onto each case, with eight hours between each coat? Her name is Machicko. Her picture’s on the site. Is said picture worth upwards of $30 or $40 more than a regular iPhone 4 case? Well, no, but it’s just one of the little things that add up to make this company, and this case, something I adore.
It’s an approach that extends into the packaging, as well. Each case is delivered in a bamboo frame hewn from the same block of wood from which the case was cut, as well as a little cardboard insert with GroveMade art on it.
You can even put the artwork in the frame and hang it on the wall, if you’d like. Incidentally, you can also download high-res images of many of GroveMade’s original artwork (often full-color) for use as your iPhone wallpaper.
Of course, all of this would be fluff if the case didn’t actually function well as an iPhone case. It does, though. Really well. Despite GroveMade’s warnings to the contrary, I’ve dropped my case a couple of times in the past month (ours is admittedly an abusive relationship, but don’t judge me; you don’t know the depths of our love), and yes, the case has acquired a few nicks and dings in those drops. They’re so small they don’t show up in photos, but they surprisingly manage to add even more character.
The case also gives plenty of access to controls (even with my massive Wookiee paws) and connections, and despite the fact that the speakers look positively buried in the surrounding wood, the case doesn’t have any perceptible effect on sound quality. My one caveat, however minor, is that all of the bulky old iPod/iPhone chargers I’ve collected over the years won’t fit in the charging slot at the bottom of the case. Newer, slimmer chargers fit just fine, so take that into consideration if you’re shopping for a car charger.
That aside, I love how easy it is to slide on and off the removable bottom for docking access, and remove the case as a whole for the occasional cleaning. The case definitely fits snugly, but doesn’t impose the sort of death grip that other cases do on my (slightly thicker) white iPhone 4. Perhaps that’s a function of the more pliable wood material, but whatever the reason, it’s appreciated.
I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how well the laser-etched design on the back of the case has stood up to normal wear and tear. At first glance, it looks positively delicate, with tons of incredibly thin but deeply dug elements that seem doomed to chip off. But my little tree is resilient, to say the least. Uncountable trips in and out of my pockets—which it has shared with everything from keys to pocket change—and in and out of the PED3 iPhone mount in my car, haven’t fazed it a bit.
Plus (and this may be a weird thing, but if you’ve gotten this far without concluding that I’m a weirdo, you’re not actually reading) I absolutely adore the way the case smells. Never would I have thought I’d hand my iPhone to admirers and implore them to sniff it.
That’s just one more thing to love about GroveMade’s case. It turns my phone into something people wanna sniff. Call me crazy, but I kinda dig that.
Buy the GroveMade iPhone 4/4S Case