I swore that I would never put a case on my iPhone 5. Then I accidentally nicked the shiny antenna frame. Ever since that dreadful moment, I’ve been on the search for the perfect iPhone case. That’s how I stumbled onto Grove.
For about two weeks, I’ve been using Grove’s bamboo case for the iPhone 5, and it has been a bittersweet experience.
Grove is a great example of a successful American startup. Founded in 2009 and based Portland, Oregon, everything made by Grove is designed, crafted and shipped in the United States. The talented folks at Grove know how to make high quality cases, covers and skins for MacBooks, iPhones and iPads.
With less than 30 employees, Grove has managed to grow exponentially while staying committed to quality workmanship and customer experience. I had excellent support from Grove while I was testing this case, and a quick check of the company’s social feeds reveals how well Grove takes care of its customers. If you want to buy from a company that genuinely cares about each sale, than look no further.
“A solid block of renewable bamboo is precision milled to closely snug the curves of your iPhone.”
The craftsmanship of Grove’s bamboo iPhone 5 case is something to behold. A solid block of renewable bamboo is precision milled to closely—and I do mean ever so closely—snug the curves of your iPhone. A plant fiber composite is applied to the interior of the case to keep your iPhone’s metallic skin protected. Eco-friendly is the name of the game.
Seriously, I can’t stress how hot this thing looks. In a sea of rubbery, candy-colored cases, this work of art stands out. The aged bamboo finish feels great in the hand, and you can tell that a great amount of attention was given to get the details just right.
Grove’s iPhone case is designed in two parts. A larger top half slides on first to cover about 75% of the iPhone, then a smaller bottom part slides on to connect the two. A small line where the two parts meet indicates the break.
A bumper-like bezel wraps around the edge of the iPhone 5’s front to seal the deal. Don’t think of this as anything more than an aesthetic touch; the bezel doesn’t sit high enough to ensure any screen protection if you drop your iPhone on the pavement. Color options are black and a nude-ish white depending on the color of your iPhone. I requested white but for some reason my review unit was black. I ended up liking the two-toned look more than I had anticipated.
The attention to detail I mentioned earlier is evident after examining the bottom and top of the case. The rear Lightning and headphone ports are accessible, and the speaker is elegantly covered by a wooden grill. My unit’s speaker holes were a tad off center, but hey, handmade is handmade.
The top lock button is covered by another chunk of wood, but the tactility of the button remains surprisingly responsive. You don’t notice any lag in the time it takes to press the lock button and see the screen turn off. Again, this speaks to how closely the case is tailored for the iPhone 5.
Another great thing about buying a Grove case is the engraving options. The plain back like I was sent costs $80, but you can get an etched case for $99. Grove has dozens of great designs available to choose from, and they all look fantastic. You can even request a custom engraving with your own design (company logo, favorite design, etc.) for $129.
“I couldn’t get it off!”
Unfortunately, no case is perfect. I had an unusual amount of frustration with my particular review unit. After leaving the case on my personal iPhone for a few days, I couldn’t get it off! No matter how hard I tried, the top part of the case would just not slide off. The bottom piece slid on and off easily enough, but some unnatural force kept the larger piece from budging.
This is when I started emailing back and forth with Grove PR, and they walked me through a number of tips to try and get my case off. It got to the point where they where sending me video tutorials, all the while assuring me that this was a very, very rare, freak incident. After about 5 days of pulling and tugging, I serendipitously left my iPhone sitting on a blanket on the dewy ground for a few hours. The moisture in the air must have caused the interior of the case to get a little slippery, and the top piece finally came off with a gentle tug. I try out dozens of iPhone cases, so I’m thankful the issue resolved itself before I got desperate.
Don’t let my story deter you from considering Grove. Because real wood is milled to make the case, I’m told natural elements can cause minor warping in certain cases. Grove offers a case replacement program where you can get 50% off a new case if you’re dissatisfied with and/or break your original one.
Another thing I didn’t like about the case is how close it fits around the Lightning port. I had to slip off the bottom piece every time I wanted to charge my iPhone 5 in the car. Know that you’ll probably have to take the bottom part of this case off if you frequently use third-party Lightning accessories and headphones. Apple’s EarPods plug in just fine.
“A small American company that’s committed to excellence”
Grove’s cases are pricey, and they don’t offer a ton of protection. If you just want something cheap and functional to protect your iPhone from everyday wear and tear, then this case isn’t probably for you. But for those of us that take great pride in our iPhones, a proper case should be a work of art. That’s why people will pay a hundred bucks to have a bamboo case handcrafted and tailored with custom engravings. That’s why Grove has a sustainable business model.
Grove makes beautiful works of art. Generic-looking, cheap iPhone 5 cases from big companies are starting to hit shelves left and right, but I encourage you to consider supporting a small American company that’s committed to excellence. The one downside to ordering from Grove right now is that high demand has the company working furiously to get orders shipped out. Orders placed now won’t ship for 10-14 weeks due to the labor-intensive process required for each case.
You can check out Grove’s iPhone 5 case for yourself on the company’s website.
Below are some behind the scenes photos from Grove: