Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

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.

The Good

“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.

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

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.

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

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.

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

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.

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

One of Grove’s custom engraving options.

The Bad

“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.

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

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.

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

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.

The Verdict

“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’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

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:

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

Grove’s iPhone 5 Case: A Beautiful Work Of American Art [Review]

  • Germán Villacreces

    Looks cool, but I think people are beginning to hate making their iPhone 5 thicker. I just got a bumper for my iPhone 5 instead, that way I protect it and it stays slim :) I got it from http://www.theiphonebumpers.com and the quality is just outstanding, plus its only $9.99!

  • WXMAN2001

    The likely reason for the case not coming off was that wood was not completely cured. It actually shrunk around your phone as it dried more. The dew caused the wood to absorb moisture and expand. My advice when you first receive is to place it in a bag of dry rice to let it cure a bit more.

  • defactomonkey

    How have you only recently heard of Grove? They have been pretty well known for awhile now.

  • Jack2397

    Plastic is in may way optimal but its cheap. Like the alu cases from http://edge-design.com luxury feel without blocking the antennas.

  • bennicoara

    I ordered an iPhone 5 case a few months ago, and it seemed to be working just fine until today when my phone suddenly lost service. While chatting online with an AT&T rep, she asked me to turn my phone off and remove the simcard. This is where I learned that the case was impossible to take off of the phone. I do not know what had happened, but it fused so tightly to the phone that I had to use a knife to pry it off, significantly scratching my phone in the process. This is very upsetting to me…thus, I do not want to put the case back onto my phone ever again.

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a staff writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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