One of the better Yuletide traditions is the venerable holiday Advent Calendar, in which each day of December leading up to Christmas is marked off on a special calendar by opening its corresponding door to find a small gift, toy or chocolate squirreled away inside.
This year, we here at Cult of Mac decided we wanted to give our readers their very own Apple-themed advent calendar, filled with the year’s best apps, gadgets, stories and other curios. So each day in December, we’re going to lovingly peel back the door on the Cult of Mac 2012 Advent Calendar to reveal another delicious morsel, something really special that came out this year that we think every one of you should enjoy.
Day 16’s a day late, which just means you get to open two squares today instead of one. Behind the first? Monolith’s excellent wood backs for the iPhone.
I like my iPhones in wood. Part of it’s to satisfy my Danish mid-century pretensions, but as I’ve said before, there’s something perfect about making a smartphone after wood. Wood implies an intimacy that metal or plastic doesn’t — that it was hand-crafted with you in mind — which makes it a natural (but not practical) material for a smartphone, which is the gadget with which most of us have our most personal relationships.
Back when I had an iPhone 4S, I replaced the glass back of my device with a replacement teak back by Monolith and never looked back. Not only was it more practical and more unique than the iPhone 4S’s easily shattered glass back, but it felt just sublime in the hand.
When the iPhone 5 came out, I was eager to know from Monolith whether they’d be doing replacement wood backs for Apple’s latest handsets. The response I got was a disappointment: while it was possible to replace the back of the iPhone 4/4S by just popping out two screws, it was impossible to replace the iPhone 5 ‘s back plate in the same way. The best Monolith could do, they said, was adhesives. My heart sank. Surely, wood stickers you slap on the back of your iPhone 5 would just suck.
They don’t. Defying both my expectations and experiences with similar products, Monolith’s wood iPhone 5 skins are every bit as amazing as their wood iPhone 4 backs. They’re beautifully made, wonderfully packaged, easy to apply, feel rich and luscious to the touch and are so thin as to make you have a hard time believing they can shave a tree this thin.
You won’t be able to replace the back of your iPhone 5 with an aftermarket kit like you could with the iPhone 4S.
One of the best aspects of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S design was that, if you wanted to personalize your iPhone, you had more options than just picking out a nifty case: by just undoing two screws at the bottom of the device, you could replace the entire back panel on your iPhone.
I loved my wood-backed iPhone so much that I emailed the mod kit’s maker, Monolith, asking them when a similar mod would be coming out for the iPhone 5. The disapponting response? Never. The iPhone 5’s design seemingly makes it impossible.
Ideally, we’d all carry our iPhones as God intended — naked. But just as our pink and delicate human bodies need protection from the elements, so does the iPhone. Sometimes all it needs is a skimpy Speedo, other times a full suit of body armor, but you can be sure there’s a case for every occasion. Here’s our roundup of the best iPhone cases out there.
One of the saddest things about tech is that unlike other fashionable things, the aesthetic trend that might dictate what gadgets look like for a few years never gets a chance to come back into style. The most we ever get is the chance to be nostalgic about the look of an old gadget, not to fall in love with the aesthetic behind its design all over again, as if new.
For example, debatably thanks to AMC’s period drama Mad Men, Danish mid-century design has really come back into style. A whole new generation of people have come to discover and love a design trend that a mere two years ago, all but a few people would have, at best, only known by a couple musty old relics collecting dust and mouldering in their grandparents’ garage. Watching Don Draper slip into an Eames lounge chair, or pour himself a drink from a gorgeous teak sideboard, or turn on a tulip lamp designed by Eero Sarinen, though, rejuvenates these items by allowing us to see them as they were meant to be used and experienced. It removes real, living objects from the obscurity of textbooks and turns them into fresh ideas, ready to be used again.
It’s for this reason that I love seeing wood in a gadget. It takes a trend that was ubiquitous in the 70s and 80s, when home electronics were big and bulky enough to be mostly considered a kind of furniture, and presents it as a refreshing anecdote to a modern trend in tech design that puts the emphasis on more impersonal and space-age materials like plastic and metal, silicon and glass.
For me, wood can imply an intimacy — a device is yours, it was made for you — that makes it a perfect material for a smartphone: a device that is, by definition, the gadget with which most of us have our most personal relationship. And while Apple understandably doesn’t make iPhones out of wood, I’m delighted that a company like Monolithdoes, by offering a stunning line of natural wood backs for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S that are as practical as they are beautiful.