Stylish metallic iPhone case minimizes signal loss, but stays on for good


Stylish and electric blue. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
The AL13 iPhone case comes in an eye-catching electric blue and six other colors. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I’m torn these days between wanting a functional wallet-style case for my iPhone and something a bit more minimalist. I tend to switch cases as I need them because I haven’t found a one-case-fits-all solution that works for me.

The minimalist new AL13 metallic bumper case for iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s is quite a classy little addition to your important iOS device, combining good protection with looks that invite stares. It’s got all the great stuff of its ultrathin predecessor, but it’s also easier to put on and doesn’t have any issues with dropped calls due to signal loss.

It’s a bear to get off, though, so if you like to change your iPhone case as often as you change your mood, you’ll probably be a bit frustrated.

If you want a minimalist, Space Age-looking iPhone 5 or 5s bumper, the AL13 v2 bumper case is the one to get – provided you don’t mind leaving it on your iPhone.

This new version has a tougher lining and a different snap-on closure, which makes it absorb shocks better than the earlier model. I can set my iPhone down on any flat surface with confidence, knowing that the little bit of extra case material will protect my precious iOS device from scratches, whether it’s on its front or its back. The lining also prevents signal loss by isolating your iPhone from the aerospace metal structure of the bumper itself, letting you make phone calls and use data with ease.

The AL13 is made from light aerospace aluminum with an anodized finish that comes in seven colors. The blue metallic I tested got plenty of comments from people when I was out and about. They liked the smooth, chamfered edges and the fact that you could see the iPhone rather than the case.

The case itself comes in a slick little metal box with a slide-off lid, and includes an easy-to-install protective film for the front and back of your iPhone. The rear film didn’t manage to stay for too long on my unit — I might have installed it incorrectly. The front lasted a bit longer, and despite its usability and no loss of touch detection, I pulled it off. I’m just not a huge fan of screen protectors.

The biggest problem for me is getting the darn thing off of my iPhone. I sometimes want to use a Mophie charging case for those long days at a conference; at other times, I want a little wallet on my iPhone for going out to the bars. Removing the AL13 from my iPhone is a tedious chore that I’d rather not have to repeat each time I need a different case. Sure, the case is solidly built and seems to adhere to my iPhone — I’d just like to be able to switch it out more easily. The only other niggling issue I had was with the depth of the iPhone Sleep/Wake button — it’s just a little too deep to easily use with a fingertip.

That said, if you want a minimalist, Space Age-looking iPhone 5 or 5s bumper, the AL13 v2 bumper case is the one to get – provided you don’t mind leaving it on your iPhone for a long, long time.

AL13v2 frontAL13 v2 by designed by m ($79.99)
The good: Good protection for such a minimalist case; no signal loss; looks fantastic.
The bad: Can’t get the damn thing off; sleep button is buried.
The verdict: Great bumper case if you don’t like changing things up that often.
Buy from thinkbym

  • Matt Miller

    I’ve backed both of AL13 projects on kickstarter and love v.1 and v.2 however as stated in the article the v.2 is rather difficult to remove. There seems to be an exact way to hold and pull to remove the case. Once you find the sweet spot it will come off.

  • Gugle Yahu

    Useless to me. All I want is something minimal and stylish which will protect against scratches BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY stop the darn phone from slipping out of my pocket!

    • josephsinger

      Get a TPU case from for $1.50.

  • evilmonkey07

    I often shop on eBay, and I’m sorry, but this case looks like crap for what they’re asking for it. I paid $20 for a great aluminum bumper that had nice buttons, was minimal, and actually looked good. Three years ago I got a case called the Deff Cleave for my iPhone 4s. It’s completely protected my phone from scratches and cracks after dropping it on the sidewalk, dropping it down a flight of 15 steps to the underground rail, etc. $20 and it still looks great three years later.
    For the 5s, there are a few pretty cheap aluminum cases on eBay (search ‘iphone 5s aluminum bumper), but the one I like is the Cleave Aero5 by Deff. It’s the same thickness as my older 4s one except has better buttons, as well as a rubberized layer on the inside. Most aluminum cases come with sticky foam pieces to put between the bumper and phone. The Cleave Aero5 does not, and actually fits pretty snug. eBay is also great about returns, so I like to order a handful of cases and just return the ones I don’t like.