I Tried a Quirky iPhone Case So You Don’t Have To

So, iPhone cases.

I actually don’t use one right now. I’d like to — I’d like to find one that both protects what, truthfully, a very expensive device (unsubsidized by a carrier, a new iPhone is actually a $650 computer, not a $200 “phone”), and doesn’t intrude too much on the iPhone’s innate look and feel. I have never found this. 

(On John Gruber’s podcast, he and MC Siegler seemed to tacitly agree with the idea that within tech circles, using a case with an iPhone is a “faux pas,” which only makes me want to use the gaudiest case I can find, as I could never roll my eyes hard enough at an idea like that.)

If I need a case, I generally use a Speck Pixelskin HD, which is dead simple in terms of aesthetic, very easy to take on and off quickly, all the buttons are accessible, and it’s generally inexpensive. Still, with something as nice as an iPhone, I prefer to go without.

The closest I ever came to my ideal was the Twelve South SurfacePad, less a case and more of a “folder,” a thin leather cover that flips around the device, book-like, and can also serve as a landscape-mode stand. It was very sleek, very thin, unobtrusive, and light. Having to flop the cover over was sometimes unpleasant (and folding it back would block the rear camera), but it could also feel kind of cool. The problem was that it frayed very quickly, the layers began to peel, and it started to look like garbage within a couple of months. To their credit, Twelve South gave me no problems about returning it, and they are always super-cool about support.

(And I note with some irony that I wholeheartedly mocked their marketing of the SurfacePad, and I wholeheartedly stand by that mockery.)

So one day I get an email from a company called Snugg that wants to send me an item from their selection of cases and review it on my blog. Goodness, I thought, they must be desperate. Since they wouldn’t let me try out one of their iPad keyboard cases (stingy!) I decided to get something a little quirky to try out: a wooden iPhone case.

The wooden case thing is kind of chic at the moment. You have your DodoCases that look like little wooden moleskins, and Pad & Quill makes some neat things like that as well. So I thought what the heck, let’s give that a go.

This one is actually bamboo. When I got the package, my immediate thought was, no freaking way. This is too bulky. But after slipping on the phone (which is really easy, by the way), I could see the appeal. The wood did feel nice, a refreshing change from less “organic” materials of gadgets. It was far lighter in weight than I would have guessed, and it did look kind of classy. It’s bulkier to be sure, but it’s a tradeoff I presume you’re willing to make for a case like this. Made of bamboo.

Alas, the big problem is one that Speck and other solve so well: Buttons and ports are buried in this thing. The volume buttons, the power button, forget it. You have to dig your fingers in just to make contact, let alone press them. The Lightning port is also way down deep, and nothing but a regular Lightning cable (as opposed to adapters and accessories) is ever getting in there. 

So, nice try, Snugg. It’s not bad, it looks and feels nice, but it’s too inconvenient. Thanks for letting me have a gander at it, though.

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