iPhone 4S: Grove’s Bamboo Case Is Both Beautiful and Expensive

| Quick Look Review

I’ve had the same iPhone case for more than a year now, which is close to miraculous for me. Not only am I fickle—“It’s too soft! It’s not soft enough! It gathers dust! It shows fingerprints!”—I tend to hate my cases once they start to show scratches or other signs of wear. Since I got my Grove bamboo case, though, I’ve never looked back. After a year of use, its condition is much the same as the day it arrived, which I’m pretty sure has saved me money on replacing less expensive cases a few times. 

Founded in 2009, Grove is based in Portland, Oregon, and everything they sell is designed, crafted, and processed there. In addition to their iPhone cases, they also produce bamboo backs for Mac laptops; leather/bamboo cases, covers, and skins for the iPad 2; and wall art. 

Their iPhone cases come in three styles—plain bamboo, custom engraved with a design of your choice, or engraved with one of their plentiful pre-made designs.

Obviously, the left photo is a plain case, but the artwork on the right is available on Grove’s website.

 

The positives

In the year that I’ve had my case, the wood has aged quite nicely. It’s changed color a bit on the sides where I typically hold the phone with my sweaty hands, but it’s not very obvious. It’s wood, after all, so while it does age, it doesn’t show any fingerprints, and dirt wipes right off. I think it’s amazing to have had a case for that long without it showing substantial signs of wear.

Most importantly, though, the case hasn’t rubbed my phone or allowed any damage to it at all. The velvety lining between the wood and my device is almost certainly the reason why. (And I could complain about other hard cases I’ve had that allowed specks of dirt in to scratch against my phone, but I won’t be that petty. This time.)

This is my iPhone case. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

 

Another plus is that it feels pretty darned nice in your hands. It’s smooth, but it has just the right kind of substantial, grippy texture. There’s no traditional wood finish on the case—Grove says that they apply four coats of an oil/wax blend to each one. You can really see the amount of time and workmanship that goes into producing them. 

The not-so-positives

Firstly, these are not OtterBox cases. They’re not meant to be tossed around, so if you’re hard on your phone, you might want to look elsewhere. They state in their FAQs that

“Your Grove case will protect your phone from normal wear and tear but is not guaranteed against drops of any kind. However, we do offer our Grove Case Replacement Program where you can get 50% off a new case if you break yours for any reason at any time.”

That’s a good policy. Anecdotally, though, I’ve found mine to be plenty tough. I dropped it in the snow on concrete last week, and it didn’t do any damage to the phone or case. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Another downside: you may find that you have to remove your case to use a dock or third-party headphones, but the Apple headphones and charging cable work fine with the case on. You probably shouldn’t use a screen protector, either (and DEFINITELY not on the back of the phone). Grove cases are manufactured to fit the phones exactly, and trying to force one on with a screen protector adding bulk may damage the case. Because of this, Grove obviously doesn’t include one with their products. I personally think screen protectors are sent straight from Hades to destroy us all, though, so no biggie for me. 

Lastly, the cases are expensive. The plain bamboo ones are $69 with a bamboo bezel and $89 for a black bezel. The stock designed cases come in at $89–$109, and the custom laser-engraved ones start at $119. So it’s not quite the same as deciding to buy an Apple bumper. 

The wrap-up

I’m not going to argue that this is an especially cost-effective way to outfit your phone, but I do think that Grove offers a reasonable price for getting a custom work of art. I’ve been continually impressed with both the durability of the bamboo and the attractiveness of the product. Also note that the cases are great conversation starters (folks ask me about mine literally all the time and even want to know if they can hold it), so if you’re looking to advertise, you could get one with your company logo engraved on it. Or you could be like me and get something completely dorky done. Whichever works best for you. 

Product: iPhone 4/4S Bamboo Case

Company: Grove

List Price: See body of review

Pros:

Lovely, eye-catching, a custom work of art in your hands, fairly durable, texture feels nice to hold.  Grove offers 50 percent off a new one if it gets broken.

Cons:

Expensive, not meant to be dropped, can’t use a screen protector or some third-party accessories with it.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

It?s smooth, but it has just the right kind of substantial, grippy texture.

Good because too many wooden cases that I looked at had finishes as smooth as the iPhone. I need something that will stay in my Inspector Clouseau grip.

I also like that you can slide off the bottom so that it can be docked. At least in the squat Apple style dock, it may not fit many speaker docks.

How heavy is it compared to a generic rubber or plastic case?

mhikl

I like O Natural, personally. But for my iProducts, rubber is the only way to go.

Melissa Holt

How heavy is it compared to a generic rubber or plastic case?

Hey Lee!

It’s heavier, certainly, but I don’t find it to be particularly heavy, if that makes sense. I actually prefer the feel of my phone with it on now.

Having been asked about it twice in the last three days (“Oh my gosh! Is that an iPhone case?! Where’d you get it?”), it really does seem like a no-brainer for self-promotion, too.

?Melissa

Lee Dronick

It?s heavier, certainly, but I don?t find it to be particularly heavy, if that makes sense. I actually prefer the feel of my phone with it on now.

Having been asked about it twice in the last three days (?Oh my gosh! Is that an iPhone case?! Where?d you get it??), it really does seem like a no-brainer for self-promotion, too.

Not too heavy then, good.

Seeing as one can order custom engraving you could put a business name or logo on it. An image of a loved one too.

I bought one of the Skech “Rise” hard rubber cases, gold to reddish orange gradient. It has a slight grainy surface akin to an egg shell. My wife liked mine so she got one in purple to black gradient.

Melissa Holt

I bought one of the Skech ?Rise? hard rubber cases, gold to reddish orange gradient. It has a slight grainy surface akin to an egg shell.

Hey, that’s really gorgeous!

Lee Dronick

Hey, that?s really gorgeous!

It is very nice looking.

As to protection it is certainly better than nothing, but certainly not in the class of something like the Otterbox products. More important to me is that it has a grain to the surface so that it doesn’t slip out of my hands, or pockets, so easily.

eolake

It’s an outstanding product.
(And not heavy at all.)

I have this one:

http://ereaderjoy.blogspot.com/2011/05/grove-birdland-iphone-case.html

Melissa Holt

Oh, eolake, that’s beautiful!

Lee Dronick

Oh, eolake, that?s beautiful!

Yes it is! I like the way your wallpaper matches the engraving on the case.

KitsuneStudios

A slightly cheaper option for the artistically/aesthetically inclined might also be the cases by uncommon. They have a wide range of incredible designs, and can also do custom prints from images you provide for the same price. The cases range from $25-40, and also don’t include a screen protector, but you can use a thin film protector with it.

I got a custom one done for my new 4s, and it came out great.

eolake

I like the way your wallpaper matches the engraving on the case.

Yes, they provide those. And it’s the wallpaper I’ve kept the longest so far. (Though I changed the color from bright blue to sepia.)

Warning though: I also had an iPad case made, with one of my own drawings etched into the black leather. But it turned out that it is all but invisible, not worth it in my opinion.

Lee Dronick

Warning though: I also had an iPad case made, with one of my own drawings etched into the black leather. But it turned out that it is all but invisible, not worth it in my opinion.

The leather is probably too thin for a deep enough engraving to show it with sidelight. Maybe the engraving could be inked.

ctopher

The case looks lovely. I don’t have an iPhone but I thought I had seen this case for a whole lot less than $70.

I did, it wasn’t Grove but a case by EcoMatrix. (I’ve never heard of them, never bought anything from them, they could be junk for all I know But…)

They are $25 from this site. (Did I mention that I’ve never purchased anything from this site? wink

Unix Surplus

It was a strange product to find on a site that sells used servers. They also have a bamboo keyboard and mouse!

Cool stuff.

Nathan Fairchild

I can’t recommend this case. It’s more delicate than the phone, breaking from a two foot fall onto a soft vinyl floor. Not supported by the manufacturer. You might as well buy a glass case. It’s beautiful and delicate, too.

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