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.
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.
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.
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.