The most practical (and important) accessory you'll likely buy for your smartphone is a case. In my opinion, the best cases offer maximum protection in a minimal package, while offering an opportunity to express personal style. The Grove Bamboo Case for the iPhone 5 is manufactured from renewable materials in a small factory in Portland, Oregon, and we share how the case fares during our long term trial protected by it... I was already familiar with Grove products when this case arrived at my doorstep for review. I appreciated their aesthetic, their bamboo construction, and the made-here-in-the-states heritage. Like a lot of available-online-only items however, you really can't tell how good a product is until you see and use it yourself.Unboxing: The Grove mission to create a responsible, environment-friendly design is seen not only in the case itself but in its packaging. It simply comes framed in a corrugated cardboard shell — something I could easily open (unlike those dreaded pressure-sealed plastic packagings) and something I could put right into my compost bin. I hope this type of packaging starts becoming a trend. There is also information on the warranty (6 months against defects) and replacement program (50% off a replacement case if you break one through your own devises) printed on the cardboard, and a grove branded sticker in case you want to show your love on your laptop or desk. Fitting: The Grove bamboo case is composed of two pieces that slide onto the top and bottom of the phone to form one seemingly solid piece. In this stage you'll appreciate the structure of the case — from the way the bamboo and the composite material join to the cush felt backing that protects the back of your phone from scratches. The design is exacting and forms a very tight snug fit. When pieced together the case feels solid, sturdy, and durable. All the accessory openings are exactly where you want them to be, exactingly cut and placed. Grove has done a remarkable job here of crafting a beautiful new shell for your device. Use: With the case on, your phone feels and looks like a brand new phone — a slight bit heavier, slight bit wider, and in this case; a slick white border that contrasted nicely against my black iPhone 5. The front bezel is raised enough to offer protection for the front screen in case of a drop and encompasses the whole perimeter of the phone for off-angle oopses that may plague you. The bamboo back is also rigid, thick and hardy — it doesn't easily chip or crack and is milled from one solid piece.
I would classify the Grove case as a minimal case, but it feels like the most rigid minimal case you'll ever use. Since the case only adds about 0.08" thickness to the back of the phone, you won't have any trouble slipping the phone in and out of the front pocket of your jeans or fitting into a compartment of your purse or travel bag.
The raised edging around the sides did provide some inconvenience when trying to access the volume up/down buttons (which I also use as a camera shutter button). The design of the case make these buttons difficult to reach and depress with one hand. The exacting fit could also pose a problem for some accessory connections. Some of my friend's auxiliary cables wouldn't fit in the headphone jack — requiring removal of the bottom half of the case. This was also experienced when trying to fit a Lightning to 30-pin adapter from Apple.
I've been using the case for nearly two months and it has held up amazingly well, even surviving short pocket-to-floor length drops on both the front and back side of the phone. The bamboo case won't age like vinyl or leather cases — whose finish begins to fade or wear over a short period of time.Summary: I really enjoyed just about everything about this case — the aesthetic, the feel, the design. Grove even offers a large variety of laser engraved designs that can offer you individual expression. The regular case will set you back $79 while a laser engraved design from one of many choices will set you back $99. Grove also has a service to upload and get your own design engraved for $129. This price is a little steep for those that are typically in the market for a case that is at least half the price. I feel however that the Grove bamboo case offers value in terms of a renewable design of solid construction and quality craftsmanship. The case is near perfection in terms of fit, and the responsible design is something great to use and look at, while offering the piece of mind you need with a fragile svelte iPhone device. Those factors make the Grove bamboo case worth the money — given you can afford the luxury of a $79 case. The Grove case holds up nicely and looks just as good as the day it arrived on my doorstep nearly 8 weeks ago. The Grove bamboo case is my case of choice compared against other cases I've had the chance to see and use, and I'll be keeping this case on my iPhone even after this review.
Pros: Slim, minimal case; Good front screen protection with a full surround and raised front bezel (composed of hardy post-consumer fibers); Great back phone protection with a thick, rigid bamboo casing; Foam backed liner prevents scratching back surface of phone when you remove device
Cons: Side buttons (volume up/down, ringer) are harder to reach and use — especially with only one hand; Precise accessory connection cutouts could make it difficult to use some accessories (i.e. you'll have to remove the bottom part of case to fit a Lightning to 30-pin adapter, and also for your headphone jack in some cases).
(Image: Chris Perez)
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by reviewer for testing and review purposes.