Premium wood cases — and wood cases are almost always premium — have been around for years for Apple devices. Companies such as Miniot have been making them for many years now, while relative newcomers including Grove have since entered the market. Now, both companies have produced versions of their protectors for the iPhone 5 and 5s. Miniot is offering Contour (€115/$154+), while Grove has the significantly more affordable WoodPrint Case ($99-$119). The two options share the same general slider-style structure, but differ in some major and minor ways, and offer different methods of personalization.
Miniot’s Contour is a take on iWood, which we’ve previously covered for iPhone 4/4S, and is also available for the iPhone 5 series. It’s still a slim slider, but instead of being constructed with just one type of wood, Miniot incorporates two. There are two patterns with wenge/maple, and one each with oak/smoked oak, walnut/maple, and padouk/maple. Three of the cases feature the secondary wood inset along the edges, matching the chamfered edge of the phone underneath, while the other pair have parallel strips running down the back. We received the walnut/maple, and found the materials to be really quite beautiful, although the price tag is at the highest end of the spectrum for iPhone cases, and wood is one of the easiest materials to damage when accidentally dropped.
The wooden structure offers no give, so the case fits very snugly around the body of the iPhone. A pad inside the top portion of the case helps keep the scratches off the handset’s metal back, and we found that the bottom cap lines up perfectly with the top. The wood forms just the slightest lip around the screen — likely not enough to really keep it off the ground — but button protection is executed just right. Both the volume buttons and the Sleep/Wake button are covered with sculpted wood that allows them to maintain full tactility. Port access is more limited, however. The holes along the bottom edge are very tightly cut, so only Apple’s official Lightning cable, and rather small headphone plugs, will fit. Thankfully the bottom cap can be removed for docking, or to alleviate other accessory compatibility issues. In terms of personalization, Miniot offers text engraving for free, but charges for logos.
WoodPrint Case is essentially a version of Grove’s earlier Bamboo Case, but made with maple instead, while also offering the ability to be customized with any image you provide. To quickly recap, rather than an all-wood design, Grove chose to use a plasticky-feeling plant fiber composite on the inside and wood on the outside; it’s really more of a wood-coated case. Both pieces of the slider have a soft microfiber pad inside to protect the iPhone’s aluminum and glass back. Much like Contour, the edge of the case rises only slightly over the display.
Larger than Contour in every dimension, WoodPrint Case actually offers a bit less protection. There’s still excellently clicky Sleep/Wake button coverage, but the buttons and switch on the left edge remain exposed. Port access is also a problem; only the smallest plugs will fit, and because the material is thicker, you won’t be able to use some angled headphone connectors, which Contour does support. Again though, the slider-style design allows for additional access when needed.
Of these two cases, WoodPrint Case impresses us more with its personalization options. Instead of engraving, which is nice in its own right, Grove offers customers the option to upload their own images to its website, and then have them printed on the back of the case in a variety of shapes or patterns; predesigned options are also available at the lower price point. In designing your own, you can choose from 15 different shapes, including eight that allow you to use multiple photos. No white ink is used, allowing the wood grain to show through and become an element of the photo. We found this to be a nice touch, and the overall quality of the print is quite high, all things considered.
Again, these are premium cases, and need to be looked at as such. Sure, they offer protection, but so do $3 TPU cases from Monoprice. Both use high-end materials, and demonstrate a nice attention to detail. We prefer the body of Contour, but the customization options of WoodPrint Case; if we could combine both, that’d be a more impressive case. As-is, the price for Contour is so high that it’s very difficult to recommend. The same shows here costs as much as an entry-level iPhone 5s; few people would spend that sort of money on a wooden iPhone case. Yet for those who do, and value the wood design, it’s a nice case, and therefore deserves our limited recommendation. At $40 more than Bamboo Case, WoodPrint Case also earns a B-. We love the ability to put personal designs on wood, but not at that price; some users may feel otherwise.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 5/5s