There’s something to be said about wrapping your electronics in a wooden case; not only does wood give devices composed of metal and plastic a warmer feel, wood’s organic nature also ensures that your case’s pattern will be one of a kind – even if it is one of many similarly styled cases sold.
One of my absolute favorite iPhone 3GS cases was the Miniot iWood Cobra, a case I paid € 130 (~$170) for and waited over 4 weeks to receive. When I moved from the 3GS to the iPhone 4, it pained me to know that my favorite case could not make the move with me, so I found it a good home with someone whose name also began with a J (because as you may or may not recall, I had a J engraved on the back of the case). A new iPhone meant an eventual new Miniot iWood, which I placed my order for on August 4th, 2010. I won’t go on too much about the fact that they charged my card $112.00 (€ 75.00 + international shipping) the same day I ordered, or that I didn’t receive my case until late October, because that is neither here nor there. What I will go into shortly is the fact that the case, although beautiful, had issues.
The good news is that there are other wooden cases available, and in multiple types; Root Cases offers a slider style that is very similar to the Miniot iWood 4, and Species Case offers a one piece shell style. Both the Root and Species cases cost substantially less, and I have found them to be viable alternatives.
Let’s start with the style that is least like the other two. The Species is a shell style, which is made to hold the iPhone 4 through tension once it has been pressed inside. Care must be taken to insert the iPhone into the shell by holding the phone perfectly level, as the tolerances are so tight that it won’t sit correctly otherwise. Don’t be afraid that removing the iPhone from the case requires any special rituals; grasping the top and bottom of the iPhone and pulling straight out is all that needs to be done. Unless you have tiny (child-size) hands, this is easily accomplished.
There is no moleskin or other buffer between the back of the iPhone and the interior of the case, but if grit causing scratches on your iPhone’s back is a concern, you can use a thin skin on the iPhone’s back as a buffer.
The Species case is available in zebrawood, wenge, black walnut, red oak, and the purpleheart I was sent.
The result is a lovely, unbranded, solid wooden shell encasing the iPhone 4′s body.
All four of the iPhone’s corners are protected, and openings are large enough so that even those with bigger fingers will have no issues accessing switches or buttons; because of these larger openings, this shell may be used with either the AT&T or Verizon iPhones. Audiophiles will be glad to see that the hole above the headphone jack is large enough to accept any audio cable or head/earphones …
… and there will be no problem using non-Apple cables with the sync/charge port.
The Species case is absolutely gorgeous in its simplicity, and it is the case for those who like the look and feel of wood, but who don’t want any branding or complications. Notice that the case sits a smidge higher than the iPhone’s screen, so it will offer face-down protection.
The Species Case is available directly from the manufacturer; it is available in zebrawood ($65), wenge ($65), black walnut ($45), red oak ($38), and purpleheart ($45).
MSRP: $45 as tested
What I Like: Beautiful wood; simple yet effective corner protection; face-down screen protection; available in a variety of woods with no branding; works with both AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4
What Needs Improvement: Nothing
If I had to pick out a single iPhone 4 wooden slider style case that I thought got nearly every detail right, this would be the one. Available in walnut, wenge, bamboo and the zebrawood version I received, the Root case is elegant, thin enough to not cause much bulk, yet thick enough to resist unreasonable wood cracking. The Root case comes in a black presentation box with the company’s logo laser cut.
The interior of the Root case has a wide black strip of moleskin (or a similar material) to prevent scratches on the iPhone’s back. The two pieces of the slider style case are sized to fit the iPhone 4 precisely, so I find it unlikely that it would work with most (if any) skins. One niggle I have with the slider design is that the two parts of the case do not lock together as firmly as I might like. This is really only evident when removing the sync / charge cable, as the bottom of the case will usually separate from the other half as the cable is disengaged.
It’s very cool to look at the interior of the case and see how the wooden button covers were fashioned; the opening for the mute switch is tight, and requires a fingernail’s free edge to operate.
The Root case perfectly frames the iPhone 4′s screen, and it rises roughly 2mm above the screen so that it can offer face-down protection for the iPhone.
As previously mentioned, the buttons are covered with wood, and they are easily operated; the mute switch’s opening, not so much.
The power/screen illumination button on the top is also covered with wood, and it is easily operated. The hole for the earphone jack is on the small side, so there may be issues with using your favorite earphones or an auxiliary cable if they aren’t specifically iPhone compatible.
There may also be issues when using any but the Apple branded sync/charge cable, as the hole at the bottom is perfectly sized for it. [Disclosure: the first case that I received from Root had an off-center sync/charge opening that did not allow proper insertion of the cable; that was the case I used for photos (as seen below). When contacted, Root immediately replaced my defective case with one that had a perfectly centered and operational cutout.]
Unlike Miniot, Root does not offer the option of personalized engraving on their cases; there is an unobtrusive Root Cases logo on the bottom right.
This is the case that I currently have on my iPhone. It is obviously not without faults, but they are minor in the grand scheme of things and it is the best wooden slider case I have yet tried. The zebrawood is gorgeous and protective all at the same time.
The Root Cases Wooden iPhone 4 case is available directly from the manufacturer; it comes in walnut, wenge, bamboo and zebrawood.
What I Like: This case covers and protects all corners; the wooden button covers look great and work perfectly; wood is slightly thicker than the Miniot’s, but less likely to crack during normal use, offers protection to the iPhone’s screen when face-down,
What Needs Improvement: The catch mechanism on the two pieces of the slider isn’t quite secure enough to keep the bottom portion from detaching sometimes when removing the iPhone’s sync / charge cable; the opening for the mute switch is very small and without a fingernail’s free edge difficult to operate; this case will not work with some aftermarket sync / charge cables
Miniot has set themselves up to be the ultimate wooden iPhone case. Made in Holland, Miniot cases are the thinnest, most precisely cut wooden iPhone cases I’ve yet seen. Like the Root case, they also come in a black presentation box; the first impression upon opening is quite good. The Miniot iWood is available in walnut, padouk, mahogany, oak, cherry and maple. I purchased the cherry and perhaps because I was one of the first to preorder, I didn’t have to pay extra for the design that I added. They still offer free engraving of up to two lines of text or an initial, however.
There is a slightly thinner black strip of protective moleskin (or a similar material) inside the iWood than what was found inside the Root case. The snap mechanism joining the Miniot’s two pieces works very well; the bottom portion of the case does not try to slide off when you remove the sync / charge cable.
There is a strip of black material covering the interior sides; you can probably tell that the opening for the mute switch is again fairly small.
Unlike the previous two cases, there is no free edge standing above the iPhone’s screen, so the iWood does not offer any face-down protection.
The iWood’s sync / charge opening is cut to perfectly ft the iPhone’s stock sync / charge cable, so that will create a problem if you have an aftermarket model.
Here’s the issue I ran into with the iWood… This case is easily the thinnest and perfectly fitting wooden case I’ve seen, but sometimes being too thin is not a plus. Once I had put my iPhone in the iWood, I did not remove it and I never dropped it … and yet after a month or so my case inexplicably and frustratingly cracked in not one, but two places. The first was right next to the power button …
… and the second spot was on the bottom.
Needless to say, this is not what I hoped for from a case costing more than $100. Had I not already waited over three months for the initial shipment from Holland, I might have been more inclined to write Miniot and complain; I honestly just didn’t have the patience or heart to do it. Instead, I removed the case, hung my head in shame, and vowed not to buy another iWood. =(
The Miniot iWood is available directly from the manufacturer; it comes in walnut, padouk, mahogany, oak, cherry and maple.
MSRP: € 75.00 (~$ 98.00) plus shipping; add € 15 for engraved designs; current wait is reported as three weeks
What I Like: The thinnest wooden iPhone case available; great selection of woods; Miniot will engrave a two line message or your initial for free; having a design engraved is an option
What Needs Improvement: Does not offer any face-down protection for the iPhone’s screen; the opening for the mute switch is very small and without a fingernail’s free edge difficult to operate; this case will not work with some aftermarket sync / charge cables; the case is so thin and fits so perfectly that mine cracked in two
You already know about my experience with the Miniot and Root cases, but you are still curious, aren’t you? Here are some more photos comparing them together. The iWood is noticeably thinner, and the protective border around the screen is a couple of millimeters higher on the Root Case.
Other than thickness and screen face-down protection, there really isn’t much difference in the appearance of the two cases. Both offer refined touches, and both are gorgeous — although I must say that the Root’s zebrawood has a grain that puts the Miniot’s cherry to shame.
Let’s throw the Species case into the mix; note again that the Miniot iWood is thinner and does not have the screen face-down protection offered by the other two.
It’s a tough call, but I have to tell you … for the money and for the protection offered, I recommend either the Root or the Species case, depending upon which style case you prefer. The Miniot is like so many other beautiful yet fragile things — great to look at, but not for everyday use.