Designed by M AL13 AeroSpace Aluminum Bumper for iPhone 5 Review


This is my kind of iPhone case.  I absolutely hate bulky, oversized phone cases.  This is a very personal feeling, of course, being that I don’t tend to drop my phone very often.  I lean heavily towards bumper-style cases since I always keep my phone in my pocket and do not want any added bulk in the pocket of my jeans.  As soon as I started opening the shipping box that this bumper came in, I was impressed by a packaging design that signified the product was designed with care.  The AL13 AeroSpace Aluminum Bumper by Designed by m is a perfect example of the sleek, minimalist, and design-forward product that I look for in my purchases.

1-Gear Diary DBM AL13

The AL13 is made of AeroSpace Aluminum, as you may have guessed by the title; this anodized finished aluminum is resistant to heat and fracture.  Aluminum is also a very light metal, which is a great feature of this bumper.  The AL13 bumper weighs a total of 14 grams, which is incredibly light as compared to most iPhone protection options.  The bumper comes with a protective film for the back of the phone as well as a high impact, anti-glare, anti-fingerprint, and anti-scratch polyurethane screen protector.  Inside the aluminum bumper lies an anti-scuff rubber lining that protects the phone from scratches against the aluminum as well as provides a buffer for phone drops.

2-Gear Diary DBM AL13-001

The anodized finish of the gun-metal aluminum is extremely attractive, only interrupted by a designed by m logo on one side and an AL13 logo on the other side.  The edges of the metal are chamfered to mirror the look of your iPhone, rather than detract from it.  That’s one of the things that I love about this bumper, the fact that it hardly changes the look of the iPhone, whether it’s on or off, there’s hardly a difference.

Another fantastic feature of this bumper is the ease of installation.  The back of the bumper simply slides off, and the iPhone slides out.  There are no tools or special knowledge needed to use this case.  If you needed another reason to love this case, designed by m boasts that the AL13 hinders the iPhone’s signal by only about 5-10% compared to the average aluminum bumpers which have about 25% signal loss.  I have definitely witnessed some of this signal loss myself during my testing, and I can attest that the signal loss is not as great as some of the other iPhone bumpers I’ve reviewed.

3-Gear Diary DBM AL13-002

There are a few negatives to the AL13 that are worth mentioning.  First thing I noticed is that there feels like there is a slight gap between the phone and the bumper, which leads me to believe that the bumper is not a 100% perfect fit for the phone.  There is a slight metallic click occasionally when touching the bumper a certain way.  Not a terrible downside, but not something you’d expect in a $80 iPhone case.  Second, the minimalist design of the bumper necessitates the lack of button extensions.  This means that you have to press your finger inside the holes in the bumper to be able to reach the power and volume buttons as well as hit the mute switch.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but again, it’s not the end of the world.

4-Gear Diary DBM AL13-003

Overall, I would strongly recommend this bumper to anyone who cares about maintaining the iPhone 5’s sleek design while protecting the phone from slight drops, scratches, etc.  This case does not compare to rugged cases like the Otterbox in terms of protection, however it is not designed to.  The AL13 serves as an extension of Apple’s sleek, minimalist design, while still providing protection for the device itself.

5-Gear Diary DBM AL13-004

Since I mentioned that I was impressed by the AL13’s packaging, I have included a few pictures below:

The designed by m AL13 can be purchased directly from the manufacturer.

MSRP: $79.99

What I Like:  Beautiful, minimalistic design; Slight signal loss as compared to other metal bumpers;  Extremely light;  Very easy to put on and take off

What Needs Improvement:  Slightly oversized and makes light clicking sound that leads me to think it doesn’t fit perfectly;  Not easy to depress power and volume buttons;  Slight signal loss

Source: Manufacturer Supplied Review Sample

Categories: Reviews


5 replies

  1. I backed this kickstarter project and have been using it for the past month or so. To add my 2 cents, depending on the signal strength in your area, there can be substantial signal loss where it may be required to remove the case to get a signal.

    I’ve also noticed the tendency of the case scratching the chamfered edges as I install the case. I’ll take the blame on this one.

    To address the looseness that the author mentioned, I’ve installed a back protector that clamps the case even tighter and eliminates that looseness.

    • Thanks for your feedback on the case!

      I did experience significant signal loss once during my testing, but I chalked that up to bad service. I’ll definitely update the post if it happens often.

      I had a feeling that if I installed the screen protector and back protector the case might get a bit tighter, but I felt like that should not be a necessity for the case to fit perfectly.

      • I agree, the case should have a tighter fit from the factory. It’s a great design, a good attempt at execution but the use of aluminum really hampered my excitement. I couldn’t recommend it to friends but I would purchase one if it were ever produced in a soft touch material.

    • You don’t like bulky cases, neither do I, which is why I use only an Invisible Shield on the back to prevent scratches. With a gorilla glass screen I find screen protectors unnecessary. I either carry the phone in a front pants pocket or jacket pocket, that’s all the protection I need..

      • I totally agree, although I’m always a little wary of just using a back protector. The bumpers give me a little added piece of mind while still adding negligible size and bulk to the phone.