The typical course of action after picking up your new phone from the store is, naturally, to pick up accessories. Cases, screen protectors, extra batteries, chargers and so forth. For popular phones like the iPhone and more recent Samsung phones such as the S3 and Note series, an entire market for phone cases has opened up: From the bouncy, rubbery ones you can buy on street corners in New York City, to multi-layer protection cases, such as Otterboxes, which specialize in everything from being waterproof to being near indestructible. However, these cases serve their basic role - to protect - without looking particularly nice. The iPhone case with the bunny ears looks 'cute', and the Otterbox looks like it's part of a Marine Survival Kit, but there are very few cases out there that actually make phone feel more expensive in your hand. Enter Carved.
Carved, a small business set in Indiana, makes cases for iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S3 out of different types of real wood. Not the faux wood you see very often or the textured plastic that looks like it has wood grains; real wood from real trees. The options one has to choose from when it comes to the type of wood they can have is near endless, with different colors and styles available to the buyer on their well-crafted website.
Now, I am (for better or for worse) known for keeping my phones bare - no cases, and no screen protectors. However, two Galaxy Nexuses and a scratched screen on the third one later, I wasn't about to make the same mistake with my Galaxy S4. I bought some intense screen protectors, but still kept the phone bare. To its credit, I've dropped it a number of times and it has suffered no damage, but the famous, flimsy design and build quality of the S4 has always kept me on edge and slightly concerned. After doing some research, I came upon the Carved website. It was as easy as picking what wood I wanted, and what color I wanted the wood to be, and that was that. I got my own case just a week ago for my Galaxy S4, and have to say, the difference is incredible.
First and foremost is the quality of the case's build, which is almost perfect. In most cases (no pun intended), the wood is inlaid to a soft touch plastic shell, which is technically what surrounds the device's sides and corners. While the plastic feels nice to hold, it is definitely rigid. So rigid that it's almost nearly impossible to get off the phone once you get it on; a testament to the protection it provides. The actual wood is only on the back of the phone, and that feels amazing. There's a finish on it to prevent silly things like splinters, but it doesn't get hot when the phone does and really looks fantastic. The one time I've dropped my phone since I got the case (onto a tile floor from a table top), it suffered not even a scratch or mark.
However, something that really irks me is the obvious space that there is between the edge of the plastic and the edge of the wood. There is a little blip between the two materials where little particles can get trapped. I had this happen to me the other day, and when I tried to get it out with my finger nail, I actually scratched the wood, which you can see in the picture below.
As well, the edges of the plastic (where it ends around the device's sides) really are edges. They're sharp and pretty uncomfortable to run your finger against by accident. Besides that, the case adds a certain amount of welcome heft to it, and doesn't make the device too much thicker at all. It still fits in my jeans with absolutely no problem. I give this section a solid nine out of ten stars.
In case you haven't realized by now, I love how this case looks. The wood I picked out is gorgeous, and the piece they used for my case is phenomenal. It's my hope that they begin building their cases completely out of wood soon for the GS4, as they have with some variants for the iPhone. Take look at the gallery at the end of this post for lots of other examples.
When I first put this case on my phone, I got my questions asking me "what phone is that?", "It's so nice! The case is beautiful. Can I get that for my iPhone?"; and I also found myself placing it on tables face down more often, just to look at the case. That's a big deal for me. Another nine out of ten stars, if just because I want some more wood and less plastic.
Usability / Protectiveness
Arguably the most important part of a case, I can safely say that this protects from the usual scrape, bump or hard hit more than leaving the phone bare. Under the wood is layer of that hard plastic, and while the wood isn't resistant to scratches, the plastic certainly is. The lip of the case that forms around the device's sides just ever so slightly raise above the screen, offering maybe a millimeter of protection if you want to slide your device across a table face down. There is no protection offered on the top or bottom of the phone, which is really okay, as there's no way for it to get in the way of the ports. The power and volume buttons will obviously need a bit more effort to hit, but any regular sized finger can easily operate the buttons without a second thought. The camera isn't affected by the extra layer, and the speaker actually sounds a little bit more amplified from the extra stuff to bounce sound off of.
But no, this isn't your regular old case that you can replace for two dollars if it breaks. I feel like it is safer, but not as safe as an Otterbox or other similar cases. Due to that, it gets an eight out of ten for this section.
Price and Availability
The price of the case I bought was around $26 before any additional shipping costs and taxes, which is a bit more money than your regular buy. But considering the fact that this is built by hand, in the United States, and from natural materials, that's pretty much a steal. They ship internationally and in the U.S. as well.
For us Android lovers, if you don't have a Galaxy S3 or S4, you're out of luck at the moment. It's disappointing, but for a company that doesn't have the mass production capabilities of other large manufacturers, it's understandable why they'd pick two of the most popular devices out there. With that said, I would strongly hope they begin developing cases for the Galaxy Note brand, LG G2, HTC One and Moto X soon. Due to this, this section receives a lower score of five out of ten, since it does not support most Android devices.
If I had to answer whether or not someone should get cases from Carved, my answer would be a resounding yes. The case looks gorgeous, services its purpose, and genuinely makes me feel like I'm holding a higher quality piece of hardware than I am (sorry Samsung, plastic ain't doing it for me anymore). This isn't your regular old rough'n'tumble case, nor is it another disposable one. Carved cases fall almost nearly perfectly in the center, offering a beautiful accessory to protect and beautify your device almost effortlessly. The natural aesthetic of wood, the quality of the plastic they use, and the quality of the workmanship demonstrates dedication to creating a great production, and it well worth it.
Interested in a case like this and have a Galaxy S4 or S3? Go check them out here, and support the business! Have comments or experiences of your own? Leave them below!