Although I traditionally carry my iPhone without a case, the Al13 bumper by designed by m adds a layer of protection while remaining minimal and stylish.
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Review: Al13 bumper by designed by m



Just as highlighted the other day by our very own Kevin Krause, I subscribe to the caseless ideology. That is, I do not carry my iPhone with a case of any sort. Why? I’m a design nerd, and I appreciate the work that Apple has done and I don’t want to clutter that experience. Some cases I’ve seen more than double the thickness of the phone, which not only looks tacky, but surely makes carrying the device around in your pocket a chore.

Just a few days ago I got my hands on the new aluminum bumper created by designed by m. This case is called the Al13, and it is striking. Originally a Kickstarter funded project, designed by m has since launched it’s own store and they sell these terrific bumpers for both the iPhone 4/4S and the iPhone 5. What makes the Al13 bumper so appealing to me, someone who does not like a case on his phone? Let’s dig in.



One thing that is often over looked in most products that you buy, is the packaging. After you get past the glitz printed on the outside, the rest of the packaging is rather dull and unimaginative. Well, designed by m took a cue from Apple and made the packaging of their bumper a joy. First it comes in a nice, sturdy cardboard box that prominently displays their logo. Once you open that, a small black envelope containing front and back screen protectors and a microfiber cloth is the first thing to greet you. Under that, is a black, shiny metal box with a slide of lid. Removing the lid you find the Al13 bumper nestled in a protective material, proudly displayed for you. A very nice touch. I think the detail of the packaging, goes along with the detail of the actual product, and the people designed by m are marketing to- design nerds and people who enjoy finer things.





Instillation of the Al13 case could not be easier. Much like the metal box you opened to get to the bumper, the backside of the bumper slides off, you insert you iPhone in face so that the front lip matches the chamfers, and then slide on the back. That’s it.



The tolerances on the Al13 are some of the best I’ve seen in a case. Once the instillation is complete your iPhone does not wiggle, rattle or shake at all. This is achieved, without the case being any sort of struggle to put on. This alone impressed me.

The Al13 case ads very little bulk, and a marginal amount of weight to your device. With a divide as thin and light as the iPhone 5, one would think that any addition to the body would bring on some noticeable weight. This is not so, at least in my hands.

The chamfers, the nice shiny beveled edge on the iPhone 5, are completely protected. This is likely a good thing, as I chipped mine during one of my escapades. For some, this is an upside, for others who enjoy the finely polished metal as I do, they may miss it once the case has been installed.



The fine folks at designed by m sent me their slate black version (both the iPhone 4/4S version and iPhone 5 come in a slew of colors), to go with my slate black iPhone 5, there is a noticeable color difference. The Al13 case has a noticeable purple hue to it. This is not at all unattractive, but noticeable. This may be a technical limitation, or it may be deliberate to avoid a trademark dispute (Not an absurd thought considering Coca-Cola has a trademark on their specific red). Either way, there is a noticeable difference, at least in regards to the slate black model.

The holes that have been cut out for the iPhone’s buttons are to my mind, a little deep. I would have liked to have seen a slight bevel inward, so that your finger, without looking, could slide into the buttons. Instead, you have to deliberately target the buttons you are pawing for. I have smaller hands, at least compared to most men, and I have to hunt with my fingernail to slide the ringer mute switch. A minor problem, and I realize their design decision- to protect the buttons from harm as well.




Lastly, I must note the cost. For the Al13, which works with the iPhone 5, customers will have to pony up $79.99. Because I’ve never used a case before, I largely stayed blind to the pricing. After asking several people I know who do use cases, and with the inclusion of screen protectors in the Al13 kit, the price tag seems competitive. To me however, the price would be somewhat off-putting, I must admit. Then again, it would seem that designed by m is on sound footing in this regard. Who am I to suggest otherwise?



For me, someone who does not like a case on their iPhone, I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by the Al13 case from designed by m. It has been machined with nearly perfect tolerances, looks and feels right at home with the excellently designed iPhone, and provides good protection from the bumps and scrapes that life will throw at the device. The case tickles all of my design senses- true to itself and the materials it is made of, while providing protection. This is high-caliber case for the high-caliber device you use every day. If you dear reader, are in the market for a case for your iPhone, do yourself a service and take a look at the Al13 case from designed by m.


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