It’s time to take a hands-on look at the new Alto wood engraved iPhone 14 cases we featured at launch a couple weeks ago now. The brand has been bringing its expertise and creativity in woodworking to a range of gear for over a decade now, but just recently caught our eye with the way it has introduced these techniques to the iPhone accessory space. Leveraging a laser engraving process with an online customizer and a range of hand-selected wood grains, Alto is looking to wrap your Apple handset in natural materials with your own touch of creativity in the process. While 9to5 readers can land an exclusive 10% off orders (details on that below), you’ll want to hit the jump for our latest Tested with 9to5Toys feature to see what the cases have to offer first.
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Hands-on with Alto’s wood engraved iPhone 14 cases
Alto started back in 2011 with the idea of pairing luxury woods and snowboard construction to create truly one-of-a-kind longboards out in Canada. Since then, the family business has taken its expertise in sourcing local, sustainable woods from FSC-certified lumber mills and distributors to the smartphone accessories business.
We select some of the wildest looking woods we can get our hands on, we straighten them, treat them and finish them each by hand so the woodgrain really stands out.
The brand much more recently hit our radar with its use of these natural materials alongside an in-house production technique that allows for “almost limitless customization without the need for wasteful inventory.” Its laser engraving process delivers a collection of debossed patterns and images with an almost burnt in sort of look available on a slew of different wooden patterns and colorways for the back panel of your iPhone case. You can even create your own, choosing the wood type, colorway, and one of its many designs, or opt to upload your own imagery for a truly custom laser engraved iPhone 14 case (as well as previous-generation models and a number of different Android handsets).
Here’s a closer look at the spec sheet:
- Real wood back with water/scratch resistant finish
- High definition laser carved engraving that will never fade
- Protective outer rubber case with textured sides for added grip
- Designed to fit your Smartphone perfectly (Fingerprint reader access for Pixel models)
- Keeps your phone safe
- Works with tempered glass screen protectors for added screen protection
- 100% compatible with Qi wireless/MagSafe charging
Clearly the star of the show with the Alto wood engraved iPhone 14 cases is the natural materials, the various grain patterns the brand offers, and the unique look of the carving process. While not overly rough to the touch, Alto’s process does seem to leave the feel of the wood intact more so than some of the other entirely refined wood cases I have experienced in the past. Sometimes they are so processed and smooth it almost gives off a synthetic vibe with the look of wood more than actually feeling like you have a handmade piece of nature wrapped around your device, but that’s not the case here. In this regard, the whole Alto approach is quite impressive to me.
The Waterfall Bubinga delivers a truly natural swirling pattern that really looks unique, organic, and interesting (the darker brown wood pattern seen in the imagery throughout this post). The more flat colored Maples give off that stained wood treatment look you might find in a quaint family shop on the side of the road out in the country somewhere. And no matter which wood pattern you might go with, the laser engraving takes them all up to another level, whether it be one of the many gallery or wilderness-style designs the brand offers or something entirely bespoke from your own imagination (the brand was nice enough to etch in the 9to5 logo on the stained white model for the purposes of this review).
The cases themselves – the wood treatment is essentially used as the back panel of a typical plastic iPhone case – enters with a sort gummy, flexible TPU build. I would categorize this element of the case as nothing overly special, but entirely functional, snug-fitting, and really allowing the wooden engraved art to shine.
One thing to keep in mind here is that Alto is employing, if it wasn’t already obvious from the imagery, a complete camera array cover built-in to the case. That essentially means the color of your iPhone 14 is completely covered with about as much of the camera rig protected as possible without getting in the way of your picture-taking. I, for one, don’t mind this choice as it allows one to completely change the look of the device, choosing any color for the wooden case back without having to take into consideration how that little pop of color on the iPhone showing through the camera port will come into play. Sometimes you see cases you love but, in the end, won’t want to use because they don’t look as nice with your choice of iPhone colorway, but once again that’s not the case here. On the other hand, some folks love that as it can, admittedly, look really nice. So this is just something to consider when opting for the Alto cases.
I would have liked to see these beautiful wood case backs mounted on a higher quality frame, not to mention some kind of softer interior lining – it’s essentially a naked TPU treatment on the inside – but that would likely make the handmade cases far more expensive and shoot them up into a more premium lite sort of price range. They already aren’t the most affordable cases, especially if you start customizing them, so I can understand Alto’s choice to keep things as inexpensive as possible for the customers while maintaining that small handcrafted family business approach through and through.
And remember, 9to5 readers can use code 9TO5MAC at checkout to knock 10% off any order.
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