I‘m not a huge fan of bumpers or cases for the iPhone. Apple did a great job of making it look pretty, so who in their right mind would cover that up? It took no time for reality to strike; the drop of my iPhone put things into perspective very quickly. While the bumper/case battle rages on, I’m still left with the question of whether either is actually necessary or if we as a society need to get over being so darn clumsy.
Since we won’t be fixing the sickness called being a klutz, the AL13 by ThinkbyM is a thin frame that looks like it was made for the iPhone 5. Not like most cases and bumpers, which protrude edge to edge away from Apple’s sleek enclosing, the AL13 adds a slight layer of protection on the most commonly attacked corners and edges. It comes in six colors, most discrete or at least matching the iPhone’s white/black color scheme. As life would have it, my review unit is the most colorful, and it draws too much attention to itself.
The experience of the AL13 is above and beyond what you would expect from a basic iPhone bumper. The aluminum box it comes in is the kind you’d tell your kids to keep their fake jewelry in, the kind that’s too nice to throw away but also isn’t exactly useful. It certainly sells the case, made of what feels like the same aluminum. But this exoskeleton is less than expected, if only because it isn’t the same aluminum.
Within 30 minutes of using the AL13, I dropped my iPhone 5 (admittedly on purpose from an unsafe height without a case/bumper). No damage, and the frame still glistened a shiny oxidized nickel-green. But once I took the AL13 off and moved a laptop on top of it by accident, the frame bent. In fact, the bumper’s frame gets it’s strength from the iPhone, which doesn’t bode well for all of the butterfingers out there.
That’s not to say the AL13 lacks definition; I’ve been intentionally treating my iPhone poorly to test out the bumper, and I’m more than satisfied that it will protect the smartphone. If you’re the type to leave the case/bumper on at all times, you’ll be happy with the AL13 assuming you pick a color that works with your phone and tastes. However, if you’re like me and take cases on and off constantly to work with stands like the SETA, then the AL13 is too easy to bend out of shape. The slide-out back is the thinnest slab of metal and the weakest link; it’s both fun to swipe open and closed and it’s the easiest to accidentally bend.
For $80, the AL13 is a hard sale. As strong as this bumper is when it’s on your iPhone, if you take your bumper/case off regularly or expect too, this one is too easy to bend into obscurity. It also isn’t the thinnest bumper on the market, and in fact there are full cases that are thinner. Cases and bumpers may be made and marketed for the neighborhood klutz, but I’d argue that the AL13 is more appropriate for professionals who drop their phone on a table. The style, look, and design all mesh with that kind of product. And for protection, it does a good job too, without feeling like a brick in the pocket.
Bottom line: A minimalist iPhone bumper that boasts a metal case. But is it strong enough for your phone?