For the most part, a phone case really isn't a particularly exciting thing. They have to be especially beautiful in order for them to earn the right to wrap our favourite smartphones.
Thankfully, this pair of laser engraved iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 cases are more than up to the task of keeping our handsets looking good, while stopping them smashing every time we drop them.
Put together by Carved based in Elkhart, Indiana, the cases started life as a tree. The wood used has been selected by Carved for its look and feel and it shows. The iPhone 5 case has a lovely grain which complements the design, whereas the Samsung Galaxy S4 option, with its intricate engraving, uses a cleaner cut of wood.
The Galaxy S4 case really is the standout product here. Carved lets you use your own design, should you be so inclined, but we really like those it has on offer. The detail on the Aztec drawing cut into the wood is astonishing, this really is something you need to see up close to enjoy. If you want to replicate the same design on an iPhone case, then Carved also offers that.
The detail also gives an idea of just what the company's laser cutters are capable of, should you fancy sending in a design of your own. Some of the gaps in the engraving are only a few millimetres apart, so we imagine even the most intricate of drawings could be replicated.
Also worth noting is how"'fresh" our cases were. Carved is clearly a small local business which turns out these lovely cases on demand. So much so that the review units sent to us had the smell of fresh wood still nicely wrapped up in their packaging. Using the iPhone 5 with case as an in-car satnav is like having the best air freshener imaginable for your car.
We will say that Carved could do a bit of work on the actual shape of the plastic case surround. On the Galaxy S4 it didn't sit all that plush with the phone, which means it adds quite a bit of bulk to the handset. Also the lip on either side of the case doesn't extend beyond the screen, which means a face-first drop with the case will probably result in cracked glass.
If you fancy saving some weight, there is the option to go for a bespoke iPhone skin. Carved offers them with designs engraved or just with nice pieces of wood. The olive ash burl option looks rather nice.
Despite being laser cut, these cases have a homemade feel about them which we really like. They bring something unique to the usual metal and plastic world of smartphones and will likely have jealous friends asking more about the case than the Samsung Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5 that sits inside it.
If you are after something for a tablet, Carved also offers iPad cases. It's also worth looking at the Etch laser cut bamboo, which we played with recently and found to be very impressive.