The iPhone 5 delivered a lot of new things vs. its predecessors, but it also marked Apple’s exit from the bumper game; unlike with the iPhone 4 and 4S, Apple didn’t make a slim band exterior case for this device to protect its delicate edges. Apple’s oversight makes for opportunity for others, however, and the AL13 aluminum iPhone bumper (which comes in both iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 variants) is a prime example of that opportunity which recently debuted on Kickstarter.
The AL13 is made of aerospace-grade aluminum, and machined with chamfered edges (that’s the same thing Apple bragged about with the iPhone 5’s new design, by the way) that adds less than 16 grams to your device’s weight. It comes in sliver, black, red and green (a limited edition color just for Kickstarter backers) and adds very little overall size or mass to the iPhone’s existing design. The inner ring of the aluminum bumper is coated in rubber, in order to both protect your iPhone’s finish and provide an added layer of shock protection to help with falls.
The team behind the AL13 is Designed by m, a new studio led by CEO and founder Lester Mapp. Mapp started out as an entrepreneur at 22, building car accessories in a business that moved from his own bedroom to a dedicated warehouse and office during its first three years. The shift into product design reflects a desire to become more engaged in the hardware creation end of the business, and the AL13 is the first project for his latest venture.
Based on the prototype, Mapp’s decision to change gears was a good one. But if you’ve followed the iPhone’s storied history and know anything about wireless signals, you may have wondered about what effect the AL13 would have on your device’s cellular connection. The team behind AL13 has thought of that too, and posted in a recent backer update that admittedly, the AL13 does incur some signal loss of between 5 and 10 percent, but that compared to the field of metal bumpers out there, they’re beating the average of 20 percent or more. They say they have yet to experience any dropped calls as a result of using the AL13, however, and at least they’re being upfront about the fact that it will have some effect.
In exchange for minor signal loss, the AL13 provides your device with that extra ounce of protection, and with good looks that actually compliment, rather than detract from, your iPhone’s design. It’s available to backers starting at the $45 pledge level (as of this writing, though those spots are limited) and will eventually retail for $80 when it ships, which Mapp and company expect should happen sometime in April 2013.