But Y Combinator startup Graft Concepts is trying to cover all your basic needs with one case, using a simple latched frame and interchangeable backplates. Named Leverage, the case’s frame alone is meant to be a bumper for the phone and comes with either a plain backplate for $40 or a card holder (which fits about five cards) for $50. Additional backplates range from $7 to $30 based on design and material.
The idea behind Graft Concepts is to offer easy installation and removal, functionality and a complement to the iPhone’s sleek design. Inspired by watch clasps, the metal latch lets you fit the frame around the phone and then click it into place to avoid any damage from snapping or pulling the case. Co-founder Anthony Ko describes the product as “a Swiss army knife” for iPhone cases, because users can switch out backplates to suit their current needs.
“People’s complaints weren’t being addressed, like phones being damaged from their cases and being really difficult to take off. So that’s how the quick-release mechanism was developed,” co-founder Peter Szucs tells me. “Because of the way we do it — we’re just swapping out the backplate — we can offer it for less so people can buy more sorts of backplates.”
The founders of Graft Concept say the smartphone accessories business is a $20 billion market. But there are many other companies that are either dominant in, or trying to enter, the same space, including OtterBox, Case-Mate and Cygnett.
Known for its thick and protective casing, OtterBox is a main competitor in the iPhone case space. As my first and only iPhone case, the OtterBox has kept my phone well intact, but is a little too clunky for my taste sometimes. The white material of the standard case also makes it really hard to clean, which has been driving me crazy.
OtterBox’s key feature is also something that Graft Concepts isn’t necessarily focused on — protection. As someone who is prone to dropping things, this is my foremost concern. Although the Leverage case has passed drop tests for protection, the thin frame is nowhere near as hefty or reassuring as my OtterBox. But Szucs tells me Graft Concepts is more about functionality and design.
The founders are focusing on personal customization by opening up ideas to the design and 3D community. Graft Concepts has partnered with several sites to offer customization options for backplates, so customers will be able to design their own with Zazzle and COLOURlovers. The company also offers files for 3D printing backplates that work as kickstands and bicycle mounts. Graft Concepts is also working on backplates with a headphone cord wrap and a battery pack.
The company has sold 45,000 cases and is in talks with several retail stores.