Tribeca Artisan Wood Case – iPhone 4/4S

Tribeca Wood iPhone Case with a mirror to show top and front

Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: This is a very early review.

The Long Version: Part of the fun of having an iPhone is being able to dress it up. Tribeca's "Artisan Wood Case" is the fourth case that I've bought in the ten months that I've owned my phone, and I picked it out because I wanted a slim snap-on case that wasn't just the usual plastic.

The descriptions on the website and on the box say that it's a genuine wood case, but of course it's not. It's a genuine plastic case with a wood insert – there's a big difference between that and the claim that it "wraps your iPhone 4 or 4S in elegantly hand-crafted natural material". But the case is still very nicely made and nobody who has seen it has argued with its price, which is a fair bit higher than what a standard plastic snap-on case would command.

The sides are a hard plastic with a slightly grippy coating, with large areas left uncovered for ports and buttons, and the edges of the case are raised above the face of the phone for protection when it's set down. The wood inlay across the back panel is nice to touch and provides a good grip, with smoothly rounded corners and a natural finish that adds to its charm. The fit is very secure to the phone, and I really have no complaints after its first week of service. I'll update this review if and when that changes.

The Tribeca case is quite slim, and while it provides a solid grip for the phone, it's nobody's idea of a MilSpec MachoBox™. This isn't a 'protective' case. Of course, anyone who says "I dropped my phone and my MilSpec MachoBox™ totally saved it!" is an idiot for boasting about an unverified assertion. The only way to prove that particular brag is to immediately uncase the phone and drop it again – and at that point, no matter what happens, there's just no way to escape being an idiot. It's always best to handle the phone with a certain amount of care from the very beginning.

Tribeca Wood iPhone Case on black leather to show visual contrast

The maple case that I bought is really good looking. There aren't many things that bring me spontaneous compliments, but this is one of them. The hipster dude in the Apple store was the most enthused about it, and only stopped talking about how great it looks and how he hadn't seen it before when I asked him about his band.* That's a very helpful hipster distraction technique – there's always a band.

And while I have no love for the Apple Store, this is a case to buy in person if at all possible, because the wood grain for each copy is going to be different. The Maple pattern generally is very nice, so it's more a matter of picking a favourite than avoiding a lemon, but it's a good option to have.

There are also grey and black stains available, and while I suppose someone out there must love them, I found them a poor alternative to the classic Maple. Keep in mind that I'm the guy who went into a clothing store that's a bastion of vivid patterns and plaids and walked out with polo shirts in light grey, dark grey, and black. So when I don't like the black or grey wood case, that should be a pretty solid 'try before you buy' warning.

Finally, one more aside: Tribeca is an interesting choice for a company name. Taken from the neighbourhood in lower Manhattan, it evokes hip urbanity, which is good. However it also makes the brand very hard to find with Google – either Search or Maps. My friends at Wikipedia put the maker's address, 665 Broadway, solidly outside of the proper Tribeca neighbourhood. And a quick look for information on the case's credited designer – "nu4u" [sic] – turns up a large number of second-hand stores, but not much else. I suppose it's hard to be unique these days.

* Of course I did no such thing – I'd never imply interest by asking personal questions. He actually segued to talking about his band all on his own, but still, it is a handy trick to know.

last updated 4 july 2012


  1. In a couple of months if you're looking for another wood case, my wife got the Grove Bamboo case (http://www.grovemade.com/product/iphone-case/#plain-iphone-case) for her 4S.

    By most objective standards it's a below-average case: it doesn't lock closed very tightly and the ports are so tight that you can use only official Apple headphones and chargers with the case on.

    But it's soooo pretty.

  2. Sometimes pretty is enough, and that sure is pretty. Thanks for the tip.


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