If you didn't know by now, I'm a sucker for organic, especially wooden, phone skins and cases. Though the last case I reviewed was sort of a bust, this time I'm pleased to see a product that doesn't break down at the slightest touch.
Carved's wood skins for the iPhone 4 and 4S adhere to the front and back of your handset. They're all made in the United States and come in several designs, ranging from a gruff cowboy to a cute monster. For $39, however, you can send in your own creation and have it carved in a customized skin of your own.
The skins are thin and lightweight -- together, both front and back plates weigh a third of an ounce. Though they're durable and splashproof, they're not indestructible. While the unibody skins have no seams, and therefore stay in one piece better, some of Carved's products are designed with several pieces of wood. (Its puzzle skin, for example, is customizable with up to seven different types of wood: bamboo, padauk, purpleheart, sycamore, olive ash, paldao, and redwood burl). Understandably, when I bent and twisted these skins, the seams would slightly give way. But once applied to a steady flat surface, pieces fit together well.
And that's one of my favorite things about these wood skins. Even if the skin is made up of several wooden parts, all the edges snugly fit together and the cuts are precise. In addition to matching with the handset's edges, holes in the front plate matched perfectly with the device's home button, proximity sensor, front-facing camera, and in-ear speaker. One skin showed a map of the world, and I was impressed by the intricate cutting of the continents.
Applying the product was a breeze. Since it's thicker than the usual sticker skin, air bubbles and wrinkles aren't an issue. And if you mess up, the glue underneath the plate leaves behind no residue. Simply pry with your fingernails in its corners to lift it.
But, you can't have it all. Because the glue isn't as sticky or strong, the front plate's left and right bezels can be pulled outward. At worst, a strong tug may break the plate altogether, but in my experience, bending the edges out simply lifted the rest of the plate off the iPhone.
In general, if you're fond of wooden phone accessories but don't want something as clunky as a full case, Carved's skins may be what you're looking for. Plain units without any carved design are reasonably priced at $19, but the more intricate ones have higher prices (the puzzle design, which I find incredibly ugly, will cost you $34, for example). The company also makes skins for the iPad, Kindle, and Kindle Fire as well, but personally, I find the aesthetic looks best on a smaller scale.