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What does $240 get you in an iPhone case?

Dan Frakes | May 2, 2014
As usual, the aisles at last month's Macworld/iWorld show were chock full of vendors hawking iPhone cases.

As usual, the aisles at last month's Macworld/iWorld show were chock full of vendors hawking iPhone cases.

After years of such shows, along with countless press releases in our inboxes each day, Macworld editors are pretty jaded about cases. But while browsing the booths on the Expo floor, one particular case caught my eye — initially because of its seemingly outrageous price tag, but then, after a closer look, because of its design.

Squair is a Japanese brand that currently has physical retailers in only its home country and Hong Kong, though it does sell to the U.S. via an Amazon storefront. The company was exhibiting at Macworld/iWorld to introduce its brand and products to potential U.S. customers.

Among a slew of Japanese-inspired cases and accessories, including a tiered display of phone-charging batteries with adorable faces and shapes, Squair's booth featured a small, raised platform with a sign that read something to the effect of "Regular price: $240 Show special: $120." (Who says you can't find great bargains on the Expo floor any more?)

Looking more closely, I expected to discover Swarovski-crystal-encrusted cases, or high-end, hand-sewn leather coverings. Instead, I saw several iPhone 5s models that looked almost bare. I realized that Squair wasn't selling a traditional case, but rather a bumper (a protective accessory that wraps around the sides of the phone). Specifically, Squair was selling its Curvacious Bumper — a name that, besides being misspelled, doesn't really do the bumper justice. True, it's rounded, but it's about as sleek and svelte a bumper as you'll find. The company dubs it "the ultimate Made in Japan'" product for its design and craftsmanship.

Let's get this out of the way up front: Unless you're a pretty wealthy person, $240 is a crazy sum of money to spend on an iPhone case, let alone a bumper. Even at the show price of $120, it's pricey. But I was curious what, exactly, that $120 — for the lucky show-goer — would get you, so we asked Squair for a sample to test.

The Bumper is undeniably impressive. Like Apple's own designs, it's precision machined from a single piece of duralumin metal. The company says it uses airplane-grade duralumin A7075, which is an aluminum alloy made with copper, manganese, and magnesium. The result is a smooth, near-seamless accessory that's surprisingly rugged (Hv400 on the Vickers hardness scale, twice that of the iPhone 5s body, says Squair) while weighing only 14 grams. (Squair claims 18 grams, but we weighed our sample. It's 14.)

The company uses a special anodic-oxide coating procedure it calls "Cani-Mite" to offer the Bumper in versions that exactly match the three colors of the iPhone 5s: black, white (actually silver, for the white iPhone), or gold. (We received the black version.) As you can see from the images here, each bumper almost looks like it's part of the phone. Squair claims this special coating also never shows fingerprints. I don't know about never, but our black sample remained fingerprint free, despite a semi-matte finish that looks like it would easily show skin oil.


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