What makes the perfect aluminium bumper?

Lester Mapp on the AL13 iPhone case and Kickstarter

There's people who would never put anything on their iPhone and those who won't leave their home without a cheap plastic case and a screen protector. The third option are some type of connoisseurs; the iPhone users who know Apple should have made a metallic version of their popular bumpers. Since the selection of good premium cases is either too pricy or too flawed, there must be a significant group of people who would back the right solution.

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Crowdfunding expensive accessories that never ship the way they intended is not even newsworthy. From the ElevationDock to the i+Case we know platforms like Kickstarter are full of projects that inevitably lead to disappointments. But what happens when someone comes up with a design that respects the style of the iPhone 5, doesn't add bulk, is easy to put together and is made in high quality aluminium?

Today we chat with Lester Mapp, the entrepreneur who has managed to design, crowdfund and ship the AL13 — a premium-looking aluminium iPhone bumper that doesn't cost the earth.

Seeing the impressive amount of smartphone cases for sale, why do we need one more?

When we started thinking about the design for AL13 is was for purely selfish purposes. We had always felt that there should be an alternative for people like us who wanted some form of protection for their phone but did not want to cover it up, change its shape or weigh it down. So we decided to come up with our own solution; something that could look like it actually came with the iPhone.

How is AL13 different from other alternatives available? What makes this case different from other, more well-known players in the market?

AL13 is slim, extremely lightweight and built to blend in with the look of the iPhone. Unlike alot of other aluminium bumpers, it doesn’t require screws or tools for installation. It features a Simple Slide Cover that just slides on and locks into place for easy installation and removal.

From all the aluminium cases I'm sure you have tried, which three are the best three you could see yourself using everyday?

Well, AL13 would have to be at the top of the list of course. And the truth is before AL13 our phones went naked.

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How did you come up with this design?

We looked at everything we ourselves would want in an iPhone bumper and paid close attention to common complaints of iPhone users. We knew we wanted a clean classic look. We knew we wanted something was premium and that would match the precise look and finish of the iPhone. We also wanted something that wouldn’t add to the weight and size of the iPhone after Apple went through so much trouble to make the iPhone 5 lighter and thinner. So that was the starting point.

Is there any manufacturing challenges behind it?

The biggest challenge in manufacturing was finding the raw materials and manufacturer at a price that would allow us to produce a high quality product but still within a price range that would make it unreachable.

What were the highs and lows of the KickStarter campaign? What has this platform allowed you that you wouldn't be able to accomplish otherwise?

Being involved with Kickstarter was an awesome experience. It’s really a rush to put your design out there and have people like it and get behind you. Of course a major high for us was quadrupling our funding target, but it was really the response from the backers that we were most excited about along the way. They were like an extension of the team; giving suggestions and words of encouragement. They even picked the two additional colors we ended up adding to production run. Another high was being able to ship our product to the backers on time.

On the other side of that coin though is where I would say the lows of the campaign came in. Sometimes reading some of the criticisms that inevitably come in is tough. But you take the good with the bad, focus on the positive, take the good advice and continually strive to better your designs and your products.

What are the plans for designed by m ?

We have two really exciting projects in the pipeline. The first is almost complete and we are getting ready to launch it soon, so look out for the announcement. It’s a simple but awesome design and it provides a great solution for a common problem that many of people have. We can’t wait for everyone to see it!!

Thanks a lot for your time Lester. I have my own AL13 case and will definitely send you some feedback once I've had time to use it for some weeks.

The AL13 is available now for sale at designed by m.