By Todd Bernhard on Thu, 12/02/2010
Wondering what to get that special someone? You know, the guy who has everything? Well, you can be pretty sure he doesn't have a JackBack because they just became available for pre-order! JackBacks are custom wood replacement backs for your iPhone 4, available in cherry, maple, walnut or mahogany. You can have your JackBack laser etched with a custom design for only $10 more than the $89 base price for a truly unique gift.
Don't mistake JackBacks for a wooden case or add-on 'skin'. You actually remove the glass back using the screwdriver JackBacks sends you. While you admire your naked iPhone 4, you will notice the battery is exposed. JackBacks also sells a replacement battery for just $30, which is a bargain compared to Apple's non-AppleCare price of $100, so that's something to keep in mind. You replace the back with the JackBack, tighten the screws and then should store your original glass back and screwdriver in case you need to bring your iPhone to Apple for warranty service, etc.
JackBacks are the brainchild of Adam Baumgartner. I interviewed Adam just before the product was released and now that JackBacks are available for order, here is our discussion along with some sample photos.
1) What motivated you to do this?
Several things motivated me to start Jackbacks. I love my iPhone 4, I love to mod and I've been wanting to start a small business. When I first got my iPhone 4 I was frustrated with the glass back. It never stays clean, scratches fairly easily and just doesn't feel right in my hand. I was very close to ordering a case from grovemade, but I remember having my 3GS in a case and I couldn't stand it. As a solution, I started exploring third-party back replacements. Everything I came across seemed cheap and junky -- there were a few that I liked, but at this point I had my mind set on wood. Then I got the idea to make one myself. I did research, ordered the parts and started working. The first one I made was completely handcrafted with a hand saw, mini drill and a lot of sanding. It took me about five hours to make, but when it was done I was totally in love -- that's when I started thinking business.
Another big motivator for me is a guy named Gary Vaynerchuck. He is a business developer and wine entrepreneur. I'm currently re-listening to his audio book "Crush It" for like the fourth time. Also, Ben Heck is always inspiring.
2) Have you ever done something like this before?
As far as craft, art, mod. Yes. I've always been modifying things, taking them apart, adding stuff to them, ripping parts off, making them my own. You can definitely see this in my car, my bike, my motorcycle, pretty much anything I get my hands on. I was playing with the idea of a wood laptop for a while -- like a wood MacBook Air would be awesome!
As far as business, I did a small business experiment for an entrepreneurship class I took last year. The project was called "The $20 Business," and it was pretty much what it sounds like. We had $20 to use to come up with a small business concept, write up the plans, present it to the class and then run it. I came up with an idea to sell little zombie plushies -- I called it zombiepals. A friend of mine had shown me a way to make these little zombies out of old stretch gloves, a little bit of yarn, buttons and paint. I went full-on into production and marketing, threw up a quick website and ended up making about $300 in three months. That class and experiment were so fun and exciting, I loved every minute of it (except all the sewing). That's when I decided I wanted to run my own business and be my own boss, doing something that I love. That's what's important to me -- I want it to be something that I love, working on JackBacks is really fun and exciting. I've definitely been loving it so far.
3) What is your background? Technical? Woodworking? Both? I see you're into bicycling and lasers!
I graduated in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from the University of Cincinnati's school for Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. In school I worked on a lot of different types of art, video, animation, photography, sculpture and other multimedia projects. It was a time in my life that really got my creative juices flowing. I remember creating and critiquing and just really loving it.
I currently work for Miami University in Ohio, creating online learning activities and games for college students. I do a lot of video, flash, and web design and am a total tech geek. I follow all of the gadget and tech blogs, blow all my money on shiny gadgets and am seriously addicted to my iPhone. I'm also a self-proclaimed Apple Fanboy.
I'm relatively new to the type of woodworking I'm doing with JackBacks but definitely have lots of experience working with wood and wood structures. When I was younger I rode BMX bikes with my friends and we used to build all different kinds of ramps, quarter pipes, half pipes and box jumps. I also worked construction with my father for four or five years in college, so my construction and craft skills are definitely well-practiced. In school I did various woodworking and sculpture projects.
With JackBacks, things are more focused. Craft is extremely important to me and there are a lot of different elements that have to come together to make things work properly. Over the past few months I've been teaching myself everything I can about delicate woodworking. I've learned a lot about structure, sealants, sanding, finishes, the way wood reacts to temperature and moisture, and have applied this knowledge to the construction and production of JackBacks.
I love bikes -- I've been riding bikes pretty much my entire life. I rode BMX as a kid and into my early adulthood and then got into road bikes and fixed gear. It's all about fun when you get on a bike and I freakin love it. When I ride my bike it makes the world seem so much simpler. It reminds me that we put things in motion -- that things don't just happen, we have to make them happen.
As for lasers ... I'm not a laser geek or anything but I definitely do have a newfound appreciation for them. I use a laser cutter to cut JackBacks because it gives super precise results that are consistent and work perfectly every time. Just watching that laser cut and etch is amazing. I mean It's just so cool, you gotta love it.
4) Why "JackBacks" if your name is Adam? I'm guessing lumberjack, right?
You guessed correct. I was going to go with LumberjackBacks but thought it was a bit too long and I like the way JackBacks sounds. When working on what to name this wood iPhone thing I went through a lot of different names, even the super-creative "Wood iPhone Backs." I really liked the idea of the lumberjack as a sort of mascot and I also wanted the name to be a bit more creative. I think the name will make a lot more sense when people see the character and logo.
5) Tell me more about the battery and stylus. Apple charges $100 for a battery swap if you don't have AppleCare so this is attractive if/when needed. Or if you're one of the unfortunate ones who did break the glass back, why not improve rather than pay to replace it with a new glass back!
I totally believe that Apple does a lot of stuff right, but $100 for a new phone battery is just wrong. The battery doesn't cost nearly that much and the replacement is a breeze. It only takes about two minutes to replace the battery and I figure that people who are buying jackbacks are already willing to DIY. Why not offer a battery replacement? It's fast, super easy, and they already have the back of their phone off.
The stylus is something I just started working on. I've always wanted an iPhone stylus for sketching applications and I recently bought a cheapo one and am loving it. It's just nice to use in drawing apps because using my finger feels funky and doesn't give me the results I'm looking for. So I found that I can just buy the capacitive touch piece for the tip of the stylus and got the idea of making a wood stylus to match the wood backs. I'm still experimenting and am not sure what exactly the stylus will be. If things go well it will be a customizable wood stylus with capacitive touch. If it doesn't work out how I plan then I'll probably still offer a stylus in the JackBacks store, it will just be a simple plastic one.
JackBacks are available for order at http://www.JackBacks.com.