Friday, November 22, 2013

West 280 iOpener Review and Giveaway

The West 280 iOpener is one part iPhone case, one part bottle opener, and two parts awesome. And even better, it got started in Montana!

Let me start by saying that since West280 sent me a product sample to test I haven’t taken it off my iPhone 4, and more than a handful of times I was in need of a bottle opener only to be pleasantly surprised with remembering I had one right on my phone.

The plastic casing is strong. It’s survived more than one drop. I had a little difficulty putting it on because I had a thick screen protector on my iPhone. The accompanying literature does say that screen protectors may interfere, but I was able to secure it anyway. There are great videos on the company’s website for installing and using the iOpener.

The sliding bottle opener has held up well. A couple times it slides out about an inch while in the pocket (inadvertently covering my camera), but not enough to be a nuisance. I’ve probably opened 50-60 bottles so far and there are no signs of developing weaknesses. In fact, I can’t imagine NOT having this on my phone.

One friend has asked if I’m worried about “gushers” when opening a bottle, but as you will see in the video we shot below, even if a bottle of beer gushed, it would only hit the back of case and not come near the speaker or button, where damage from moisture can occur. The case is easy enough to remove and clean if that happened, too.

Check out how easy this opener is to use:

As we mentioned, this case and company has deep roots in Montana. In fact, it’s not only a Montana-founded product, according to the founders it’s the only iPhone case to be completely made in the USA! Read on below the story about one of the founder’s family history and ties to Montana. It’s fascinating!

Exclusive from West280 iOpener founder, Clay Baker:

iOpener was originally manufactured in Manhattan, Montana, but is now made in the Silicon Valley area in California.

My family can be considered a Montana pioneer family.  My great grandfather Charlie Rowe came up the Missouri River with his two brothers Billy and James on a stern wheeler called the Deer Lodge and landed in Fort Benton.  There wasn't much there at the time, no permanent buildings except for the fort.
Grand Union
My Great Grandfather settled some land and started raising cattle, opened the Overland Bar and later was the Owner of the Grand Union Hotel and mayor of Fort Benton for five terms.  One of the brothers "Billy" was sheriff of Chouteau County and considered more dangerous than the outlaws.
Charlie Rowe
Great-grandfather, Charlie Rowe
He occasionally arrested but mostly killed. The three brothers invested in hotels, bars, cattle, gold mines and ran freight to the gold fields near Dillon, Bozeman and Helena.  There is a book called Pioneer Tales that recounts Charlie Rowe’s life, trading with the natives to get back his kidnapped wife, driving his famous 40-mule train, driving stage for Wells Fargo and more.  
Charlie's brother, Billy, sheriff of Chouteu County
Both of my grandfathers were ranchers but moved to Great Falls when the Dust Bowl and Depression hit.  There are some family stories about members of my family being involved in the moonshine trade during prohibition, but I can't confirm that.  Most likely they were not making liquor but working on the cars moonshiners used for deliveries.  My parents grew up across the street from each other in Great Falls.  I was born in Los Angeles, but as a kid I spent every summer living with my grandparents in Great Falls.  Three months of non-stop fishing, church picnics, swimming at Broadwater Bay, shooting carp along the Missouri with a bow; summers were heaven.  

When I graduated high school I moved back to Montana and started college at the College of Great Falls. After my freshman year I moved to Bozeman to finish my degree.  In 1989, I moved to Sunnyvale, California, to work for a software company that made computer-aided design software. I later worked in product marketing for Netscape, the makers of the Netscape Navigator Internet browser, and then went on to start several companies on my own.  

When my business partner and I started West280 and the development of the iOpener, we needed vendors for corrugated boxes, folding cartons, metal fabrication, thermo-forming and plastic injection molding.  We looked around the Silicon Valley Bay Area but found that costs were simply too high at the time.  

I turned to MSU and through the Manufacturing and Engineering Extension Service at MSU we located a plastic injection molder and a corrugated box maker in the Bozeman area.  All of our iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 products were made there.  In addition to getting iOpener manufactured, we needed to set up our business, get incorporated, etc.  Since my family has a roughly 150-year history of running successful businesses in Montana we decided to incorporate West280 in Montana and found that Montana is actually a very friendly place to start a business.  Today our iPhone 5 version of iOpener is now being made in California, closer to where we live.

Now for the fun part! iOpener has provided Montana Beer Finder with an iPhone 3 and iPhone 5 case. We are giving each one away. All you have to do is comment below with two pieces of information:

1. The Montana beer you can’t wait to open with your new iOpener
2. Which iOpener you want to win, iPhone 3 or iPhone 5 (you can only pick one)
**One entry per person. Void where prohibited. Must be 21 or older.**

A winner for each iOpener case will be drawn on Black Friday (November 29). 

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