Review: Sena Cases WalletBook and WalletSkin for iPhone 3G
Leather iPod and iPhone cases fall into three major categories these days: "play-through" designs that let you see the device's screen, "flip-style" designs that inconveniently cover the screen and controls with a flap that needs to be opened every time you want to use them, and "sleeves," which are little more than gloves that require you to slide the entire device in and out to use it. Today, we're briefly reviewing 17 new cases for the iPod nano 4G, iPod classic, iPod touch 2G, and iPhone 3G from eight different companies. We're starting with nine flip-style cases, including two iPhone 3G cases from Sena Cases: WalletBook ($52) and WalletSkin ($52).
Sena is one of relatively few remaining iPod and iPhone case makers that actually cares about the fashion viability of its leather; most other companies use thin leather or leatherette, but there’s a certain feel that Sena’s cases have—like Vaja’s, and Noreve’s—that suggests they’re just a bit nicer, thanks to a little padding, extra color and texture choices, and stitching. We legitimately like the leathers it picks, even though some of the 13 color and texture combinations are certainly better suited to some users than others. Its cases are packed with fabric carrying bags, and most, including WalletSkin but not WalletBook, also include a detachable rear belt clip.
WalletBook is a flip-style case that opens like a book to reveal the iPhone 3G’s face, as well as two thin pockets for cards and cash. We have no issues with its tailoring, look, or ability to hold the iPhone inside, though it does expose both of the device’s top corners, as well as almost all of its bottom. Two pieces of leather wrap around its speakerphone holes, with openings that generally let you use the mic and speaker without issues.
Though we’re not big fans of any flip case, Sena’s WalletBook design offers two appealing features: the legitimately usable wallet flap, complete with an ID card holder, can easily be doubled back on the iPhone 3G holster part of the case when you want to make phone calls, as well as serving as a simple video stand if you need it. It’s a nice female-friendly design that can be color-selected to look uncommonly nice with a purse, and even serve as a simple pocketable alternative to one for someone who needs to carry only a couple of cards and the iPhone 3G around.
WalletSkin is a very different case: it’s an unusual hybrid of a play-through case design with a full-sized rear flap, serving as a four-pocket wallet rather than as a traditional Sena MagnetFlipper PDA-style case. In terms of functionality, it’s an even better wallet than the WalletBook, and doesn’t betray its secret compartment to strangers except on close inspection. Yet, as an iPhone 3G holder, it’s a little lacking.
That’s because Sena has left out the sorts of things great iPhone 3G play-through cases offer: front, top, and bottom protection. Each of these parts of the device are left almost completely exposed, as WalletSkin only covers the 3G’s front bezel and most of its sides, using thin pieces of leather to cover small parts of the top and bottom. Volume buttons are left open, as are the entire screen and Home button—the leather around the screen bulges a bit, as well. Sena is doing a better job of protecting iPhone 3G’s back and any cards inside than the rest of the device; when the flap’s closed, the camera is sealed off entirely, as well, which is unusual for an iPhone case.
This is one of those rare situations where we prefer the flip-front version of a case to one that’s substantially play-through in design. The reason is pretty clear: WalletBook does a better job by flip-style standards than WalletSkin does by play-through ones. Given that they’re priced the same, you’ll get a lot better iPhone 3G protection for the dollar with WalletBook than WalletSkin, but the latter case offers more wallet if that’s what you’re looking for—it’s really a mini-wallet with a very simple iPhone harness slapped on to one side. A future WalletSkin with superior iPhone coverage could be a really nice case, but for now, it’s worthy only of our limited recommendation.