Review: Apple iPhone 5s Case
Alongside its newest flagship handset, the iPhone 5s, Apple has launched the iPhone 5s Case ($39), which is also compatible with the iPhone 5. Though the leather case instantly evokes memories of the company's $99 leather cases for iPods and more recent leather iPad Smart Cover, it's the most affordable leather accessory Apple has yet released. Offering relatively few surprises, the case is available in brown, beige, black, yellow, blue, and PRODUCT (RED) colors -- overall, more subdued shades than the options for the iPhone 5c Case.
Apple clearly was going for simplicity with this design. The case is slim and light, adding less than half an ounce to the weight of the iPhone. It’s made out of a single piece of reinforced, dyed leather, with a sheet of microfiber material lining the inside; notably, the lining is only on the back, stopping short of coming up along the edges. There is one more material used, and that’s a bit of black plastic lining the inside of the rear camera opening, there to diffuse the flash. Strangely, that hole is noticeably smaller than the “keep away” zone Apple dictates should be left around the camera in its own case design guidelines, but it doesn’t lead to any issues. The only ornamentation on the case is an Apple logo, which is embossed in the back. It’s subtle, but a nice way to incorporate the omnipresent symbol.
Apple chose aniline leather for the exterior, a nice, soft material that’s relatively flat rather than grain-textured. The company warns on its packaging and website that the “appearance will change over time as you use it,” but after several days of active use, we haven’t noticed any wear. Leather is notoriously easy to scuff, however, and at this price level it would be hard to imagine the iPhone 5s Case lasting forever. If any major damage appears in the future , we’ll update this review.
Installation and removal is about as easy as it gets, in part due to the fact that while the case is built with a small, protective lip rising over the screen, it doesn’t curl over the front edge at all. The chamfered edges are protected, though. Raised segments of the leather provide access to the volume controls and Sleep/Wake button, and thankfully do so without greatly reducing their tactility. The latter button is dampened a little, but not to the point where it causes any sort of problem.
Along the bottom edge, Apple’s designers went with individual openings for each of the ports, including series of dots corresponding to each microphone and speaker opening. We appreciate this level of protective detail, although there’s one big problem, caused by Apple itself: docking. Unless you’re using a third-party dock such as Twelve South’s HiRise that was made to specifically work with cases following Apple’s design guidelines, you won’t be able to dock your iPhone 5/5s in anything with this case on. Even Apple’s own
iPhone 5s Dock is incompatible.
Ultimately, Apple’s iPhone 5s Case is a a nice option, though not terribly exciting. At $39, it’s relatively inexpensive for real leather, and offers a substantial quantity of coverage. Users who value unobtrusive designs with the look and feel of leather will find this to be a worthy case, and it’s good enough for the price to deserve our general recommendation. Most people will be better off with a less expensive or even better-designed plastic or rubber option, but we wouldn’t dissuade someone who prefers this more refined material from considering Apple’s option.