Review: Case-Mate Leather Flip Case for Apple iPhone
Model: Signature Leather Case
Two years ago, Targus released a couple of then-novel leather iPod cases (Flip Cases for iPod and iPod mini) that added one new twist to the classic "flip-open" case formula: not only did the hard reinforced cases fold closed to protect the iPod's screen and back, but they also used side clips that interlocked to protect the iPod's sides. We've never been fans of cases that preclude instant access to an iPod's screen or controls, but we did appreciate the innovation and protectiveness of these designs, and rated them B+ at their $30 prices.
Case-Mate’s Leather Flip Case ($35) brings the same idea to the iPhone, with a few twists and a slightly higher price. This design still offers front, back, and side protection with hard-reinforced black leather, but Case-Mate offers two different versions, one with Nappa leather, and the other an Italian Pebblestone. It also fixes one of our biggest complaints about the Targus case, namely its ever-present rear belt clip, which Case-Mate replaces with a detachable plastic clip and loose ratcheting nub system. As a result, the Leather Flip Case for iPhone can be made thinner, and more pocketable than Targus’s earlier iPod designs.
But the Leather Flip Case also takes a major step or two back from Targus’s version in protectiveness. Stated in a positive way, you now not only get full-time access to the iPhone’s top, as well as the speaker and microphone on the bottom, which have small slits in the leather to permit slightly obstructed use while the case is closed, but also see substantial exposed parts of iPhone’s sides as well. The less positive way to view this is that more than half of each side is uncovered, as is the camera on iPhone’s back. Consequently, the Leather Flip Case doesn’t feel as much like a full case as Targus’s did when it was closed, enveloping both of the iPod’s sides; as it reveals much of the iPhone’s chrome bezel and other metal parts of its body, it feels incomplete, despite its higher price.
Case-Mate offsets the case’s shortcomings in a few ways. It includes a clear film screen protector, an application squeegee, and a cleaning cloth in the package, which aren’t of tremendous value here but aren’t bad pack-ins, either. The aforementioned belt clip and nub are entirely acceptable, and provide a simple way to mount iPhone on your belt.
Finally, besides your ability to choose between the Nappa and Italian Pebblestone leathers, you can also choose to expand the Leather Flip Case with an optional Signature iPhone Holster that comes in the same two texture options. The Holster sells for $25 alone, or is bundled with the Leather Flip Case for a total of $50—a $15 premium when purchased together. It similarly uses a hard reinforced set of side clips, covered by a combination of the aforementioned leather and a soft suede interior.
In short, the Signature iPhone Holster is an oddity: it cannot be used without the Leather Flip Case to hold an unencased iPhone, a la holsters and half-holsters we’ve reviewed from other companies, and basically serves solely to let you belt-mount the Leather Flip Case. However, if you’ve read the Leather Flip Case review, you know that the Leather Flip Case already includes its own detachable belt clip, so a separate holster to perform the same function is not really much of an addition. All that’s actually new is the 360-degree ratcheting belt clip on the back, which twists stably in 15-degree increments, unlike the loose-hanging clip on Leather Flip Case’s rear, and thereby lets you mount your iPhone horizontally or vertically rather than just vertically.
This wouldn’t even be an enhancement if Case-Mate had followed the lead of most of its competitors, and included a more stable belt clip with the main case. Similarly, while the Signature iPhone Holster might have made more sense if it further covered iPhone’s body, it doesn’t; instead, it just adds bulk to the existing design.
It’s ultimately your call as to whether doubling up on the leather is necessary or wise, but in our view, as the combination adds considerable size and little additional functionality to the svelte iPhone, the Holster’s not an especially worthwhile purchase—it’s only okay. Alone, we view the Leather Flip Case as a small step down from the original Targus design based on its lower protectiveness and higher price, but it’s still a pretty good case assuming that you’re willing to live without playthrough access to the iPhone’s screen and controls. We prefer Case-Mate’s Signature Leather Case (iLounge rating: B+), which offers better protection, looks, and play-through convenience for the same price.