Review: Incase Leather Folio for iPhone
Though the "folio" style case design wasn't incredibly common for iPods, the concept -- a horizontal enclosure with a stationary rear belt clip and top flap -- has proved extremely popular with iPhone case makers. No fewer than five companies (Body Glove, DLO, Incase, Incipio, and Marware) have already debuted folios for iPhone, so we look at the two newest of them today: Incase's Leather Folio for iPhone ($40), and Marware's C.E.O. Premiere for iPhone ($30).
If it wasn’t for the logos that are generally found on their faces, you’d be hard-pressed to tell most of the folio designs apart. The idea is always the same: open the top flap by loosening Velcro or magnets, insert the iPhone on its side, and close the case, revealing iPhone’s headphone port on one side and its microphone and speaker on the other. Generally, but not always, a portion of iPhone’s metal side is visible through a hole in the case’s bottom, which is designed to make removal of the device more straightforward. Notably, none of the folios permits iPhone control or screen access while inside, and each tends to expose portions of its corners.
Incase’s Leather Folio doesn’t break this mold at all, but it does look nicer in our view than any of its competitors. Combining leather with either black ballistic nylon or brown canvas on the outside, and an isobar/topographic map-styled suede interior, Leather Folio seals shut with two Velcro tabs and has a leather-covered, firm metal belt clip on the back. Our ballistic nylon-topped sample looked extremely sharp, with beautiful white contrasting stitching and a matching Incase logo tag on its front right. iPhone’s headphone port, Sleep/Wake button, microphone and speaker are exposed, while the Dock Connector is fully covered.
Even though we’re not fans of the folio-style approach to practical access to iPhone’s controls, we really liked Leather Folio’s execution. You can put iPhone inside with the headphone port facing either left or right, and the case just looks as clean as can be in design. The only issue is its price: at $40, you’re paying a $20 premium over the genre’s least expensive offerings, and a $10 premium over designs with equivalent functionality.
A good example is Marware’s C.E.O. Premiere, which for only $30 delivers almost identical protection, and looks that one of our editors preferred to Incase’s. Premiere uses slightly puffed black Nappa Leather for its magnetic-latched front lid, which uncharacteristically bears a plain metal Marware name badge in its center; the rest of the outside is unpadded but reinforced black leather, with a light gray leather on the interior. It’s not flashy, and the generic idea could use more inspiration from Marware’s design team, but those who appreciate traditional designs will like it.
Unlike Leather Folio, inserting your iPhone with the headphone port facing left appears to be the preferred orientation here, as Premiere’s left side offers protection for the rest of iPhone’s top when that’s done, and exposes the microphone and speaker properly on the right. That extra protection makes up for the less protective bottom, which has an even larger “push the iPhone out” hole than on the Leather Folio; a slightly smaller but still firm metal belt clip is found on the case’s rear.
Of all of the folio-style designs we’ve seen, Marware’s is the simplest, but probably also the most classically classy. Though we preferred the puffier body of the DLO HipCase (iLounge rating: B-), C.E.O. Premiere protects more of iPhone’s body, uses curves and magnets that contribute to a more upscale overall feel than the alternatives, and includes a film screen protector and cleaning cloth just for the sake of doing so. Plus, it’s less expensive than the HipCase, and does a better job of earning its $30.
While most of us would pick Incase’s Leather Folio on looks, C.E.O. Premiere is definitely a superior value for the dollar. Neither of these cases is ideal for instant screen or control access, but we applaud both companies for doing more than the bare minimum to protect and class up the iPhone.