Review: Xhibt Handmade Cases for iPad + iPhone
Much like DODOcase and Portenzo before it, Xhibt makes handmade cases for iPads ($60+) and iPhones ($40+) using traditional book binding techniques. Its iPad options are so similar to others we've previously covered that we've chosen to forgo a review of the tablet versions, but the iPhone 4/4S version joins a smaller group of rivals, such as Twelve South's BookBook and Hex's Code Wallet, distinguishing itself with unique exteriors and customization. Available in Classic or Inspiria Metallic finishes -- both of which come in a variety of colors -- the Xhibit Handmade Case is interesting to be sure, but doesn't make a lot of sense for the pocketable device.
Color and texture aside, the first thing you’ll likely notice about this iPhone case is its size: it’s just short of three inches wide, has a height of five inches, and is about three-quarters of an inch thick. The numbers mightn’t make this clear on their own, but these are big differences compared to the 2.31” x 4.5” x 0.37” dimensions of the iPhone 4/4S. Although the encased iPhone could still fit in the front pocket of our jeans, the design is blockier, and the added bulk is evident. Users with tighter pants will likely have a hard time pocketing the case.
We liked the materials Xhibt chose for these cases. The inside is lined with canvas-like material in your choice of colors; regardless of the interior color, Classic always has a black leather exterior, while Inspiria offers five custom sparkly exterior color options. From the outside, the case looks and feels very much like a small book. Custom monogramming of up to seven characters can be had for an $8 premium with either version, and you’ll find the letters printed on the cover’s bottom left corner. The overall quality of the construction is high, and it’s clear that real effort and care are put into assembling each case.
As we’ve seen on similar iPad cases—but not on iPhone ones—a bamboo frame holds the device in place. As with the iPad version, Xhibt uses rubber bumpers at the four corners to grip the iPhone. The glass screen just barely sticks up above the wooden walls, leaving the ports and buttons exposed and usable. Thankfully this includes the camera, but we experienced flash diffusion issues because of how far recessed the lens and flash are. Oversized and L-shaped headphone plugs are also an issue, as they’re blocked by the wooden frame. An elastic band holds the case shut when not in use.
Other than a slightly raised and acutely angled viewing position, the case doesn’t add any additional functionally to the iPhone such as credit card slots—a feature found in BookBook and Code Wallet—so it’s fair to say that this case exists largely because it’s aesthetically distinctive. We’ve never been particularly fond of book-style folios for phones, but there are times when they might make sense, so long as they are reasonably sized and functional. Unfortunately, this particular folio design encumbers normal use of the iPhone and adds too much additional bulk without functional benefits. It’s certainly more affordable and customizable than BookBook and Code Wallet, slightly redeeming factors that aren’t enough to overcome its limited practicality. Unless you’re a true bibliophile, and even then, one who finds the BookBook design to be objectionable for some reason, we wouldn’t recommend it.