Flip-closed leather iPod and iPhone cases continue to appear at a staggering pace, but unfortunately, innovation remains elusive: other than small changes to their shapes and materials, the latest offerings are no better than last year’s, and from our perspective are even less worthwhile given that they limit your access to the device’s increasingly important screens. Today, we look briefly at twelve flip-closed leather cases from five companies — Belkin, Capdase, CoverCase, Pacific Rim Technologies, and XtremeMac — but note up front that the only marginally impressive features of any of them are their leather detailing and protectiveness. This review is for Pacific Rim Technologies’ Leather Jacket for iPhone ($40).
All twelve of the cases operate in the same general fashion: they hold your iPod or iPhone inside a tailored leather holster that could conceivably be its own case, except for the absence of one or two sides worth of leather. The cases then shut with a front-covering flap that also covers all or part of one of the device’s sides. How that side is covered typically impacts accessory access, while the front’s coverage precludes screen and control access: you need to open the case every time you want to use the iPod or iPhone inside.
At some point, almost every case we receive starts to look like something else we’ve previously seen, and the Leather Jacket for iPhone takes its cues from three prior product lines: Targus’s long-discontinued
Flip Case for iPod, Case-Mate’s Leather Flip Case for iPhone, and Vaja’s iVolution Top Holster for iPhone. All of these cases used a semi-novel design that integrates side coverage into both the front and rear halves of the case, which snap together to protect almost all of the device’s body.
PRT’s angle is basically to offer a cheaper alternative to the $70 Vaja design—which to its higher-priced credit, can be customized in a wide variety of colors—that’s closer in price to the $30 Targus iPod and $35 Case-Mate cases. The Leather Jacket uses nice but not stunning black Sheepskin leather wrapped around an inner hard shell, plus black velvet lining to keep the case from scratching any of the iPhone’s chrome surfaces. It also includes a detachable two-tone metal belt clip—a feature you’d pay more to get in the Vaja case, but commonly see in $30-40 iPod and iPhone cases, like Case-Mate’s. Unfortunately, PRT’s clip is unusually loose and rotates freely around rather than ratcheting like most of its competitors.
We can’t complain much about PRT’s approach to iPhone protection, which is superior to Case-Mate’s. Though the side and top controls are exposed at all times along with the headphone port and rear camera, the case covers everything else save iPhone’s bottom corners, using bottom holes for pass-through iPhone speaker and microphone access. Gaining uninhibited bottom and screen/control access is as easy as flipping open the front flap; you can even conceivably dock iPhone in a Universal Dock if you’re willing to flip the case open and adjust it a little during insertion.
Our only major issues with the case are the typical flip ones—we don’t like having to open the front to use the iPhone—and the price. Pacific Rim’s $40 tag is too steep for a case this plain, and though it’s considerably less expensive than the Vaja Top Holster design, there’s nothing here to merit any sort of premium over the good $30 playthrough leather designs we’ve tested; you get better protection than from the cheaper Case-Mate, but you pay more for it. Consider this case a better deal if it does on sale or appears in more interestingly detailed variants; as is, it’s nice, but plain and not as convenient for daily use as we’d prefer.
Company and Price
Company: Pacific Rim Technologies
Model: Leather Jacket