If nothing else, Twelve South’s key marketing phrase set the right expectations for the new SurfacePad for iPhone 5 ($35): “Don’t call it a case.” And you shouldn’t, as SurfacePad is actually just a black, red, or white Napa leather sticker that adheres to the back of your iPhone — a design we first saw originating from Asian OEMs after the release of the flat-backed iPhone 4. While we generally appreciate the quality and playfulness of the company’s products, this one is a clear miss.
To attach SurfacePad to your phone, you remove the protective plastic sheet from the adhesive inside the back cover, line the sticker up, and press down. The adhesive is designed to be reused, so if you misalign SurfacePad or want to swap cases, you can remove it without an issue. Twelve South promotes thinness as one of the product’s key features, and the amount of bulk added is indeed pretty minimal. One advantage to this design: when the front cover is folded behind the iPhone to access its screen, the lid is much less obtrusive than in other folios. Thoughtfully, there are markings corresponding to the volume buttons on the left-side spine. We also liked that the cover can be used as the base of a multi-angle landscape viewing stand, which works very well.
Twelve South says SurfacePad is specifically designed for typical use, and won’t protect your iPhone in extreme situations, or, in its words, “falls, drops, being run over by a car or dropped in the loo.” The problem is, it’s not protective enough to even keep the device safe from the minor events that happen on a daily basis. SurfacePad’s design leaves the top, right, and bottom edges of the device exposed, as well as the area around the iSight camera. This clearly leaves a lot of the iPhone susceptible to damage, and unfortunately, we verified that the hard way: a single accidental drop onto a supermarket floor on the first day of our testing resulted in a sizable gouge in the front right corner of the iPhone. A case with proper coverage would have likely protected the device.
We like nice materials, and we like thin designs, but when they come at the expensive of true protection, there’s a problem. SurfacePad may look nice, but it’s not worth the same price as a proper iPhone 5 case. While Twelve South’s open acknowledgment of SurfacePad’s limited protection was a novel marketing idea, it primarily serves to lower expectations for an underwhelming product. There are much better options available for iPhone users.
Company and Price
Company: Twelve South
Compatible: iPhone 5