capsule review

iPhone 3G Case Roundup: Luxury leather

At a Glance

Of all the things you can make a case out of, there’s something special about leather. It conveys an air of luxury and fashion in a way that silicone skins and plastic hard cases don’t quite manage. But there are just as many leather cases as there are cases of those other types and, like them, leather cases vary in quality and capability. This week, we take a look at a quartet of leather cases for the iPhone, two sleeves and two flip cases.

Sena Dockable Case for iPhone 3G

Many people don’t like the the idea of constantly taking their iPhone in and out of a case; they want something that’s convenient for constant use. Sena’s Dockable Case for iPhone 3G ( ) answers that call in a sleek leather package that keeps the phone safe without sacrificing usability.

The Dockable Case is a flip case which secures via a leather strap that wraps around the iPhone 3G’s dock-connector port to snap closed on the back. When the case is flipped open, all of the phone’s features are accessible, from the Home button to the earpiece. Small holes in the bottom make sure the microphone and speaker are usable, and there’s a slit on the left-hand side for the volume up and down buttons; the Ring/Silent switch is actually exposed, peeking out over the edge of the case.

With the cover flipped closed the Sleep/Wake button and dock-connector port are covered, but the volume controls and headphone jack are still accessible so you can continue to listen to music. In a rather bizarre design decision, there’s a notch cut out of the leather that leaves the iPhone’s camera lens unobscured when the case is closed (and the iPhone’s touch screen is inaccessible), but the flap annoyingly obscures part of the lens when the case is open unless you make sure to hold the cover straight up, which is kind of awkward.

On the back of the case is a metal mount for the included rotating, plastic belt clip. The clip itself is well built, though it’s a bit thick. But if you want to use your case without the mount (which is sturdy, but protrudes noticeably outwards), you'll need to use the included wrench to unscrew it (Sena also thoughtfully includes a second screw in case you misplace the first one). In terms of additional conveniences, there’s also a pocket on the inside of the flip cover in which you could probably fit a credit card, or some business cards, though it’s no replacement for a full size wallet.

One of the big benefits of the Dockable Case is that, as the name suggests, you don’t need to remove your iPhone from the case to dock it. The leather at the bottom of the case is thinner than the rest of the case to make this possible, and it does seem to work as advertised, though you will need to unsnap the cover in order to make the dock-connector port accessible.

Overall, the Dockable Case is a decent leather case, though it has some shortcomings. Its $52 price tag is also a bit high, so you’ll have to decide if the finest Italian Napa leather warrants the cost.

Marware C.E.O. Flip Vue

As its name might suggest, the Marware C.E.O. Flip Vue for iPhone 3G ( ) wouldn’t look out of place on the belt of a high-powered executive. This attractive case is constructed out of leather, with a contrasting band of leather mesh in the middle and contrast stitching, giving it a distinctive, almost two-tone appearance.

Instead of fastening with a snap, the Flip Vue uses two small patches of Velcro at the bottom left and right corners of the case’s interior, flanking the iPhone's Home button. The interior of the case is coated with an almost suede-like finish. A large opening allows for access to the iPhone’s touchscreen, and notches are cut away for the earpiece and the Home button. The bottom has an opening for the dock-connector port; the speaker and microphone are covered with mesh. On the back of the case is an opening for the camera and a mounting point for Marware’s Multidapt system (a removable spring clip is included).

The Ring/Silent switch is left exposed above the elastic side of the Flip Vue, but the volume up/down controls are covered with leather, albeit with a slightly recessed feel so you can find the controls by touch. There’s also an opening slit at the top of the case so you can keep your headphones plugged in when the case is closed.

The Flip Vue case has a few minor issues. For one thing, the opening for the camera can still cause some interference with the lens—I noted it showing up in the bottom right corner of pictures I took with the camera. Not enough to interfere with the main subject, but potentially annoying if you regularly use the iPhone as a camera. The included spring clip is nice, but lacks the ability to rotate (you can, however, buy additional different clips from Marware).

On the upside, while you can’t remove the mounting bracket, it’s pretty close to being flush with the case, so it doesn’t get in the way if you don’t want to use the clip. The Flip Vue also comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth and a thin film adhesive screen protector, both nice touches. Also, while the Velcro adhesive is plenty secure, you can open the case easily with one hand, which is convenient when you’re trying to answer the phone.

The Flip Vue is a pretty nice case for those in the market for a leather cover for their iPhone. Plus, at $29 it’s a bit cheaper than many comparable leather cases.

Sena iPhone 3G UltraSlim Pouch

If it’s simplicity and elegance that you’re looking for in a case, you can’t get much simpler than the Sena iPhone 3G UltraSlim Pouch ( ). As the name suggests, the UltraSlim is a thin sleeve of fine Napa leather with a velvet interior. You slip your iPhone into the top and that’s it. The only other remarkable feature of the UltraSlim is that it has small openings at the bottom for the iPhone’s speaker, no matter which way you put it in the case. Because the top is open you can access the Sleep/Wake switch and the headphone jack, but the rest of the interface can't be used without taking the phone out of the case.

The sleeve fits very snugly around the iPhone. So snugly, in fact, that it can be a little bit tough to get it back out. In fact there’s even a video on Sena’s site demonstrating the proper way to remove your phone—turns out it’s by pushing from the bottom of the case. Not precisely something you think you would need explained with such a simple case, but it’s nice to know.

At $29, the UltraSlim Pouch is a pretty pricey pouch, but you ought to be able to tell pretty quickly whether or not it’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. If you just want to make sure that your iPhone isn’t scratched up when you put it in your purse, briefcase, or backpack, but don’t want a case that you have to keep your phone in all the time, then it’s worth considering.

Marware C.E.O. Sleeve for iPhone 3G

Outwardly, the Marware C.E.O. Sleeve for iPhone 3G ( ) looks a lot like its sibling, the C.E.O. Flip Vue: it has the same leather construction with a mesh band and contrast stitching. But instead of flipping open, the C.E.O. Sleeve is just one piece connected with two elastic panels. Slip your iPhone 3G in and you’re ready to go.

When the iPhone is in the case, only its headphone jack, Ring/Silent switch and Sleep/Wake button are accessible, although you can also operate the volume up/down controls through the elastic panel without much trouble. The only other feature of the C.E.O. Sleeve is a Multidapt bracket on the back for the included removable spring clip.

Unlike the Sena pouch, getting the iPhone in and out of the C.E.O. Sleeve is easy; it slides in and out with no difficulties whatsoever. And like the Flip Vue, the C.E.O. Sleeve comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth and thin film adhesive screen protector.

Again, like the UltraSlim Pouch, whether or not the C.E.O. Sleeve is for you depends on what you’re looking for in a case. If you just want a handy holster to keep on your belt, it might very well hit the mark, but if you’re looking for a protective case that you can keep on while using your iPhone, it probably won’t be a good fit.

[Associate editor Dan Moren is a frequent blogger at iPhone Central.]

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