Among the first non-silicone iPhone cases we received was Case-Mate’s Signature Leather Case, available in black, red, or pink. (Also available for the same price is the Perforated Leather Case for iPhone, which is the same case but with, well, perforated leather.)
The Signature is made of soft, Napa leather, but it’s also got a rigid internal shell that, with two exceptions, offers a good deal of protection against shock if you accidentally drop your iPhone. The exceptions are the upper-right corner, which is exposed on the back, and the screen. Unlike cases that include a small hole for the iPhone’s camera lens, the Signature case cuts away the entire corner; I’m assuming this is because, thanks to the Signature’s open-top design, the former approach would leave only a thin strip of case around the camera lens, and that strip simply wouldn’t hold up over time.
The other unprotected area is the iPhone’s screen. Like most use-in cases, the screen is exposed for easy access. However, Case-Mate includes a clear, adhesive screen protector to help prevent scratches; an included micro-fiber cloth is also useful for cleaning the screen.
The back of the case provides a mounting point for the included rotating belt clip. I’m not a fan of the included clip, which is quite bulky, especially when compared to the otherwise sleek design of the case itself. The mount point is also near the top of the case, so even though the clip itself can rotate and “lock” for horizontal wearing, the phone hangs awkwardly because most of its weight is on one side. Thankfully, when the clip is removed, the mount point is nearly flush with the back of the case.
The only other drawback to the case is that if you’ve got large fingers, sometimes the keys on the very edges of the iPhone’s onscreen keyboard can be difficult to hit precisely — the raised edges of the case act as a sort of bumper. This happened only occasionally for me, but it’s worth noting for the stubby-nubbed.
Those criticisms aside, the Signature is actually a very nice case. It’s attractive, it feels well-made, and apart from the upper-right corner, it offers good protection for a use-in case. In fact, out of the fifteen to twenty cases that have passed through the office for testing over the past few weeks, I’ve actually used the Signature the most frequently. (If you buy the case directly from Case-Mate, you get one line of personalization — presumably some kind of embossing — for free.)
As a side note, if, like me, you don’t like the Signature’s plastic belt clip, you can purchase the $25 Signature iPhone Holster, a hardshell leather cradle that holds your Signature-clad iPhone — face inward to protect the screen — and provides a much slimmer, rotating belt clip. (You can also buy the Signature Case and Holster together for $50, saving $10.) The combo is bulky, but with it, the only part of your iPhone unprotected is the upper-right side, as mentioned above.–Dan Frakes