The iPhone X is a great smartphone with one, fairly large flaw: it’s delicate. Not only is its dual-sided glass design delicate, but it’s also fairly slippery. On top of that, the iPhone X is the most expensive iPhone to repair. At Apple, a screen replacement runs $279, while any other fix, including repairing the back of the phone, commands a heart-stopping $549. Purchasing AppleCare can reduce those costs dramatically, but even that isn’t cheap: two years of AppleCare is $199, plus $29 for each screen repair and $99 for other fixes. Basically, you don’t want to drop your iPhone X.
The obvious thing to do is put a case on it, one that provides protection for the delicate bits and makes it less slippery to hold. The only problem is that most cases suck. They are often chunky and clumsy or just feel terrible. The only cases I can tolerate are made from leather — they look good and are much nicer to hold than rubber or plastic cases. They also smell nice and get better looking the more you use them. (Leather snobs call this a “patina.”) There’s something about pairing organic materials with the cold metal and glass of modern technology that I’ve always loved, and leather phone cases do this well.
So when I got my iPhone X, I immediately started looking around for the best leather case for it. I have highly specific criteria: it must be brown leather (other colors are dumb), it cannot be too bulky, it cannot be a clumsy folio, and it has to have good-feeling buttons. It gets bonus points for giving me a slot to store my transit card for easy access when going through the turnstile and for having a nice leathery aroma. No leather case will provide the same amount of protection as a clumsy OtterBox, but for everyday use, they are fine for my needs.
Here are my thoughts on a bunch of popular leather cases for the iPhone X after using them all for the past few weeks. Most of them picked up a fair amount of scratches and scuffs in the time I’ve been using them, which is exactly what you want a leather case to do. My favorite is the first and the rest are listed in no particular order.
My favorite leather case ironically isn’t entirely leather. The Lopie Sea Island Cotton Series combines the cool fabric style on Google’s Pixel 2 cases with leather for a unique, yet stylish look. It checks all of the boxes I’m looking for: genuine leather; an easy access, single card slot; clicky, metal buttons; and a slim design. It even has a faint, but not overwhelming leathery smell. The best part is this case is one of the cheapest I tested: I bought it for about $19 on Amazon, and depending on when you look, it might even sell for a few bucks less. It does have a very dumb name and a silly logo imprinted toward the bottom, but I can live with both of those things.
Apple’s $49 leather case is the default option for most people, and for the most part, it’s a fine case. It’s slim, looks good in brown (again, the only color you should get), and wears nicely over time. It also has lovely metal buttons that are clicky and satisfying. It unfortunately doesn’t provide a slot to hold my transit card, however, and has a gross chemical smell instead of a leather aroma.
The Elago Genuine Leather iPhone X case was the cheapest of the models I tested, but that’s mostly because I grabbed it on a lightning sale for about $8. It typically sells for around $20, which is still less than half the price of Apple’s and many other options. Apart from its low cost, the Elago stands out for having two card slots instead of just one, and for having cutouts for the power and volume buttons instead of covering them. I don’t really have an issue with that, but I don’t like how the top of the case doesn’t extend over the front of the iPhone like others do. The Elago does have that leathery smell I look for, but its brown is a little too close to orange for my taste.
Sena has a whole line of leather cases, but most are bulky folio styles. The one that comes closest to fitting my needs is the $49.95 Bence, which provides wraparound leather protection, two card slots, and textured metal buttons that one-up Apple’s. This case is as close to if Apple had made one with card slots as I could find, but the slots are particularly sticky and stiff and make it hard to retrieve my card on the go. The leather is also a dark brown with a weird dimpled pattern instead of a smooth finish. On the plus side, it does provide a little bit more grip, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that was palming a football instead of my phone.
TwelveSouth’s RelaxedLeather case is definitely the best-looking one out of the box. It’s designed to already look worn and used, so it has a lovely brown finish that is darker on the edges. The leather is also very soft and nice to touch. The $49.95 RelaxedLeather holds two cards and covers the front and back of the phone nicely. But it doesn’t have metal inserts for the buttons covering the power and volume keys, which makes them horribly mushy and soft and not pleasant to use at all. TwelveSouth could greatly improve this case with metal inserts like Apple, Logie, and Sena use, but for now, it’s too frustrating for me to use.
Mujjo’s Full Leather Wallet Case is the opposite of TwelveSouth’s: instead of looking already worn in, it looked so pristine out of the box that I didn’t really want to scratch up. (I still did, of course.) The $48.25 case comes with a single card slot that’s stitched onto the back, and it covers the front and back of the phone without being too bulky. But it lacks metal button covers, so it, too, suffers from mushy power and volume keys.
Nomad’s Wallet Case is the most rugged of the cases I tested. Instead of being entirely leather, the $44.95 Wallet Case has a hefty rubber frame with a leather back. Nomad boasts that this lets it survive a six-foot drop without taking damage, but it also makes it much bulkier than other models. It does have two card slots, and the leather comes from famed Chicago tannery Horween. But it feels more like a leather skin on top of a rubber case than a full leather experience. On the plus side, it has the best smell of any of the cases I tested.
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