I’ve long held the opinion that when you try to create a “best of both worlds” situation, you end up compromising. That’s obviously seen with products like iPad folio cases. They try to be stands and cases, often doing neither particularly well. The same can be said of wallet cases for iPhone. There are a lot of them out there and they normally fall short in two areas: not having enough space for cards and cash to be able to replace your wallet, or being impossible to hold when trying to use the phone. I think Twelve South may have come as close as possible to making the best of the situation with the BookBook.
The case is all made of authentic aged leather with the iconic antique book cover design. From the spine, it looks like a tiny bible or book of prayers. It’s been deliberately and perfectly worn on the edges to make it look “well read” and smells exactly as it should; like a smart pair of shoes. The inside is lined with a felt/suede type material which does nothing but add to the luxurious look and feel of the BookBook. It’s not just a good looker though, it’s been made to a high standard. All the stitching held well under testing, and the leather has soften nicely with use.
You often hear the phrase “form over function” when talking product design, but this has both in equal quantity. Stitched inside the front cover is a wallet. There are four slots designed for credit card sized items. The first has a transparent plastic window, perfect for photographs of loved ones or driving licenses.The others can be used for credit/debit cards, gift cards, and all forms of thin plastic currency. And – unlike other wallet cases that I’ve used – there’s ample room. At a push, you can get two cards in each slot. To top it all off, there’s a sleeve behind the credit card holders to stuff in cash and receipts (or perhaps a house key). Oh, and it holds your iPhone too.
Inside the back cover is a plastic cradle which holds your iPhone 5 snugly in place. Every area of your phone that needs exposing, is. You have easy access to your power, volume and mute buttons and all the ports and speakers on the bottom edge. On the back is a generous cut-out to ensure your photographs can still be snapped without disturbance, reinforced with the same plastic material used to grip your iPhone.
I’ve waxed lyrical about this thing’s design. It really is fantastic, but it’s not made this way just for looks. Stick it in a bookshelf, and without getting really close up, there’s no way of telling that it holds your precious iPhone. In fact, I’ve had it resting on a table with people assuming I had a book until I picked it up and started playing Temple Run 2, or pulling out a card to complete a transaction.
As a wallet, you have the impression (I hope) by now that this thing is fantastic. There is no compromise on the wallet functionality of the BookBook. It has adequately replaced my daily driver leather wallet, and I’ve not even missed it. It can hold all of my essential items, and then some.
As a case, there is a little compromise, but nowhere near as much as I’ve experienced with other case manufacturers. Texting or typing in portrait mode is a tiny bit inconvenient. The spine isn’t quite flexible enough to fold back on itself to begin with, and typing with the case open is a no-go. But, once the leather gets worn in, you shouldn’t find it too much trouble at all. Unless you mind that you’re exposing that hideous photo on your driving license to everybody who happens to get a glance. I had no issue typing in landscape mode. It felt well balanced and – rather surprisingly – the front cover didn’t get in the way at all.
Making and receiving phone calls definitely requires some compromise. Holding the encased phone to your ear is difficult with the case open. And – as previously stated – holding the cover back on itself isn’t the most comfortable experience to begin with. But, once the leather has softened, it does get easier to do, and eventually I didn’t mind it at all. If you’re still not sold, there is the option of using speaker phone or using a headset.
All-in-all, it’s a fantastic wallet case. It doesn’t compromise on the wallet side and the shortcomings on the case side aren’t anywhere near bad enough to warrant putting me off using this stunning leather case. Twelve South has successfully continued its tradition of creating great products for Apple devices and I’m confident there isn’t another case of its kind that’s anywhere near as good as the BookBook for iPhone 5. It’s a stunning case, and a great wallet. If you’ve been looking for an all-in-one case for iPhone, don’t look any further. This is it.
The BookBook for iPhone 5 is available to purchase now in Vintage Brown or Classic Black from Twelve South’s online store for $59.99, and it’s worth every cent.