Apple's leather sleeve for iPhone 12 review: expensive, but without equal

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 2021
Apple's Leather Sleeve for the new iPhone 12 line has just started being delivered to customers. But with a hefty price tag, we try to decide if this new accessory is worth it.

Apple's leather sleeve
Apple's iPhone 12 leather sleeve

A sleeve unlike other sleeves





We've seen quite a few sleeves for iPhones in the past, but Apple's is unlike any others. The most unique feature is MagSafe, but more on that in a moment. We should start by evaluating the sleeve as a case first.

Camera bump on the back of Apple's leather sleeve
Camera bump on the back of Apple's leather sleeve


Apple's sleeve comes in red, Saddle Brown, Baltic Blue, and the Citrus Pink that we are reviewing here. It comes in three sizes to fit all four models of Apple's iPhone 12 line, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro of which share the same size cases.

The sleeve provides some level of protection on almost all sides, except for the exposed bottom of the phone that contains the speakers. The edges are reinforced, and there is a protruding camera bump on the back. If your iPhone is fumbled, it won't come out of the sleeve, and the speaker-end is still inset enough that it won't make contact with the ground.

Apple's leather sleeve with optional lanyard
Apple's leather sleeve with optional lanyard


On the front of the sleeve is a large cutout so the user can tell the time without extracting the iPhone, and there is a small cutout for the earpiece speaker. Between the ear speaker and the bottom of the phone exposed, you don't have to struggle to remove your phone if you have an incoming call.

Hidden behind the front piece of leather is a slip designed to hold a couple of credit cards. We were able to fit two cards in easily enough. Potentially, a third card can fit, but it would be very snug. As the case gets used, it may loosen up enough that an additional card is more plausible.

Two cards in Apple's leather sleeve
Two cards in Apple's leather sleeve


You can fold the front piece of leather forward to gain access to the cards, so if you aren't using Apple Pay, it is still easy enough to get to your ID or physical cards.

Apple also includes an optional lanyard in the box with the leather sleeve. The lanyard can slip onto the case to turn your phone into an always-ready wristlet. Then you have your phone and wallet on your wrist, perfect for a vacation or a night on the town.

The custom all-metal snap on the lanyard holds in place very well. It can easily be undone when you want to remove the strap.

All of that creates a good package, but it gets better when we start to look at the advantages of MagSafe.

MagSafe steps up the game

MagSafe is Apple's Qi-derivative charging technology built into the back of new iPhones. There's a lot it can do including charging your phone at faster rates than Qi, as well act as a mount for accessories.

Concerning the sleeve, MagSafe offers unique functionality. The leather sleeve has an integrated NFC chip, which can be read by the MagSafe NFC reader on the iPhone 12. When your phone is inserted into the case, the iPhone knows that a sleeve was put on, and iOS 14 will trigger an animation on the phone's display.

Battery percentage
Battery percentage shown through the window


The phone's display will dim, and the time will illuminate and color-match to the case. So if you put on the Baltic Blue case, the phone's background will be a dark blue, and the clock will be tinted blue as well. The screen isn't perpetually on but is on whenever you lift the phone up or tap on the display through the little window.

Again, since your phone knows it is in the sleeve, it can direct different information to the window you'd otherwise miss. For example, when you plug in the phone to power, your battery percentage shows in the window before going back to the clock with a green charging glyph just to the left of the time.

Charging status displayed through the window
Charging status indicator displayed through the window


Being able to read this information with the sleeve on is something no other sleeve can do. If you're comparing this to any of the others, it is a big reason to go with Apple's offering.

Apple's MagSafe charger works on the leather sleeve
MagSafe charger on the leather sleeve


MagSafe chargers also still work with the leather sleeve on the phone. Apple's MagSafe puck snaps perfectly into place to power up your device.

We love Apple's MagSafe leather wallet but it isn't all that necessary with the sleeve, given the card slot on the inside that replicates that functionality.

We could see some people wanting to possibly double-up on wallets. So, we tried to see if the wallet would connect.

The wallet spins and doesn't stay on very well
The wallet spins and doesn't stay on very well


Technically, the wallet does attach, but the leather sleeve lacks the orientation magnet, which keeps the wallet from rotating on the back of your phone. The attraction is also weaker than we'd like, and the wallet falls free far too easily.

We don't recommend using Apple's leather wallet on top of its leather sleeve. Car mounts may also be problematic, but we are still waiting for any of those to ship.

Should you try Apple's leather sleeve?

The leather sleeve is an entirely new product for Apple. Compared to what used to exist in the market, we think Apple does it best. It is still hard to justify the price tag north of a hundred dollars, though Apple tried its best.

There is so much functionality baked into this sleeve that hasn't been possible before. MagSafe charging, card slots, earpiece access, the included lanyard, and the information on the display all make this much more feasible to use as a daily accessory compared to other sleeves.

Apple's leather sleeve with the lanyard attached
Apple's leather sleeve with lanyard attached


We also see many more people being interested in this, even if they had no interest in a sleeve before.

More than $100 for the sleeve seems like a considerable amount to spend on a case, but its slick design leaves it unmatched in the market. At least for now.

Pros
  • Fantastic Apple build quality

  • Useful information such as charging status are displayed through the window

  • Card slots turn it into a helpful wallet

  • Optional included lanyard keep it safe on your bag or turn it into a wristlet

  • Clock is color-matched to case

  • Works with MagSafe chargers

  • No equal alternatives
Cons
  • MagSafe wallet won't work

  • Only leather option

  • Only four colors

  • Rather expensive

Rating: 4 out of 5

Grab Apple's leather sleeve for any of the iPhone 12 models from Best Buy for $129 in Saddle Brown, Baltic Blue, Citrus Pink, and red.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    mobirdmobird Posts: 709member

    More than $100 for the sleeve seems like a considerable amount to spend on a case, but its slick design leaves it unmatched in the market. At least for now.

    Pros
    • Fantastic Apple build quality
    • Useful information such as charging status are displayed through the window
    • Card slots turn it into a helpful wallet
    • Optional included lanyard keep it safe on your bag or turn it into a wristlet
    • Clock is color-matched to case
    • Works with MagSafe chargers
    • No equal alternatives
    Cons
    • Pros (see above) ;)
    • MagSafe wallet won't work
    • Only leather option
    • Only four colors
    • Rather expensive

    Rating: 0 out of 5

    /s
    edited November 2020 williamlondonlkruppfred1FoodLover
  • Reply 2 of 28
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,419member
    Just far too expensive. You can almost buy an iPod touch for this case!
    williamlondonlkrupptwokatmewfred1elijahg
  • Reply 3 of 28
    How do you answer and end calls? Specifically I'm asking, does the answer button show up in that little window?
    caladanianroakeGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 28
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,237member
    I have the Apple silicone case for my 12 Pro Max as well as  the OtterBox Aneur case. I also have the MagSafe wallet. I’m still trying to figure out how this sleeve is useful other than to offer some minimum level of protection for the phone and one line of information. 
    edited November 2020 elijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 28
    I really like the case, couple of questions.  I have the Apple mag safe leather case on my phone.  Will it fit in the pouch with my case on?  Also would like a shoulder strap option, afraid I’d lose it with a wrist strap.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 28
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,435member
    I’d like to see what the window display looks like when an incoming call or text is received. Is there anything unique about that experience?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 28
    Between the ear speaker and the bottom of the phone exposed, you don't have to struggle to remove your phone if you have an incoming call.”

    How does a user answer an incoming call when the phone is in the sleeve? Does an accept call button appear in the little window? 

    JFC_PAwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 28
    Andrew, come on! You missed the most obvious questions: how do you answer a call? How do you unlock the phone to make a call via Siri? Any other magic that happens when the case is on?

    If Apple has nailed those usage concerns this could be a great accessory for many. Especially those who don’t need to be checking their FB feed incessantly :)

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 28
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,435member
    mr lizard said:
    “Between the ear speaker and the bottom of the phone exposed, you don't have to struggle to remove your phone if you have an incoming call.”

    How does a user answer an incoming call when the phone is in the sleeve? Does an accept call button appear in the little window? 

    Good question. I think an update to the original article is needed. 
    fred1watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 28
    Just to echo other comments:
    HOW DOES IT WORK WHEN A PHONE CALL COMES IN? 
    Can you demonstrate how to answer or make calls? What about unlocking it when you’re wearing a mask?
    thanks
    fred1watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 28
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,435member
    I really like the case, couple of questions.  I have the Apple mag safe leather case on my phone.  Will it fit in the pouch with my case on?  Also would like a shoulder strap option, afraid I’d lose it with a wrist strap.
    No way you could fit a case in that sleeve, it’s way too tight. As for the shoulder strap, I’m sure that’s one of the first things you can expect to see from 3rd parties. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 28
    I can wait until there’s a Smart Battery Case for the 12s before buying a 12. I’m looking at the pro, and it seems like the battery on the 12pro needs a backup. 
  • Reply 13 of 28
    mobirdmobird Posts: 709member
    phyz said:
    I can wait until there’s a Smart Battery Case for the 12s before buying a 12. I’m looking at the pro, and it seems like the battery on the 12pro needs a backup. 
    Apple will sell a ton of the iPhone 12 Mini Smart Battery Case, should they make it available...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 28
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,712member
    I like everything about this except I use my phone in my car and on my MC daily. I'd be forever removing the phone fro the sleeve to access maps and other notifications.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 28
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    I really like the case, couple of questions.  I have the Apple mag safe leather case on my phone.  Will it fit in the pouch with my case on?  Also would like a shoulder strap option, afraid I’d lose it with a wrist strap.

    Apparently the leather sleeve has its own slot for cards.  So, unless you're carrying lots of cards, wouldn't the wallet be redundant?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 28
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    I don't get it:   it's essentially a cross between a purse and a wallet but limited to the ability to carry only an iPhone and a few cards.

    If you're gonna use either a wallet (or even a wallet case) or a purse, why not get a real one that carries more and is far more functional?

    It sounds like its really nice and very attractive.  But, from a functional point of view it provides the inconvenience of carrying a wallet or purse but without the benefits.
  • Reply 17 of 28
    pslicepslice Posts: 144member
    I have Apple clear case on my Max. Will the case slip in? I’d forego the CCs. Plus, CCs have tons of magnetism, wouldn’t using the MagSafe charger harm the CCs?
  • Reply 18 of 28
    Makes no sense to me.  So I have to slide the phone out to use it?  So then I drop the phone on the floor while pulling it out of the case - boom - busted phone.  I use my phone constantly - this would be insane.  Looks cool - functionality - none.  
    bluefire1GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 28
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 825member
    I like Apple providing multiple use choices. For people who like complete transport protection but an uncovered iPhone for using this is a nice setup. Especially versus leaving the display surface vulnerable to pocket things with a standard frontless case such as my Apple silicone. More accessibility at the price of more vulnerability. Hence my added purchase of a folio case for more threatening circumstances. 

    Since the iPhone knows it’s in the MagSafe sleeve odds are the call “slide to answer” slider appears (since the iPhone will be locked) in the sleeve window: otherwise the earphone cutout makes no sense. And THAT unique functionality would really separate the Apple version from the crowd. 

    But that has to be confirmed as it’s not mentioned anywhere I have looked. 
    edited November 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 28
    Appears designed to make you drop your phone, damage the screen and then pay Apple (AND ONLY APPLE) for an expensive repair job.
    elijahg
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