TwelveSouth SurfacePad for iPhone 5

August 15, 2013

TwelveSouth's SurfacePad for iPhone 5 and 4/4S is once again available after nearly five months unavailability. I have been fortunate enough to be beta-testing the iPhone 5 version since early June.

Fit, Finish, and Color

It is perfectly sized for my iPhone 5. I had to apply it twice to get the edges aligned with the edges of the iPhone. However, it is easy to remove and realign so this isn't a problem. I also had to fit the iPhone 4S SurfacePad twice when I installed it.

The back color of the black iPhone 4S was (if I remember correctly) uniformly black from top to bottom. The iPhone 5 has a black band across the top 10th and bottom 10th of the back. The middle 80% is slate colored. The remove for the camera lens, flash LED, and video microphone, in the folio is large enough to expose a bit of the slate color in addition to the glossier black at the top. This creates a tricolor effect: the muted black leather, the glossy black of the phone, and the muted slate of the back's center piece. I realize that room is required around the lens and flash so as not to impede their function. Still it would be interesting to know if a smaller remove in the back cover, one that was flush with the union between the slate and glossy black (perhaps with a chamfer to keep it out of the way of the lens optics or flash) would work.

Having the slate exposed is not a deal breaker for me, but it is distinctive.

The stitching along the hinge on the back is smooth and even. On my previous SurfacePad (for the iPhone 4S) one of the stitch ends was slightly exposed and, while not sharp, was noticeable.

When closed the SurfacePad lays smoothly across the face of the phone and stays in place under its own weight. When opened the cover lays flat against the desktop.

The color (black) is even all over, and the leather is smooth and blemish free. The embossed "12" logo on the outside of the front cover is nicely understated. The interior color (gray) is also smooth and unblemished. The "SurfacePad" and "12 TwelveSouth" embossing are clear and nicely lined up with the edges of the folio. The slight chamfer around the edges of the folio's cover is even all around, both inside and outside the cover.

The embossing for the volume up and down buttons are nicely understated. Both appear to be slightly toward the back of the case, i.e., ever so slightly off center. They do line up with the volume controls.

The hinge for holding the phone in landscape position is was a bit stiff when the case was new, but it has broken in nicely. It holds the phone at a good viewing angle.

The new leather had a wonderful aroma. Now that it has aged a bit the aroma isn't as apparent. It lingers just at the edge of your awareness.

Packaging

The packaging is imaginative and makes for a good "out of box experience". I especially like the cardboard iPhone 5 mock-up that the folio comes with. I also like the TwelveSouth decals that are provided. It would be ideal if the removable film on the back of the decal could say "permanent" or "removable" so that who ever apples one knows whether or not they are decorating their laptop or whatever permanently or not.

Use and Wear

With my previous SurfacePad I noticed that over a few weeks time the cover was slightly askew when closed. This, I believe, was due to my inserting the phone into my front pants pocket in the same orientation every time. When I noticed the way the cover was forming as a result of this, I started alternating how I put the phone in my pocket. One time power-switch-end first, one time power-switch-end last, sometimes face toward my leg, sometimes face outwards. After two-and-a-half months use the iPhone 5 case hasn't produced any skewing of the cover. I usually put my phone in my pocket the same way out of habit, but when I think of it I switch the orientation around.

There are two places where the adhesive on the leather is slightly apparent. It isn't sticky but there is a little discoloration along the edge next to the SIM-card slot and a smaller blemish along the bottom. Neither is really objectionable, they just add a little character to the folio. There are a couple of places along the cut edges of the cover that are now distressed. Again, this just adds character to the folio.

Having a hinged cover on your phone does alter how you interact with it. I religiously hold the phone in my left hand during phone calls. Consequently I fold the cover back against the rear of the phone while holding it. When I use the phone at my desk or a table I just flip the cover open so that it lays next to the phone. Using the phone with just my right hand (I'm primarily right handed) is easy. Using it with just my left hand is a tad trickier as the cover is in the way. My hands are large enough that I can pick up the phone open the cover and fold it behind single handed even on the left side.

The leather has enough grip to keep it from sliding when placed on a mildly sloped surface. I used my iPhone 5 naked for a couple of months before getting the SurfacePad and found the phone to be extremely slippery. The tactile feel of the leather is pleasing and I feel my phone is much more secure in my hand; especially when removing it from my pocket.

I use the hinged-stand quite a bit while practicing cello, as it holds the tuner/metronome app I like at the perfect viewing angle.

Taking photos or videos requires that you deal with the cover. While it is obvious that you can't fold the cover back since it will cover the lens, it is surprising the number of times I have done just that. I rotate the phone so that the Home button is to the right to reach landscape orientation. This allows the cover to dangle out of the way. If you prefer the Home button to the left you would have to hang on to the cover in order to use the camera.

Conclusion

On the whole I am extremely pleased with my SurfacePad. I liked the original one for the 4S enough that I worked hard at getting one for my iPhone 5. It is distinctive and classy in a very understated way. It minimally protects the phone, choosing to enhance its overall appearance rather than protect it at the cost of hiding the fine machining of the phone's exterior.

As I said at the end of my iPhone 4S SurfacePad review, it isn't the least expensive cover you can get for your iPhone, but its quality, fit and finish enhance the phone wonderfully.

Note: I was given a beta SurfacePad to test as a result of contacting TwelveSouth.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.