gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

iPhone 3g Piel Frama Flip Cover Leather Case Review

I’m not even going to deny that I am a band-wagon jumper. I have bought into the iPhone, love it, and want to leverage the popularity of the device to bring iPhone accessory reviews to Gadgetoid.

So, without further ado, I present our first iPhone accessory review: the Piel Frama, Leather, Clip Cover, iPhone 3g Case with Snap Closure (or a metal popper, if you will!). Whew, that was a mouth-full and no mistake!

You may or may not have already heard of Piel Frama, they have manufactured leather goods since 1945 and began producing phone cases in 1984 (co-incidentally the year that I was born). Since then Piel Frama have built up a reasonable level of prestige as a manufacturer of luxuary leather cases for PDAs and Phones and those years of experience are reflected in their products which are hand-made to a superb level of quality.

This particular iPhone 3g case is no exception. It’s available in 7 colours: Black, Black/Tan, Tan, Red, Pink, Green and Blue. I will be looking at the classic Tan version for the duration of this review and, whilst I’m not a big fan of Tan leather, I actually find the case quite appealing.

The impression of quality in Piel Frama’s products starts with the packaging, this simple case came packed in an attractive box which was itself wrapped in bubble wrap for protection. The tan coloured box resembles a matchbox in that the inner box slides out to reveal the content. The box bears the Piel Frama logo edged out in gold; the feeling that you’ve got your 70 euros (Approx £55) worth is immediate.

Inside the box comes the case itself, a plastic belt clip, an empty bottle for cleaning “solution” which says it should be filled with only mineral water, and a small screen cleaning cloth for use with the cleaning solution; You’ll be using this approximately twice a day at the rate the iPhone 3g picks up smudges.

I had my doubts about mineral water as a cleaning solution, but I easily and effectively managed to remove all the smudges from the back of my iPhone 3g using it. The cloth didn’t appear to leave any smears of its own and left the iPhone looking as good as new.

Additionally the box contains a small kit for removing the belt clip mount sealed in a ziplock bag. This includes a metal tool for unscrewing the mount from the case, and a few little plastic push caps to fill the resulting hole. Whilst I was able to unscrew the mount itself I couldn’t get a single one of the push caps to stay in the hole, if you’re absolutely confident you will never use the belt clip then a bit of superglue will fix this. A metal clip or screw in cap would have been much better and more attractive however.

The case itself fits the iPhone 3g snugly but still allows it to be easily pushed out if you wish to use it case-free, of course this will leave its glossy backside smudged and smeared with fingerprints, perhaps the iPhones most prominent design flaw.

When holding the case with the flap clipped behind it I managed to accidentally send my iPhone 3g sailing to the floor; don’t swing your arms holding the open case! The iPhone fits tight enough for the open case to be held upside-down without it slipping out but this is definitely not recommended.

There are cut outs for the speakers and universal connector in addition to over-sized cut outs for the headphone socket, volume rocker and camera. This ensures that the rocker can easily be operated without obscruction, the camera can see clearly through its port in the back of the 3-4mm thick case and that even the largest of headphone jacks can easily be connected. In fact the bulky connector at the end of my Roland RH-300s, which is designed to screw into a quarter inch jack adaptor, fits very snugly into the cut-out.

The flip-cover is flexible enough at the top to allow it to flip back even when headphones are connected, unfortunately it’s impossible to fold back behind the case in these circumstances meaning that it is necessary to unplug your headphones, fold the case back and then re-connect them if you wish to use the iPhone for any duration without the flap sticking out from the top of the case and looking absurd. This is, perhaps, the only flaw in this otherwise beautifully designed case and could easily, I believe, be solved by having half the top of the flap cut away so that it can be navigated around the jack plug and folded back.

I spoke to Piel Frama about this design choice and they stressed that their emphasis is in good looks and, above all, protecting the iPhone 3g. If you regularly need to use your iPhone 3g when listening to music then I would recommend opting for the iPhone 3g Wallet instead. With any luck I will be able to provide a separate review of this case for comparison.

I chose to review the “snap closure” version of the Piel Frama iPhone 3g Flip Case instead of the version secured with magnets because I simply prefer a more secure clip on the flap protecting the screen of my device. Interestingly enough I found a hidden pseudo-feature in the use of a popper to secure the top flap closed: it’s possible to fold the flap behind the case, connect the popper at the back, and use it as a sort-of psuedo iPhone stand that keeps your phone upright on your desk. It is just about stable enough to gently operate the iPhone in this upright position but it works better for show than for any practical use.

The flap itself boasts three pockets for credit cards and notes, very useful for travelling light but perhaps better used for keeping a micro-fibre cloth handy to remove all those pesky finger prints and smears from the iPhone.

When the Piel Frama flip case is closed the reinforced top and bottom serve to protect the sides of the iPhone in addition to the front and the back. Another bonus served by the snap closure version is that the strip of leather that folds behind the case to snap the cover shut also serves to protect the universal dock port without obscuring the speaker. It’s full of surprises!

Last but not least the Piel Frama iPhone 3g Flip Case includes a plastic belt clip with a quick release button allowing the case to be quickly and cleanly released from your hip with the belt clip left in place for reattaching. I don’t use the belt clip, and find it protrudes a little too far out for my tastes and is overly bulky. In my opinion a simple metal biro-lid like clip would have sufficed and could be permenantly attached to the case avoiding the need to transport an extra component around. The plastic clip does the trick, but it lets down the otherwise immaculately attractive and high quality look and feel of the Piel Frama cae.

Finally the Piel Frama branding on the case is inside, behind where your iPhone would sit. This is a nice touch and keeps the cover of the case clean and simple. However I can’t help but think a Piel Frama logo picked out in gold would look good on the front.

Overall the Piel Frama iPhone 3g Flip Case is a high quality case that offers hefty and uncompromised protection to your iPhone 3g alongside beautiful classic leather looks available in seven colours… including pink.

Friday, August 15th, 2008, iPhone.