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Review: Apple’s leather sleeve for iPhone 12 is expensive, but without equal

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.

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.

  • 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
  • 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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