I’ve always admired Vaja cases, but I’ve never had the chance to try one with any of my devices. I’m an instant-gratification kinda gal, and I couldn’t stand waiting to have a case custom-made for me and the ready-to-ship cases usually were in colors that didn’t appeal to me. Recently Vaja Cases contacted Julie about their Nuova Pelle for iPhone 5, which they say is the “slimmest premium leather case ever crafted.” I don’t normally like folio-style cases on my phones, but I was interested to see how this ultra-thin case would work. I was very excited to be selected to test out the new Nuova Pelle case with my iPhone. I quickly received the new case, packed in the pretty, colorful box you see above.
The Nuova Pelle case is made of “premium Bridge leather” in a variety of colors. Most colors seemed to be browns, but there were a few brighter colors, including the Chili that I requested. It’s not a fire-engine red, but a nice, moderately-deep bluish-red color that I really like. It’s colorful without being “loud”. Of course, the front has the Vaja logo. Many case descriptions I’ve seen indicate that the logo is made of sterling silver, but the Nuova Pelle’s description doesn’t indicate that this one is. The leather smell is there, but it’s not overwhelming, and there’s no chemical smell evident from the tanning or dyeing products.
The case is made of a single piece of the Bridge leather, so the only seams are those around the edges. Stitches are even and straight with no loose threads in sight. In addition to the metal logo, the Vaja name has been embossed on the back.
You’ll notice a “bite” is missing from the upper corner of the back. This leaves the iPhone 5′s camera, flash, and back microphone completely open. The case didn’t interfere with taking pictures or with using the flash.
The case measures 4.7″ tall X 2.25″ wide X 0.4″ thick at the spine. It weighs one ounce on my digital kitchen scale. The entire case is very sleek and thin. I measured the front panel; it’s just a tad thicker than 1/16th of an inch. The front and back pieces have a stiffener inside, but the spine doesn’t, so it is very flexible.
Vaja sends along a protective sleeve with the Nuova Pelle case. You could use it as a dust jacket to protect the case when you are storing it, or you can use it to protect the case when it’s in your gear bag, like I do. The case is made of a heathery gray material, and I honestly can’t tell if it’s real suede or a sueded fabric. The only branding on this sleeve is the translucent, rubbery tag with the Vaja name.
The interior is lined with a brown leather that’s been embossed with diagonal rows of the Vaja name. I’ve noticed these rows leave “marks” on my iPhone screen that are similar to the lines left on an iPad’s screen by the Smart Cover. I think it’s because the embossed areas don’t touch, so they don’t absorb any of the oils left on the screen. It’s not a problem, though. The marks disappear along with the oils when I clean the screen.
You’ll notice there’s a large adhesive pad on the interior back. I was a bit torn when I saw this. I don’t like to glue things to my devices, but I hate corner elastics that some cases use to hold devices in place, and hard plastic or rubber inserts glued into the back of a case add a lot of bulk. The instructions for getting the phone in the case seemed simple enough, so I didn’t worry I’d get everything misaligned and destroy the case or phone while trying to affix it.
To install the case, you just lay the clean phone against the front and spine and make sure the top and bottom edges of the phone are lined up with the case. Then peel away the protective sheet from the adhesive pad and close the case. The first time I tried this, I did let the phone slip a bit because I was trying to juggle a camera, the phone, and the case. I pulled the back free and tried again, and I was glad to see that there was no stickiness left on my phone. The second time, I put down the camera and concentrated on lining up everything before closing the back.
You’ll also see that the metal sides of the iPhone 5 are left completely exposed by this case. I had no problem using any of the buttons. I could use any charging cable with my iPhone 5 in this case, including the Lightning adapter that doesn’t work with some cases. I don’t have a dock for this phone, so I can’t say if it would fit into docks.
You can see how the front of the Nuova Pelle folds back. The spine doesn’t flatten, but the edges of the front and back line up perfectly. Folded like this, it’s thicker at the spine than at the outer edge, but I found this comfortable to hold in my hand. I found it to be a bit more comfortable to hold than the naked iPhone 5. I literally held the iPhone 5 in the Nuova case against my ear for a 3.5 hour call with my friend Leah, and it was comfortable throughout the entire call. I never got any hand cramps, nor did I feel any irritations from the metal edges of the phone like I do when using the iPhone 5 uncased.
So far, the spine isn’t getting flattened out when folded back like that. I hope it doesn’t, because I like the little bit of cushion and thickness on the spine side when I hold it to my ear.
Here’s the iPhone 5 installed in the case. The adhesive pad in the back holds the iPhone like iron. I haven’t had the slightest fear that it’s going to release from the phone. I’ll admit that I haven’t tried to remove it from the iPhone to see how easily it comes off. I intend to keep this case on my iPhone 5.
Vaja says the case has magnets inside the cover to keep it closed over the iPhone’s screen. I can’t feel them in the cover, but something certainly keeps the front closed against the screen, even when I hold the phone with the screen facing down. It reminds me so much of a Smart Cover for an iPad that I am still sometimes surprised that it doesn’t turn my phone on when I open the cover. I know that the iPhone doesn’t even have the sleep/wake function, but I still expect it to work.
I didn’t really expect the Nuova Pelle case to protect the iPhone 5, other than to prevent scratches to the screen and back. I accidentally tested the protectiveness a couple of days ago when I dropped my iPhone 5 about 2.5 feet onto a hardwood floor. It landed hard, and the thump made my blood run cold. I don’t know if the case did it or if I got lucky, but my phone didn’t have a dent, scratch, or crack on it. My Vaja case didn’t either, for that matter.
I’m going to give the Nuova Pelle Case for iPhone 5 a big thumbs up! It’s a very attractive, well-made case. The leather looks, smells, and feels wonderful, and the construction details are perfect. Despite my initial misgivings, I like how well the adhesive pad holds my iPhone 5 in place, and I like not having to try to reach the buttons and controls through openings in a hardshell case. The Nuova Pelle case is as sleek and beautiful as the iPhone 5 itself, and you can’t say that about many cases. This isn’t the type of case I would have on my iPhone if I were the type to throw my phone into my pocket with coins and keys, but I never do that anyway. It’s great to protect the phone in my purse, and it’s even small enough to fit in my Dooney and Bourke go-to-lunch wallet. I don’t know how Vaja could make it better.
Charlesn asked a couple of questions about how the case impacts a couple of functions of the iPhone 5.
When the cover is folded all the way to the back, it leaves a gap between it and the back of the phone. The rear microphone isn’t completely covered, but it is at least partially blocked. I personally don’t normally use my phone in very loud environments, so I haven’t noticed a problem with this. I’m sorry I don’t have more info for you.
I’ve found that I use the cover as a “camera grip” for the iPhone 5. It is a bit more in the way when I’m taking landscape pictures, but I can still grip it well enough that it helps steady the phone in my hand. In portrait orientation, I grip it near the spine, like I’m holding a tiny paperback book open. That works very well as a “camera grip.” I always grip the case with the left hand and use my right thumb to trigger the shot.