by Michael Evans
AFTER A FEW days' use of my new Piel Frama iPhone case I remain extremely impressed with its quality and functionality. I'm reminded how much I used to love Piel Frama's leather Treo cases in a past iLife. This is a top-quality product and it complements perfectly the quality feel of the iPhone. It will appeal to the most fastidious of iPhonistas, and I should know.
The iPhone slides into the soft-leather-lined interior remarkably easily, without being too tight but with complete security. Although the phone cannot be docked while in the case, it is a moment's job to slide it out into nakedness. You can, of course, attach the sync cable to the phone while in the case; it's just that the leather prevents seating in the iPhone dock. The leather frame around the screen is pretty unobtrusive (unlike in the case of some cheaper designs I've seen in the Apple Store) and doesn't hinder the fingers when typing. Just occasionally I have found a little difficulty in selecting text to the far left, but you soon get the knack.
Unlike similar Sena cases I looked at in the Apple Store last week, the Piel Frama protects the corners of the phone. With the Sena and other designs I could imagine damaged corners if the phone fell on a hard surface. What's the point of having a case if the corners, the most vulnerable bits, are exposed?
An unexpected bonus (not by design, I feel sure) is that the phone in the case stands upright on a table---either in portrait or landscape mode. In both modes the case flap acts as a hinge to keep the phone level without slipping over (as shown in the photograph above). It is thus ideal for watching videos (something that I am doing more and more often). You can even adjust the viewing angle easily in portrait mode or, in landscape, by putting a piece of folded paper under the edge of the flap.
The flap on my model uses magnets for closure. There is an alternative design with a press-stud flap, but this adds bulk and needs an extra action to close. The magnets (two of them) work well and I would recommend this configuration for general use. Incidentally, the flap folds back neatly so it doesn't get in the way of typing or phone answering.
Inside the case are three compartments for credit cards or other odds and ends, plus a small cleaning cloth in a leather enclosure. A hole on the back of the case allows the supplied belt clip to be attached. I don't like this arrangement and prefer to keep the phone in my pocket. If you don't want to fix the clip there is a small plastic plug to fill the hole.
I forgot to mention in my earlier piece that these cases come in a variety of very attractive colours--including red, lime green, powder blue and tan. There are also customised designs to special order. My feminine side loves these colours but the remaining dregs of testosterone forced me to tick the black box.
If you are hooked on the colours, do bear one factor in mind. The leather frame on the black case blends into the colour of the iPhone screen so it isn't very noticeable. If you have a contrasting colour the frame will be emphasised. You might like this or you might hate it. It's a small point, but worth mentioning.
All the Piel Frama cases come in a sturdy box which makes them ideal gift material. And there's an extra goodie in the form of a small, pocketable spray for cleaning the screen. This did not work for me and I was about to fire off an angry email to the long-suffering Estefania Lopez when I read the small print: "Fill it with tap water, it's the best cleaning agent for screens". Previously I've bought special sprays at eye-watering prices and I now wonder if they were all filled with water. Sure enough, Eau de Thames in London does a sterling job. If you are super fastidious, fill the thing with Perrier.
The Piel Frama iPhone case costs €70 (£60 or $99) but this includes international next-day shipping. On my bill the case was listed as €49.34 plus €11 shipping and €9.65 value added tax. This doesn't look unreasonable to me. Lesser leather cases in the Apple Store in Regent's Street sell for £45 (€53).
[Note: the mini speaker sitting next to my iPhone in the picture is called an X-Mini and I purchased it recently from duty-free on a Lufthansa flight. No doubt it is available in the shops for less than the €30 I paid, but it is so cute I couldn't resist (update: loads available on Amazon for well under €30). Want-want took over from wait-wait. It opens out on bellows and compresses back into a little plastic ball. It has USB charging and an iPhone plug. The sound quality is good for listening to podcasts and videos but clearly isn't going to rival B&W's Zeppelin. You do forego both the 50-in LCD and the Bose Surround Sound, but what the heck, it's a portable solution]