Review: Apple’s Saddle Brown Leather Case for iPhone 6S Plus

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I’ve often ignored Apple’s full-body cases because there are so many other great case-makers on the market. Sena, Vaja, Case-mate, Spigen, and TwelveSouth are a few names right off the top of my head. However, for the iPhone 6S Plus, I wanted to balance a classy look and an improved grip without going overboard on price.

It wasn’t until I saw Matt Gemmell tweet about the Saddle Brown case on Twitter that I considered Apple’s own offering. I’d seen the Brown leather case on iPhone 6 models and wasn’t very impressed by the colour — it looked beaten up and dull. It didn’t feel luxurious, just utilitarian. The Saddle Brown colour that came out with iPhone 6S is a different story. It’s a far richer colour than last year’s basic Brown, and — as you can see above — looks positively delicious out of the box.

There are plenty reviews of what this thing looks like when it’s new, but not as many of how the leather darkens and breaks in over time. This is what I found interesting about this purchase, so I took shots of the case ever few weeks to track how it was wearing in. This thing didn’t go into my jeans pocket very often, but it did go in and out of the front pocket of my black winter coat.

Week 1

The case still had a caramel colour to it, and there wasn’t any spotting. There were a few natural marks on the leather and slight wrinkling in the corners, but I consider that par for the course. It is animal skin, and not every cow can afford Maybelline.

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Week 2

Seven days in and the case was starting to show signs of wear along the corners, but more importantly, the colour changed very quickly to become a deeper, richer brown. This is exactly what I wanted from this purchase, and I was surprised to see it happen so quickly in the winter sun. The darkening of the corners made me realize that my pockets were dirtier than I thought, since they were the main material that my case was coming into contact with.

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Week 3

This is where differences started to get a bit starker. In addition to the corners, the top and sides of the case were becoming distinctly black, as if someone had done some light charcoal shading on those areas.

Week 4 + 5

To be honest, I hadn’t really noticed any more changes to the case after week three. The sides and top were still slowly getting darker, but I had to really look for these changes. I had a feeling this case would end up looking like a vignetted photo over time — a nice dark border that creeps towards the center, but which should highlight the lovely dark saddle brown leather. Unfortunately, as you can tell by the past-tense I’ve been using, this case never made it past week #5.

One of the corners started peeling (like dry skin in the winter) and I suddenly got very cold feet about the long-term durability of the case. It was expensive enough that I wanted it to last a good year or more, and five weeks of light wear were already doing some damage that was more than cosmetic. The folks at the Apple Store weren’t up for providing a full refund, understandably, but they did offer to exchange the case for something of similar value.

Apple-Midnight-Blue-Silicone-case

Silicone in Midnight Blue

I might have had a bad version of Apple’s Saddle Brown case, but I decided not to take the risk on another one. I ended up choosing a silicone case in Midnight Blue instead. I’ve had it for about three weeks now, and it’s been holding up perfectly thus far. No signs of wear, no darkening in the corners, and none of the matted silicone topper has rubbed off.

I’m not nearly the case fiend that I used to be from even a few years ago, but this case ticks off a lot of the right boxes for me:

  • covers the camera lip on the 6S Plus so it doesn’t make contact with tables
  • has an exposed 3.5mm jack so it works with all my headphones
  • has an exposed Lightning port so any cable works with it
  • is thin enough to fit in most iPhone docks
  • has great covered buttons that maintain a satisfying clickiness

Most importantly, this case gives me the confidence to hold the iPhone 6S Plus however I’d like. I can confidently use it with one hand on the subway without feeling like it could slide right out of my palm. I can also pinch the phone by the sides while I’m reading in bed. I tried reading last night without the case, and found the aluminum sorely lacking in the friction department. Unless my hands are a little wet, the naked iPhone wants to slip right out of my palm and onto the floor. It hears gravity’s summons and dearly wants to respond with a crash.

Placing a silicone case on the 6S Plus has eliminiated its desire to shatter itself on the floor, and I’m happy with this purchase. The Midnight Blue is not the most eye-catching thing on the market, but the case’s durability and soft-touch feel are serving me well enough for now. If you’re at the first-party Apple cases, I’d suggest sticking to silicone over the leather — at least where the iPhone is concerned.