Some would call me an iPhone “nudist.” I prefer iPhone “purist,” but no one really cares. The point is, I prefer using my iPhone caseless. Sure, I get cases on a regular basis for prototype and review testing, but that does not mean I want to use one. Using an iPhone without a case prevents bulky third party hardware from ruining my purely Apple experience.

It appears Twelve South is after my heart and as they sent over a review unit of the SurfacePad. Recently releasing the SurfacePad, the company begs, “don’t call it a case.” Using SurfacePad for about a week, I have grown to enjoy its simplicity. Take a look inside to get the full details…


SurfacePad is extremely thin at 1.7mm, which is illustrated in the image above. Coupled with a thin design, 26 grams is nice and light. The back is coated with an adhesive that holds fast to your iPhone and does not peel or curl after regular use. It is, however, removable and left no visible residue.

Sewn to the back, the front piece doubles as a screen cover and a prop for landscape viewing. The cover is complete luxury Napa leather on the outside and it carries a suede interior to gently protect your iPhone. SurfacePad is just a cover, not a sleeve, not a case, not a skin, but some amalgamation of all other iPhone protection variants.

SurfacePad folded

As I mentioned, the back adheres to the phone and the cover curls around the left side and completely covers the front glass. The top, bottom and right side are exposed, granting immediate access to the ports and sleep/wake button. The mute switch and volume buttons are not directly accessible with this cover. However, the volume buttons are easily depressed through the 1.7mm leather. As the leather is so soft and thin, the mute switch can be toggled without opening the cover, but it is obviously more difficult than if a window were cut for access.

To the eye, it is a bold and seemingly unisex design. I could call it both handsome or cute, depending on the owner. What is for certain are the clean cut edge lines and modern appeal. The Twelve South logo is quietly stamped on the front bottom and SurfacePad is debossed on the inside front cover.

Personal Thoughts

I can tell you, to start, the installation process was terribly frustrating. The sticker covering the adhesive ripped off in pieces and it took me about 5 minutes just to get the paper lining removed. Check out step 2 of the official install video, below. Then, I must have aligned and removed the cover around 15 times before getting it placed exactly the way I wanted it. The good news is, the adhesive is fine to remove and reattach.

After my initial struggle, the very first thing I noticed was the soft cushioned feel of the leather. I kept spinning the phone in my hand, getting a feel for the premium quality. That genuine leather smell is also hard to beat.

I am very pleased with the way the leather cuts against the iPhone. It is edge to edge, except for the camera notch. The notch takes away from the elegance of the overall design, but, there is no way around it. Cutting holes in the leather would cause flash reflection and ruin every picture. Additionally, running a thin strip of leather above the camera would cause peeling when putting it in your pocket.

An inherent issue with a bookish cover is one handed operation. For example, your iPhone rings and you want to take a call. You open the cover and either leave it flapping on the side of your face as you chat or you need to double it back behind the iPhone. After a day or so, I became fairly dextrous and flipping it around one handed was an option, but still a bit of a challenge.

The landscape option is a nice addition. The suede interior grabs the iPhone edge, providing viewing angles across the entire inside surface. I would never use this as a stand, but I do not watch many movies on my iPhone. If you are an avid landscape user, this is a great additional feature.

SurfacePad Landscape

Despite my description, all of these issues are synonymous with the design. The camera notch, one handed operation, mute switch, etc. All of these characteristics come with a book-like cover design. The bigger question? Is this case the best at what it does?


I say, yes. SurfacePad is about the thickness of a credit card and it is constructed of high end genuine leather. It just feels great in your hand, looks chic and will only set you back $34.99, which is reasonable for a genuine leather product. The design does not detract from the elegance of your iPhone and delicately covers as little of the hardware as possible. Of course, it is a little harder to operate with one hand. It does cover three sides of your iPhone, after all. The SurfacePad is available in black, white and red.

Is it waterproof, crush proof, shock absorbent, and kid proof? Absolutely not. SurfacePro is as minimal as possible, which is why it is perfect for purists. If you love using your iPhone naked, but have always thought about adding a little bit of stylish protection, buy yourself a SurfacePad for iPhone 4/s or 5.

Thoughts? Is anyone rushing to buy one?

  • Nice review …

  • i have been using it for a month or so, and i m pretty disapointed by the quality of the product… it looks and feels nice, but it’s already the second time i have had to glue back together the edges of the cover…

    • Damian W

      Was not it a kickstarter project few months back? Yeah, some of the kickstarter’s projects dont shine with quality. I’ve had similar experience.

      • No it wasn’t a Kickstarter project

      • LiusGustavsson

        If TwelveSouth used a kickstarter project, yeah that’d be pretty wierd. They mostly make their own products mate.

      • Damian W

        Yeah, I probably saw almost identical case on kicstarter few months ago. That’s why I got confused.

    • If you contact customer support they will send you another one. I will be on my third here soon as its happening again.

  • leart za jmi

    nice to see, but is make no sense to use, dont protect at all, just convert the phone in a book

  • cortech

    I bought one a few weeks ago,l and really like it. Unfortunately it is not holding up as well as I would hope. The bottom left corner of the front piece (if it is closed) is starting to open. I will need to glue it back together before it gets worse. Other than the wear and tear, the case is nice and offers a classier sort if cover.

    • That’s a bummer. I wouldn’t expect that from a company like TwelveSouth, which usually makes great products. Especially for a $40 case. Did you try talking to them and see if they could do something about it?

      • cortech

        No I haven’t contacted them, but I will try and see what happens. Thanks for the tip.

  • JimGresham

    I noticed some of you are having issues after prolonged use. You should know, Twelve South stands behind their products for a year. If you send them a picture of your case and your purchase date, they may work with you on a replacement.

  • I think it looks nice, its not for my style though.

    If you want the iPhone to have that ‘Galaxy’ book look, this is perfect for you.

    Note: I think an inside ‘ID’ pocket would make it a better product.

  • On my second one, sending it back this time for a refund. Nice cover but it comes apart way too quickly.

  • carmouflagger

    Nah thanks, i dont want anything covering my screen.

  • Great, I like your confession Jeff

    • JimGresham

      I’m Jim.

  • regkilla

    Not for me. I like to protect the sides of my iPhone 5.

  • How exactly is this a minimalistic case? I understand that it is thin and, therefore, is minimalistic in that regard, but in almost every other way the case doesn’t appear to be. Also, having to fumble with the front cover when the phone is being used would be too much for me.

  • If i wanted to rock my iPhone naked, id rock it naked.

  • czbird

    $30 shipping to EU? Seriously? You’ve just lost a customer…

  • JoblessGuy2

    Personally speaking, I don’t really like fabrics on my devices. They feel (cause they are) out of place to me. The best case for me would be a rock strong aluminium bumper with a transparent plastic back.

  • felixtaf

    Love to keep my phone full nude… Not semi-nude like this…

  • I’ll definitely be getting one of these when I can upgrade my 4S to a 5S later this year! (assuming the 5S wont make any changes to the exterior and that it is called a 5S)

  • bloodshed

    i prefer a bumper

  • Bob

    The case falls apart in a matter of 2 weeks. They will replace it but what good is replacing it every 2 weeks? They suck.

  • mduckitt

    After 3 weeks of regular business use the item began to split between the seams. I have come to expect better quality fromTwelveSouth, especially for three weeks of use. I contacted Bridget at TwelveSouth customer service and I was instructed to send the item back to them and once recieved, they will send me a replacement.

    I am very disappointed to have to leave my new iPhone 5 unprotected because of TwelveSouth’s quality control issues. I use my phone regularly for business and find it very unacceptable to have to purchase another TEMPORARY case because of TwelveSouth’s lack if quality control.

    This will be the last TwelveSouth product I purchase.

    The quality issues were a known by TwelveSouth, I enclose a response by them after I contacted them””I can assure you that we know our first shipment of SurfacePads have had a higher rate of failure that we see as acceptable. It is not something that we have ignored, but thanks for your feedback.”