Personal preferences differ enough that there’s no single style of iPhone case that’s “right” for every person. Some people prefer “playthrough” cases that always expose the iPhone’s screen; others like flip-style cases with lids that open like books. Today, we’re looking at two cases of each type for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: Twelve South’s latest BookBook and Tech21’s Classic Shell with Cover are flip-style designs, while Tech21’s Classic Frame and Classic Shell are playthrough cases.
One of these is the best case of its type that we’ve ever seen, while the others are all good.
The 800-pound gorilla in this collection is Twelve South’s BookBook for iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus; both sizes sell for $60, and we tested the larger version. If you’re not familiar with the BookBook lineup, you should be: Twelve South debuted it years ago as a riff on typical leather cases, using deliberately aged material to simulate the look and feel of old books. Earlier iPhone versions looked like the “little black books” of yesteryear, while fitting easily into pockets. MacBook- and iPad-sized versions are large and beautiful enough to fit on bookshelves, blending in with classic hardcovers — potentially hiding your Apple gear in plain sight. They’re certainly some of the most attractively aged cases on the market.
BookBook is nearly identical for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Each case includes a lightly weathered leather exterior in your choice of black or brown, each accented with red and inked with gold. Inside is a brown suede wallet with multiple pockets: the iPhone 6 version has a cash compartment, an ID card compartment, and four plain card slots, while the taller iPhone 6 Plus version (shown here) adds a fifth plain card slot. All of the slots are nicely tailored rather than cheaply cut.
Each case uses a soft touch rubber shell to hold the iPhone on the right side, and you can slide the shell to the left, releasing it from one or two columns of mounting pins. Freed from the first column of pins, the shell can rest on the cash and card flap for video viewing. Another push removes the shell altogether, enabling you to have slimline access to your iPhone whenever you don’t want to carry everything around. The practicality of this design is fantastic, offset only by the shell’s lack of top, bottom, and button protection.
By comparison, Tech21’s Classic Shell with Cover ($40-$45) is a very simple alternative — but somewhat more protective. The front feels like precision-molded vinyl, and the back feels like a mix of glossy and matte TPU plastic, leaning heavily on the matte finish. Everything is a dark gray except for an orange ring of shock-absorbing material that runs across the iPhone’s edges. This material, called D3O, is the single biggest differentiator between Tech21 and rival cases; it’s there to limit iPhone drop damage without adding much bulk to the phone’s edges.
What’s great about the Classic Shell with Cover is its approach to protection. Everything that can be covered on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus is protected, though the rear camera hole is on the very large side. The issue is that the cover doesn’t do anything except act as a passive front lid. Tech21 doesn’t let it function as a stand, include card-holding slots, or enable it to detach from the iPhone. It’s just there.
If you like the design but don’t need the cover, Tech21’s standard Classic Shell ($35-$40) is the exact same case minus the front lid, and with a fully glossy rather than matte back. While the gloss makes the case one of the slipperiest we’ve tested for the iPhone 6 Plus, the soft edges make it comfortable to grip in (large) hands. You still get all the button coverage and tailored port access of the Classic Shell with Cover, as well as Tech21’s D3O edge lining. If you need screen protection, Tech21’s separately-sold Impact Shield film is available.
The Classic Frame ($35-$40) is the odd man out in this collection. From the front, it looks nearly identical to the Classic Shell, as Tech21 uses the same TPU and D3O top, left, and right materials and design.
But in the process of swapping the soft plastic back for a hard frosted plastic rear frame, Tech21 drops all of the bottom protection save for bumpers on the corners. This gives you the benefits of impact protection and unfettered access to the Lightning and headphone ports, with the consequence of greater potential for scratch damage and/or dust with the iPhone’s bottom.
Our top pick in this collection is Twelve South’s BookBook for iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus, which matches or exceeds the highest design standards of its case genre. While it’s not the least expensive flip case out there, the extra dollars are paying for atypically nice materials and features. Tech21’s Classic Shell is a close runner-up, as it’s a solid playthrough case with reasonable protection and a nice design. While we liked the Classic Frame, its lack of bottom protection would be an issue for us — possibly not for you, if your needs differ — and the Classic Shell with Cover is similarly good, but lacks the frills of the best flip-style cases we’ve seen. There are numerous comparable and less expensive options out there.