Vaja Cases have a reputation for beautiful, well-made leather cases and covers. Until recently, I had never gotten to try a Vaja case for myself, and my first experience was with the beautiful Nouva Pelle case for iPhone 5. I was also lucky enough to recently receive some other Vaja iPhone 5 cases. Two of them – the Top SP Striped Case, a striped flip cover for iPhone 5, and the Top Flip Case, an Executive Leather flip cover for iPhone 5 – are very much alike, so I’ll be covering them both in one review. Let’s give them a look.
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Both cases came with a tan-colored pouch to protect the case when you stuff your iPhone into a pocket or gear bag. I photographed only one, because both look exactly like this. The case seems to be constructed of a lightly-textured suede. It definitely has a rich leather smell, but I can’t tell if the material is natural leather or an engineered leather. The stitching is even and straight and color-matched to the suede. A Vaja label is sewn into the one side of the case; I don’t like labels that stick out like this because they can scratch my skin or get snagged in my clothing.
The open flaps at the top make it easier to reach in and grab the phone. The flaps completely cover the front and back of the case, so it’s protected from scratches in your bag.
Both cases are hand-made of premium leathers. They both come in some standard, ready-to-ship colors, and both can be customized in your color choices. The only branding on either is a small metal Vaja logo attached near the bottom of the front flap. Both cases are stiffened and structured, but I’m not sure what type of strengthening material is encased between the leather pieces.
The Striped Flip Cover is made from a “single piece of striped Argentinian Floater leather and features an embossed Caterina leather interior.” I received the case in True Blue & Birch. The Executive Leather Flip Cover has a Caterina leather exterior and embossed interior. I received the London brown case. The blue leather seems to be a bit shinier than the brown leather.
Something that’s completely invisible but useful are the magnets embedded in the top edges of both the front flap and the back shell. These magnets hold the case closed without needing any flaps, straps, or snaps.
Because both cases are so similar, I decided I’d try out the striped case for a couple of weeks and asked my husband, Butch, to try out the brown case for the same amount of time.
The backs of both cases look very similar. There’s a large cutout for the back camera, and a metal badge with the Vaja name and logo attaching the front flap to the back.
The interiors are lined with leather pieces that are embossed with diagonal lines of the Vaja name and logo. Look closely at the front flap, and you’ll see a small piece of screen. This covers an opening in the inner hard shell, leaving only the screen and a single piece of leather covering the iPhone 5′s upper ear piece. If you don’t mind getting skin oils and makeup (for some of the ladies) on the leather exterior, you can even take calls through a closed case.
You also will notice the “neck” of leather that attaches the front flap to the back shell. You won’t ever have to worry about losing the front cover of this case.
The camera opening is more than big enough to expose the camera lens and flash and the noise-reducing microphone located between them. I didn’t notice any flash flare when using the camera while my iPhone was in this case.
When you receive a call, you can open the case and let the front flap hang down as you talk. It was surprisingly easy to use the phone this way. The leather flap on the Executive Leather Top Flip Case was a little softer and more flexible than that on the Top SP Striped Flip Case, but after a little “exercise”, the blue leather was just as flexible as the brown. If you don’t like the flap hanging down like that, you can fold it completely behind the phone, and it will fit easily into your hand.
I had one of my famous 3-hour calls with my friend, Leah, while my phone was in this case. I found the iPhone was very easy to hold and use in this case. Part of the time, I had the flap hanging down and folded behind the rest of the the time. Neither seemed more comfortable than the other, but it was nice to vary the hold to give my hand a change of grip.
Here you see the sides of the iPhone 5 in the cases. The side with the SIM drawer is completely covered by the back shell at all times. If you need to access that drawer, you’ll need to take the iPhone out of the case. The Mute slider and the volume buttons are exposed and easy to use, even when the front flap is closed.
The bottom flap completely covers the Lightning connector when closed. You can charge the phone in this case only if you leave the front cover open. The earphone connector is left open for use, and the case leaves part of the bottom speakers uncovered. The bottom microphone is covered by this case. I did not try a call with the front flap closed – I’ve seen how my screen looks after a call! – so I don’t know how muffled the bottom mic would be during a closed-cover call.
The power/sleep button at the top is impossible to use with the front flap closed. I had to push the case open a bit to get my finger in there. That opening is a great finger grip for opening the case, though. The magnets aren’t so strong that you feel you need a pry bar to open the case, but they do hold the front and back together well enough you need to be able to wedge your finger in there to easily open the front cover.
Here’s the front of the iPhone 5 in the case. The edges of the back shell wrap over the champhered edges of the phone’s metal sides, but they don’t interfere with using the touch screen. You can see the Home button, phone ear piece, front camera, and the proximity/ambient-light sensor are all left completely open.
After a couple of weeks, I removed my Striped cover because I had another Vaja phone case to review, and I do miss my Striped cover. Butch has refused to give up his Executive Leather case. He’s still using it daily. He likes the protective suede pouch because he carries his phone in his front pocket. I have noticed a bit of leather darkening around the edges where he holds the phone, probably from skin oils. He says he doesn’t mind this darkening. In fact he likes the wearing-in, aging look of the leather. His case had no scratches because he always kept it in the suede pouch. My striped case looked the same when I took it off as when I put it on my iPhone. I think the shinier finish protected it from skin oils. I also always kept it in the suede pouch, and my case had no scratches.
I find these Vaja cases to be very protective. I certainly don’t have to worry that my keys or a pen will gouge my iPhone, because it’s almost completely covered by the case itself, and the suede pouch takes care of everything else. I was surprised to find how easy to use the phone was, because I expected that dangling front flap to be a problem while talking on the phone, but it wasn’t. The price is in line with a lot of other leather cases on the market – and not all of those are hand-crafted, either. Vaja Cases have a variety of standard colors in both styles, but you can always have your case customized if they don’t have what you like. I find this to be a very good value for the money.