The iPhone 5s is the new high-end phone from Apple, finished in silver, space gray, or gold, meant to evoke the premium look of classic jewelry, and the future of cutting edge technology. Enveloping and binding it all together are new cases in 5 common and 1 special edition colors. So do they add to the overall package, or simply distract?
Note: The iPhone 5s cases will fit 2012 iPhone 5 models as well, due to the incredible similarity in form factor. However, they won't fit 2013 iPhone 5c models due to the different sizes involved.
Unlike the bright, vibrant colors of Apple's iPhone 5c cases, the iPhone 5s cases come in paler, more pastel colors that float somewhere between sophisticated and... drab. They're definitely not your father's old TreoBerry holster shades of blacks and browns, but they're not quite wow either. Apple offers the iPhone 5s case in yellow, beige, blue, brown, black, and (RED). That (RED) benefits the Product (RED) charity and is exclusive to Apple stores.
The yellow is yellow. The beige is a little too pasty-skin-tone for me, the blue is a nice cool shade, the brown an earthy, golden hue, the black is black, and the red is race car. Because the silver and gold iPhones have white front plates, and the space gray iPhone has a black face plate, you get two very different looks. I like all of them except for the beige. It's just sickly. Black is classic and red is hot, but all the others look fine.
The iPhone 5s cases feel as good as they look. They're made out of leather, as fits their premium positioning, but don't let the supple surface fool you - they're hard cases on the inside. The texture is visible but fine, adding depth to the sheen, and providing more warmth and grip than the cold metal and glass of the iPhone 5s proper allows.
The inside is microfiber, so it'll keep your iPhone 5s safe from scratches and scrapes as well.
Buttons and bottoms
The volume buttons aren't great. They work but they're squishy enough to require too much effort to push, and not give enough satisfaction when they finally click. The mute/ringer switch is cutout, so that works fine, but the sleep/wake button is also as covered and works every bit as poorly. The old iPhone 4 bumpers nailed how to handle buttons - out of metal - so this is an unfortunate step in the wrong direction.
The cutout around the camera works fine. No reflections, no problems at all, even with the dual LED flash on the iPhone 5s. The cutouts around the Lightning adapter and 3.5mm are a little bit closer, maybe even too close for comfort if you have large sized cables. The case does wrap up above the phone, so if you put it face down it will protect from scratches and scrapes.
The fit is tight, maybe even too tight. The iPhone 5s cases don't add much by way of extra bulk or weight, but they can be a pain to remove.
Apple's iPhone 5s cases are a premium way to add premium leather to premium devices. If all that sounds just a little stuffy, well it is. They cover a lot of what makes the iPhone 5s shine, but do add enough protection that they'll no doubt appeal to a lot of Apple Store customers.
I spent the last few days with the red and black cases on a gold and space gray iPhone 5s. I liked the look and feel a lot, the buttons not so much. Overall, however, they're great, form-fitting, Apple-branded cases in 6 colors, 5 of which aren't bad and a couple of which are downright sexy.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.