Bottom line: SurfacePad for iPhone 12 is a simple leather cover for your device. You can store up to two essential cards in the front cover, and the back is MagSafe compatible. However, it does not attach via MagSafe but rather a residue-free adhesive.
Looks elegant and professional
Minimalist design holds up to two cards
Made with luxuriously soft Napa leather
Easy to remove and re-attach
Compatible with MagSafe
Sides are left exposed and vulnerable
Uses adhesive, not MagSafe, to attach to iPhone
Can be cumbersome if you use iPhone a lot
Cards will leave marks on the screen
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When it comes to protecting your iPhone 12, it's always going to be subjective. After all, we can recommend the best iPhone 12 cases, but these won't appeal to someone who just prefers to not really use protection at all. When that's the case, perhaps something more minimal could be suitable.
While I tend to prefer protective cases for my iPhone 12 Pro, sometimes I also want to go down the more elegant and minimal solution too. When I saw that Twelve South was launching a new SurfacePad for the iPhone 12 lineup, I was intrigued. I had always wanted to try the SurfacePad out because it looks classy and professional and allows you to stow your most essential cards while covering both the front and back of the device. I was also interested in this particular one because it states that it's MagSafe compatible.
I was given the opportunity to try the new SurfacePad for iPhone 12 out, and while I'm a sucker for elegant leather goods, this one didn't quite live up to my expectations.
Twelve South SurfacePad for iPhone 12: Price and availability
The Twelve South SurfacePad for iPhone 12 is available directly from the Twelve South website. At the time of this writing, it does not seem to be available at other major retailers, like Amazon or Best Buy, though this can change in the future. The SurfacePad for iPhone 12 comes in three colors: Cognac, Black, and Plum. It costs $50.
Twelve South SurfacePad for iPhone 12: Just the essentials — nothing more, nothing less
Twelve South is a brand that is known for its unique and distinguished products, including the SurfacePad, which debuted in 2013. Before I dive into the ins and outs of the SurfacePad, know one thing beforehand: this is not for the clumsy. It's simply a leather cover for your iPhone, and it's not meant for a lot of protection. For that, you'll want to check out our other recommendations for best iPhone 12 Pro cases and even MagSafe-compatible iPhone 12 Pro cases.
The SurfacePad is made with fine Napa leather that feels smooth and soft to the touch. Like any good leather product, this will develop a patina over time, which just adds to the overall aesthetic and character. It comes in three gorgeous colors: Cognac (which I have), Black, and Plum. Regardless of the color that you choose, it looks classy and distinctive. There is also nice, detailed stitching all around the exterior and interior — I did not experience any loose or fraying threads.
Attaching the SurfacePad to your iPhone 12 is pretty easy, though you'll need to make sure to wipe the back of your iPhone first for best results. Once that's done, you just peel the sheet off the inside of the SurfacePad, align it up with the back of your iPhone, and press it on. The SurfacePad for iPhone 12 uses SurfaceGrip 2.0, which is Twelve South's super-secure, reusable adhesive. SurfaceGrip is secure enough that the SurfacePad won't come off accidentally, but it also makes it easy to remove if you didn't align it perfectly the first time, or you just want to use a more protective case for some situations. Twelve South also recommends keeping that little protective sheet to store SurfacePad when not in use, as it keeps it in tip-top shape. Honestly, I was disappointed after realizing that SurfacePad uses reusable adhesive instead of MagSafe to attach itself, but I'll go more into that in a bit.
Once the SurfacePad is on your iPhone 12, both your device's back and front surfaces are covered. However, the sides are left exposed, so you definitely want to be mindful of not bumping or dropping your device with this on. Also, the back corner of the SurfacePad has a full opening for the iPhone 12 camera, meaning it's left completely vulnerable as well. Again, SurfacePad is not meant for the clumsy.
On the first few days of use, the SurfacePad may not fully "close" on the front — it may be lifted up a tiny bit. Twelve South recommends placing your device face-down to try and make it close all the way. This is natural and part of the "breaking-in" process for leather products. Along the bottom of the front cover is where you will find a subtle Twelve South logo; there is no other branding on the exterior.
When you open up the SurfacePad, you'll find a plush material lining that will keep your iPhone 12 scratch and scuff-free. There are two pockets on the front flap, allowing you to slip in two of your most essential cards. This could mean two credit cards, or a credit card, and an identification card. The slots give enough leeway for you to also slip in a folded bill if you want, but not much more than that. As you put cards in the pockets, it helps weigh down the front flap a bit, but again, that process may take at least a few days before it is completely flat.
Since one of the main selling points of the iPhone 12 lineup is MagSafe, despite using adhesive to attach itself, the SurfacePad is MagSafe compatible. This means you can freely use your favorite MagSafe accessories, such as a charger, another wallet, and even the new MagSafe Battery Pack, among others.
Overall, if you prefer minimalism and want to eliminate the need to carry a separate wallet with your iPhone, then the SurfacePad is a good option to consider from Twelve South. It's definitely more simple than the company's other wallet-style case, the popular BookBook.
Twelve South SurfacePad for iPhone 12: This isn't for everyone
If you are the type of person who often drops your phone or just bumps it into things a lot, then the SurfacePad is probably not a good choice for you. Since it's pretty much just a cover for the front and back of your phone, the sides are left very much exposed and vulnerable. You'll want to be extra careful with the SurfacePad to prevent the sides from getting scuffed up, scratched, or worse. I also noticed that if you have cards in the front cover, they'll leave some marks on the screen that you'll need to wipe away.
I was also a bit disappointed when I found out that it attaches via reusable adhesive instead of MagSafe. For a product that touts itself as MagSafe compatible, I thought it would also be attaching itself that way as well, similar to the PopSockets PopGrip for MagSafe. It seems that I wasn't alone in thinking this either, as I've seen some other comments from around the internet in regards to this. I mean, the adhesive is definitely strong and secure, and I did not see any residue left behind when removed, but I would much have preferred magnetic attachment instead.
And like pretty much every other folio-style case out there, the SurfacePad can be a little cumbersome if you use your phone a lot throughout the day. You'll either have the flap hanging or folded back, which means the camera is blocked. I'm honestly not a big fan of folio-style cases in general because of these factors, so I don't see myself using the SurfacePad on a regular basis — it's just not my thing. However, if you don't use the camera often and like the convenience factor of having your essential cards and phone at all times, then this may not bother you as much.
Twelve South SurfacePad for iPhone 12: Competition
There are quite a few iPhone 12 Pro wallet cases out there to choose from. If you want something that's fairly simple but still has good protection, then consider the Case-Mate Tough Leather Wallet Folio. It has a protective shell that you snap your iPhone into, thus giving it all-around protection. There are also enough slot pockets to hold up to four cards and some cash, as well as other compartments for your ID and other small bills. It also doubles as a viewing stand.
Another option is the OtterBox Strada Series. It also features a protective shell for your device, but it has 3x the standard for military-grade drop protection, so it'll be able to withstand pretty much anything. It has two slots for your cards or bills, so it's less than the Case-Mate, but it has much more rugged protection.
However, these two don't have MagSafe compatibility, so it's a trade-off.
Twelve South SurfacePad for iPhone 12: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You are a minimalist
- You like using folio-style cases/covers
- You need MagSafe compatibility
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You are clumsy and need something protective
- You need to carry more than two cards
- You use the camera a lot
For people who prefer minimal protection and want to eliminate the need for a separate wallet, the SurfacePad for iPhone 12 will definitely appeal to them. It's easy to install it on the back of the iPhone thanks to the SurfaceGrip 2.0 adhesive, which is secure enough to not come off when you don't want it to but easy enough to remove when you need to change cases. It also doesn't leave any residue behind. The Napa leather feels premium and is soft, and the interior has a plush lining to keep the surface of your device safe. There are two slots for your two most important cards, with enough room for a note. It's elegant, simple, and looks great.
However, this is a product that will not appeal to everyone. I also felt mislead with the MagSafe compatibility, as I thought that meant that it would attach magnetically, not with adhesive, which I'm not a big fan of. It also lacks protection around the edges, so this is one product that clumsier folks should avoid. And if you need to carry more than two cards often, then this isn't going to cut it. Plus, it's still a folio-style, so it can get tedious to open the flap and hold your device if you use it often, especially when taking photos.
Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.