Twelve South's Journal has made me a believer in folio cases

When my fiancé and I first began dating, I'm ashamed to say that I mocked him mercilessly over his choice of case — a fat, mall-bought folio that was constantly falling apart.

"And on an iPhone 6 Plus?!" I exclaimed. "Bulky, inefficient, and impossible to use. You're crazy."

Well, 2014 me is eating some damn fool humble pie, because I've finally found a folio case I don't completely despise: Twelve South's Journal folio, a leather-bound book-style wallet case that brought both looks and functionality to my iPhone 7 Plus.

Journal - See at Twelve South

Before I go into why the Journal is so great, let's detail all the ways in which I usually hate folio iPhone cases:

  • They're bulky.
  • They quickly fall apart, or your cards slide out, or the cover won't close.
  • They're often awkward to hold, especially one-handed.
  • Taking a quick picture is often impossible because of above awkwardness.
  • The inner iPhone casing usually barely covers the iPhone screen in an attempt to keep the device thin, but instead just compromises the security of your device if dropped.

To many, the convenience of having a wallet built into your iPhone case outweighs these nitpicks — but I was always skeptical.

How the Journal differs

Three features stood out to me when I first snapped the Journal onto my iPhone: The leather is as high-quality (and stiff) as a good pair of boots; the rear of the case has a built-in hinge, ostensibly to create a video stand; and the plastic inner shell fits as well as some of the stand-alone protective cases I've used on my iPhone.

The leather and build quality of this case provides the biggest difference between the Journal and all other folio-style offerings: Where most others offer a leather or faux-leather exterior, the interior is often just cloth or a thin-grained inlay — both of which will deteriorate rapidly as you pull cards in and out of the folio slots. The Journal, in contrast, is full-grain leather through and through for pretty much everything but the iPhone's plastic shell — and even that has an exterior leather trim.

I can't state enough how much of a difference this makes in daily wallet use: I can stuff cards into the folio's various slots without worrying that they're going to slide out if I hold my iPhone upside-down or sideways. I've been using the case daily since December, and even today, I can't get those cards to slide out even if I vigorously shake the case upside-down.

There is one minor flaw in the folio's construction: There is a small patch of fabric used along the rear side of the cards to help slide money in and out of the folio's side pocket; unfortunately, I was able to snarl the stitching between this fabric and the leather front almost immediately when sliding out my ID from the clear ID holder. Thanks to the smart construction of the leather card flaps, I haven't really noticed any sideways slippage — the leather keeps the cards in place — but it's an odd lapse in construction quality from an otherwise flawless case.

The full-grain leather also helps create one of my all-time favorite folio features in any case, period: The Journal's gorgeous side-fold. It may have been built to give your iPhone a nice viewing stand at rest, but I use it constantly to easily slide-and-fold the front folio cover section away from my screen for easy one-handed use. (And one-handed photography support.)

No need to awkwardly bend the spine of the folio backwards and press it against the rear of the iPhone to try and read an email — the Journal's side fold offers a perfect, balanced crease that, like the best leather products, looks better with age.

The whole case looks great with age, honestly. The scuffed leather look may be too all-terrain for some ladies, but I personally love it — and instead of having to carry a wallet just as large as my iPhone around, I get to carry something that looks like that kind of high-end wallet without the extra baggage.

Finally, let's talk about the actual protective portion of this iPhone folio: The plastic shell. Unlike other cases that combine materials, it offers a full-frame plastic that protects the back, sides, and corners — the lip is just high enough to avoid the cringe-inducing side shatters oh-so-common in wallet-cased iPhone models.

It also means that the folio section and case section are technically two independent parts of the whole: Twelve South attached the folio portion to the rear quarter of the case with some high-strength glue; I've been able to see this only by putting it near high heat and pulling a little, but haven't yet been able to get it to detach. Even better: If at some point this does happen, all I'll need is some high-strength adhesive to put my wallet case back to rights.

A nitpick or two

The Journal is still a folio case, and it's not perfect. If you're someone who frequently pops their iPhone in and out of its protective covering or folio shell, this is going to be a bigger pain for you than, say, Twelve South's removable BookBook case.

This is most frustrating if you have iPhone mounts in your car, or if you charge with a stand like Twelve South's own HiRise — The folio isn't designed to fit into that kind of space, and the inconvenience can be irritating at times.

I'm also not totally thrilled by the leather-covered buttons along the sides of the case: After Apple did such a nice job with its leather case revamp and crisp aluminum buttons, any "covered" button feels like a cheap imitation of the best thing.

Bottom line

Overall, however, Twelve South's Journal has changed my opinion of the folio case genre. I've gone from having no interest whatsoever in a "combo case" to outright championing mine, and I have to say — nitpicks aside, the convenience of having a wallet and case in one helpful package is a huge boon for me, forgetful idiot as I can sometimes become. It's nice to be able to just grab your iPhone and know that you'll be able to pay for anything, anywhere — even if the store in question doesn't yet take Apple Pay.

Journal - See at Twelve South

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.