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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 (opens in new tab), a leather-bound book-style wallet case that brought both looks and functionality to my iPhone 7 Plus.

Journal - See at Twelve South (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab)

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.

13 Comments
  • Terrible review and photos don't help either. I have used folio cases since my 3G and my present 7 Plus case from Spigen is just as good if not better and less expensive than the "leather one". Aloha Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm trying to make sense of this, are you saying this a terrible review because you don't understand why people like genuine leather and will pay a higher cost for genuine leather? I read the review, it very clearly runs down why it's a good case, even for someone who never liked folio cases previously. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's a lot of cards in that case ha ha. Makes me feel much better about this case. Still the inability to remove the case makes it a no go for me. I'll stick with my Burkley Leather Folio wallet for now. Magnetic holding for the case, removable, European leather, very nice. I love Twelve South and I love the look and design of the Folio, just needs to have a removable case. Sent from the iMore App
  • Previously, it'd be either your phone or your wallet. Now pickpockets won't need to choose. Brilliant!!
  • Alternatively, it's easier to guard both. :) I got my wallet stolen two years ago because I had my hand on my phone, rather than my wallet.
  • That kinda makes sense. Never thought of it that way.
  • Twelve South's stuff is nice but over-priced and generally not worth that extra cost.
    Check out "Dreem iPhone 7 PLUS Wallet Case" on Amazon. Great case and the "case" portion is removable from the leather folio portion... so, you can still use most car mounts.
  • Really??? Cause SENA...then there's you know SENA....or SENA. That company SENA making high quality folios and leather cases since long before 12 south. Stop buying stuff at the kodisk in the mall and expand those wings a little. Oh and SENA. Sent from the iMore App
  • Closest competitor by Sena is the Wallet Book at $80 and the Twelve South Journal looks better and costs $70, the BookBook is $60 and has a removable case. Twelve South also has the Surface Pad and Relaxed Leather with pockets for $50, closest comparisons from Sena are the ISA Snap-On Wallet and the Ultra Thin Wallet Book also for $50. In the large department you also have the Burkley option for $68, and the BookBook is the only one that beats it in price for the category. Sent from the iMore App
  • The closest would be the Heritage. It's apparent you haven't been to the site since the iPhone 3GS. Sent from the iMore App
  • Except the Heritage is a sleeve while the Twelve South Folio is a full blown wallet folio case. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's not true, there are four heritage cases in that line. The wallet case is the most popular. http://www.senacases.com/heritage-collection/ Sent from the iMore App
  • Ok, I didn't go to the Collections page, still, that's only for pre-order and is still $80. When it comes to wallet cases, it's subjective. Do you want a cheap one to get the job or classy one? The classy ones cost more and then it's really all brand preference. I myself now prefer Burkley for my wallet case. Sent from the iMore App