Wednesday, 20 January 2021 17:20

Review: 13 iPhone 12 mini cases

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Review: 13 iPhone 12 mini cases Apple

If you've bought a shiny new iPhone 12 mini, you'll probably want a case to go with it. Here's our view of a baker's dozen cases in various styles and materials.

Apple Leather Case

iPhone 12 mini Leather Case with MagSafe California Poppy

This is a slim (11mm thick) and stylish case. It's not as soft in the hand as some cases, but the textured surface provides more friction in the hand than the smoother alternatives. If you don't like the colour (California poppy), there are others to choose from.

The metal buttons look good and work well, but the slight wrinkling of the leather around them might bother the more fastidious. As the case is so thin, the iPhone's switch is not deeply recessed and is therefore still easy to operate.

The case is compatible with inductive chargers and as you'd expect, Apple's own MagSafe charger latches on securely. The MagSafe system also keeps the case snugly attached to the iPhone while making it relatively easy to remove when required.

$89

 

Apple Silicone Case

iPhone 12 mini Silicone Case with MagSafe Cyprus Green

Another good-looking case from Apple that maintains the phone's original look to a large extent. The Cyprus green looked OK with the black iPhone, and several other colours are available.

The silicone material feels like it should be usefully shock absorbing (but weren't game to test that!) and is comfortable in the hand. Fresh out of the box it seemed a little slippery, but after a couple of day's use that issue faded away.

The buttons work well, though unlike some cheaper silicone cases we've used with older iPhones, this one is a very good fit around the Lightning port - charging and headphone cables plugged in easily and securely, and without leaving a big gap or springing back and partially ejecting the connector. The case did not interfere with the operation of the iPhone's buttons, but despite its thinness (just over 10mm) the switch is left a little deep for easy operation.

Again, the case provides a firm grip for the MagSafe charger and also works with other inductive chargers.

$79

 

Apple Leather Wallet

Apple Leather Wallet with Magsafe Baltic Blue

This isn't actually a case, so it provides very little protection for the phone. It would be useful for someone who likes the 'bareback' look but needs to carry one or two cards that can't be used digitally within their iPhone.

Despite some stories we'd heard, MagSafe provides a firm grip between the iPhone and the wallet, and there was no hint of the wallet slipping off when we put the phone back into our pocket. The internals have an interesting internal design that can grip one or two cards. Pick your colour carefully – our sample was Baltic blue, which didn't really go with a black phone. The other colours are California poppy, saddle brown, and black.

Even though we kept the phone away from keys, coins and other objects likely to cause damage, the soft leather of this wallet was one of a very small number of products in this review that showed visible wear after several day's use.

The wallet's thickness (overall 14mm including phone) means there is not much grip for MagSafe charger, and it didn't work at all with the third-party inductive charger we used for testing.

$89

 

Coach Folio Case

Coach Folio Case 2

The only wallet-style case we received was the Coach Folio, which was 25mm thick including the clasp. That makes it too bulky for a trouser pocket in our opinion, but it would probably be OK in a handbag and possibly acceptable in a jacket pocket. If you exclude the clasp, the case is 17mm thick when held closed with no cards inside. Since it provides storage for three cards and banknotes, it could save having to carry a wallet as well as a phone.

This is admittedly subjective, but we find this style of case makes it awkward to use a phone. You have to fold the cover back on itself and then tuck the clasp in to stop the it poking you or getting in the way of interacting with the screen. We tried using the clasp to hold the cover behind the phone, but its magnet wasn't strong enough to secure it in this position.

On the other hand, you can easily unsnap the iPhone from the folio, leaving it protected in a slimline black case. That might be a good move ahead of an intensive period of use, and it also allows the use of an inductive charger – ours didn't work when the phone was in the folio.

We're told the pattern on the heavily textured exterior of the folio makes it clearly identifiable as a Coach product.

$169.95

 

Coach Slim Wrap

Coach Slim Wrap 2

As much as we like slimline cases – the Coach Slim Wrap is 12mm thick – we weren't particularly keen on the industrial design of this one, which leaves the phone buttons exposed. The shape of the cutouts means that unless your fingers are more slender than ours, you may find pressing the buttons a bit awkward. It also means most of the top and bottom edges are unprotected.

The heavily textured outer provides a decent grip. It's made from "genuine Coach materials," but there's no indication of what they actually are. We're guessing the outer material is canvas, as it seems to match the 'colorblock' material used in some Coach canvas products. This case was incompatible with our inductive charger.

Despite the price, one person who saw it thought it looked cheap. We wouldn't go that far, but whether you think the pattern is attractive is a matter of taste, and we do think there's an element of paying for the name – but then some people say that about iPhones.

$129.95

 

Ekster

Ekster iphone12 mini 960x

Ekster's slim – 11mm thick – case comes in plain black leather with a lightly textured surface that feels good in the hand and looks good to the eye. The downside is that the back surface was very slightly marred after several days use, despite being careful with the phone.

It has generally similar styling to the Coach Slim Wrap, with cutouts providing access to the buttons – an arrangement we find more awkward to use than the more usual design with button extenders built into the case.

An ingenious design accommodates a spare SIM and ejector tool inside the case, along with a banknote or two for emergencies. This would be very handy for travellers who use a different SIM when they are overseas, as it saves having to carry the SIM and ejector pin separately.

Ekster inside

Ekster have produced a very nice case, especially as it works with wireless chargers. It's worth considering as an alternative to the Apple Leather case if you don't mind (or prefer) cutouts rather than buttons.

US$47

 

Griffin Survivor Extreme

Griffin Survivor Extreme

The Survivor Extreme purports to be drop tested to 4.9m, but we weren't game to put that to the test, especially as the warranty only covers the case itself. Similarly, it is said to reduce growth of the most common surface bacteria by 99.9%, but we don't have access to a lab to prove that claim.

The manufacturer's claimed compatibility with wireless chargers was borne out in our testing, but way the back is recessed within the deep shoulders prevents the use of a MagSafe charger.

Other features include a Lightning port cover that's a bit fiddly to open but does help keep dust and fluff out, as do the fine mesh covers over lower speakers. The switch is also covered, but the slider on the outside of the case means it is easily operated.

Part of the ruggedness comes from the internal frame that is fitted to the phone before it is put into the case itself, but this also makes the case relatively difficult to fit and remove. We wouldn't recommend it to anyone who needs to change SIMs at all frequently.

The textured pattern on the sides of the case provide a good grip, but also drags against the fabric of the pocket the phone is in. And at 13mm (14mm at the thickest point), it's relatively thick. It is surprising how much difference 1mm can make to the apparent bulkiness of a phone when it's in a trouser pocket.

$89.95

 

Incipio Duo

Incipio Duo mint

A couple of women who saw our review sample thought the mint and pink colour scheme looked very "girly" (their word, not ours). That would be a plus for some buyers, but don't rush away if it doesn't appeal to you, because the Duo also comes in less flamboyant colours: black, dark and mid-blue, and clear.

This two-layer case has a soft inner portion with a harder shell, and is 12mm thick. It seems slimmer in the pocket as the outer surface doesn't catch on the fabric, yet it does provide enough grip to keep the phone safe in your hand. If the worst comes to the worst, Incipio says it is drop tested to 3.5m.

The buttons seemed stiff at first, but were OK after a couple of days.

The Duo also has Incipio's 'antimicrobial defense' feature, and worked with our inductive charger as well as allowing the MagSafe charger to latch on.

$49.95

 

Incipio Grip

Incipio Grip

The Grip is a fairly traditional clear case, but with the addition of a textured patten on the sides that gives a slightly jewelled effect (that may or may not be to your taste) as well as making it easier to hold securely. The 12mm thickness wasn't an issue, but as with the Griffin Survivor the texture stops the case moving freely in a pocket.

The downsides of the material used were that greater than normal pressure was needed to operate the buttons, and fingerprints were unusually visible on the back surface. While we're talking about the back, small nubs on the corners lift the camera lenses a little higher when the phone is face-up on a table or similar surface, reducing the chance that they will be scratched.

The same 99.9% bacteria reduction claim as the Survivor is made by the manufacturer, and it purports to be drop tested to 4.25m.

As promised on the box. this case worked with our inductive charger.

$49.95

 

Incipio Organicore

Incipio Organicore

The big selling point for this case is that it is said to be 100% compostable ("made from plants"), and packed in "100% recyclable" non-glossy brown cardboard.

The Organicore's surface has a matt texture that reminded us of a low-nap suede, and consequently we had no problems with it sliding through the hand or snagging in a pocket. It also makes it resistant to fingerprints and other marks. The flecked material might not be to everyone's taste, but if you don't like the eucalyptus colour of our sample there are two others to choose from.

The buttons were slightly stiffer than we would have liked, but on the other hand this case is only 11mm thick and worked with our inductive charger.

Incipio claims drop protection to 2.4m, which covers most normal situations as long as you're not in the habit of holding your phone over the edge of parapets (or out of plane windows!) when shooting.

The Organicore is a relatively basic case apart from its compostability, but has a price to match, as far as branded cases go.

$39.95

 

Kate Spade Wrap Case

Kate Spade Wrap

This slimline (11 mm thick) hard case has textured black back and sides, with the brand's signature dusky pink applied as a glossy plastic 'piping' around the edges. We found the appearance pleasing, even though the accent colour isn't our thing.

The very prominent Kate Spade logo stamped in gold on the back seems slightly crass, but apart from that it's a stylish design if you want to get away from a plain coloured case.

The plastic used is more rigid than most, making it relatively hard to remove the phone from the case, though that's really only a problem if you need to swap SIMs frequently. We've already aired our opinion of cases with cutaways for buttons and connectors.

This is a pocket-friendly design thanks to the dimensions and materials, and it works with our inductive charger. The manufacturer says it's "drop tested" but makes no specific claims about protection from falls from any particular height.

$89.95

 

Kate Spade Protective Hardshell Case

Kate Spade Hardshell

Despite the name, this case isn't particularly rigid, though it is not as soft and flexible as a silicone case.

The back of this clear plastic case is embedded with black and white flowers with diamante centres. It might have been better if the flowers didn't overlap the Apple logo – as it is, it looks like the designer wasn't aware of or wasn't thinking about the design of the phone when they laid out the graphics. At least the Kate Spade logo is smaller on this one and printed in black, and so is much more discreet on a black iPhone. (Yes, we realise this shows we have a higher regard for Apple's logo than Kate Spade's.)

Despite the smooth finish (apart from the diamante), it is nowhere as slippery as it looks, but is readily pocketable thanks in part to its slim 11mm profile which probably contributes to its compatibility with wireless chargers.

Again, it's said to be "drop tested" with no mention of height, but we are somewhat concerned about the lack of protection for the lower front edge of the handset.

$69.95

 

Mujjo Full Leather

Mujjo Full Leather 2

At 11mm thick, Mujjo has produced one of the slimmest cases reviewed here. The buttons are slightly more proud of the surface than most, but that's not a bad thing. The slimness of the walls means the switch is easily operated, and there's no barrier to wireless charging.

The fine-grained leather has a slightly rougher surface than that used for Apple or Ekster leather cases, providing additional grip but without dragging when going in or out of a pocket.

Instead of providing cutouts for the Lightning port and the surrounding microphones and speaker, most of the base of the Mujjo case is cut away. That means there's no risk of interference with a Lightning plug, but – as with several of the other cases reviewed here – there's no protection for the lower front edge of the phone.

US$44.90 (around $65-70 from local retailers)

 

Conclusion

There's no denying that leather cases look good and are comfortable and secure in the hand. And they don't add much bulk, which is another plus if you keep the phone in your pocket. But while they protect the back and sides from scratching, they probably won't so much to prevent breakage if you drop the phone onto a hard surface.

The Griffin Survivor Extreme seems rugged, although you probably shouldn't read too much into 810G drop testing as the standard uses 50mm plywood on top of concrete as the drop surface, and most of us rarely stand or walk on that. But devices are required to survive landing on each face, edge and corner.

Talking of edges, several of the cases we tested provide minimal protection to the lower front edge of the phone. This keeps the speaker, microphones and Lightning port clear, but the Apple Leather Case and the Incipio Duo (among others) show it's not necessary to trade off one for the other.

So it depends what you want a case to do.

For look and feel, the Apple Leather Case comes out on top in our opinion. Ekster (especially with its SIM storage feature) and Mujjo aren't far behind.

If protection is your main concern, the Griffin Survivor Extreme would be high on your shortlist, while brandanistas might go for one of the Coach or Kate Spade cases.

However, if we were spending our own money on one of these products, it would probably be on an Incipio Duo, which is in a sweet spot balancing price, protection, and look and feel – though we'd go for the black version.

 

Footnote: iTWire invited some other case vendors to provide review samples, but they either declined to participate or did not respond.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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