Less is more? That seems to be the general consensus these days and we've seen that in practice now more than ever. It's Vaja's turn in perfecting a relatively new case concept which notably has been made into a mainstream accessory thanks to Twelve South's SurfacePad. The Nuova Pelle is Vaja's answer to the SurfacePad, an uncanny carbon copy of premium Argentinian leather hand-crafted into a svelte piece of what we can all agree in saying is a flip cover. Like the SurfacePad, Vaja's Nuova Pelle isn't a case but a minimalist and ultra-slim protective flip cover of a case designed using tradition, the best leather you'll ever come across and of course it's also priced for those with expensive taste and a nose for quality. But there's more than meets the eye as you shall soon find out in our full in-depth review after the jump!
Vaja's Nuova Pelle is the most luxurious iPhone 5 flip cover fit for royalty
The Nuova Pelle is a gorgeous and an elegant flip cover that wraps the iPhone 5 with the most amazing leather of which Vaja is notoriously known for. The SurfacePad was a first, and a pretty impressive attempt at the flip cover genre of minimalist protection. However, we all know Twelve South could have done things a little better and we've made sure to point it out in our review. And if you weren't impressed by the fact that the SurfacePad couldn't keep a lid on it, or in other words wouldn't sit flush up against the iPhone 5's screen, well then we've found a superior alternative for you that I think you'll cherish dearly.
The point in using a flip cover such as this is to appreciate the original design of the iPhone 5 as mush as possible without restricting it and covering it up. The Nuova Pelle is designed for those who want to enjoy Jony Ive's brilliant piece of work, but require some level of protection that'll cover the back and front of the device against scratches, scuffs minor bumps. There's no corner or side protection, but again, it's all about reducing footprint.
Available in 8 vegetable-tanned leather flavors, the Nuova Pelle will set you back $80 and made only for the iPhone 5 unlike the SurfacePad which can be had in an iPhone 4/S variant. As expected, the Nuova Pelle comes packaged inside Vaja's signature sleeved box of rainbow-spectrum wonder. Inside you'll be greeted with a "caseception" of a case-within-a-case. The Nuova Pelle comes protected and neatly tucked inside a protective felt sleeve that some might even consider worthy of using as a standalone sleeve to keep the iPhone 5 in. The color we've got here is what Vaja calls the Forest Night, which is a very dark shade of rich green that looks almost black at times indoors.
The best part about opening a Vaja product is the enjoyment of giving it the smell test right out of the box. How good does the Nuova Pelle's leather smell? Close your eyes and imagine yourself taking a whiff at that insanely expensive leather jacket you've been lusting for. That's how good of a smell. In comparison, I couldn't detect the level of leather quality in the SurfacePad. Granted it costs nearly half as much.
So what's so special about the Nouva Pelle that the SurfacePad lacked? Magnets. The Nuova Pelle features a seamless, hidden magnetic closure which secures the front cover against the iPhone 5's screen keeping it protected just like Apple's Smart Cover. And it works outstandingly well. The magnets inside the cover maintain a magnetic bond strong enough to ensure that the front cover stays put when held upside down, and in the event of an accidental pocket slip. Obviously the iPhone 5 isn't designed with iPad tech, so you'll have to manually put your iPhone 5 to sleep and power it on yourself. And yes these magnets are totally safe and will not harm your iPhone 5 if you had any doubt.
Even without the benefit of the magnetic closure, I was impressed by how flexible and forgiving the leather was when I first started using the Nuova Pelle. It isn't stiff nor does it require a tiresome period of "breaking in" the leather which is often required to achieve a perfect fit and seamless working function. I'm happy to say that the Nuova Pelle just works as if the leather received a deep, Argentinian massage at the spa before arriving at your door.
Vaja boasts that its magnetic closure is a proprietary system, but nothing is really proprietary about Vaja's use of its magnetic closure in the Nuova Pelle. It's a simple matter of two magnets embedded into the front cover at opposite corners which find a conductive metal area within the iPhone's front panel in order to bond together. And Vaja was clever enough to utilize this potential to its advantage almost as if Apple intentionally embedded magnets into the iPhone 5 like it has with the iPad. I bet Twelve South is working on a SurfacePad 2 with a similar function at this moment.
The quality of the leather, stitching and craftsmanship of the construction is really second to none and up to the standards one would expect in return for paying a premium price for a premium product. The metal Vaja logo adds a finishing touch which I think looks absolutely fantastic. And that's not something you say about a company slapping its branding on a product often. When you pick it up and start using it on your iPhone 5, it really does feel like a top notch product.
As much as the Nuova Pelle is a thing of beauty on the outside, it's equally as intriguing when flipped open. On the inside you'll find a smoother type of leather being used as the interior lining which as Vaja stamped and embossed all over as a textured pattern that surprisingly does help with grip when holding the iPhone 5 whilst the front cover is flipped around the back. I'd even go as far as saying I much prefer the leather feel with the embossed texture over the SurfacePad's felt fabric interior lining. Again, it just feels that much more sumptuous.
One thing to make note of is that the embossed pattern on the interior of the cover will tend to make an imprint on the iPhone's screen if pressed tightly against it when closed. This happens when your screen isn't cleaned. It typically happens with every flip-style case Vaja makes, and a simple wipe will of course clean the imprinted marks of tiny Vaja logos atop of the screen. Definitely a nuisance if you're overly OCD though.
The interior backing here uses a narrower adhesive pad thanks to the rigid backing of the cover compared to the flexible one found on the SurfacePad. It allows you to remove and apply the Nuova Pelle with ease and having that rigid support really does help in these situations. This particular adhesive pad is strong, very reliable and leaves no residue behind and can be reused numerous times as long as you keep the surface clean.
Vaja let us know that it has made a little video on how to install the Nuova Pelle should you need further assistance. Unsurprisingly, I've managed to follow the exact steps even before having watched this video because it made the most sense. With the help of the magnets in the front cover, the iPhone 5 is held in position more securely allowing you to flip the adhesive side on top of it for a perfect alignment.
Vaja claims its flip cover is the slimmest of them all, but hang on a minute. The SurfacePad's is clearly thinner, but there's a catch. It also takes up more room as it doesn't completely form fit the iPhone 5 using just a single piece of leather due to its integrated stand which is stitched to the back. On the other hand, the Nuova Pelle actually feels like its the slimmer one out of the two since it was designed to fit around the iPhone 5, matching its straight cuts and lines very closely as you can see when taking a look at the flat design of the hinge.
When closed, the Nouva Pelle's narrow hinge partially covers the left side of the iPhone 5 leaving only the silent switch accessible at all times. Whereas the SurfacePad covers nearly the entire side with its hinge. Protection aside however, the narrower piece of leather on the Nuova Pelle helps it perform better in folding that much more freely.
If at the time of reviewing Twelve South's SurfacePad I would have had Vaja's Nuova Pelle for a direct comparison, I'm not entirely sure I would have called the SurfacePad a premium leather cover. Because in terms of premium qualities, the Nuova Pelle is actually worthy of such a moniker. The Nuova Pelle also has the advantage of providing just a little better protection in the event of a drop as well as offering better rigidity and durability for wear and tear. We loved the SurfacePad's ability to form into a viewing stand, and unfortunately that isn't in the can-do list when speaking of the Nuova Pelle.
It's worth noting that the stitching around the Nuova Pelle gives it a more durable build quality, something which the SurfacePad lacked it seems. Although we haven't experience these issues ourselves, some readers expressed concerns in the comments thread over issues with their SurfacePad coming apart at the seams with use.
Little things like the rear facing camera cutout are beautifully executed. To be fair, Vaja's bold and tight cutout does look awfully constricted around the LED flash, yet remarkably there aren't any issues with taking photos at night while popping off the LED flash. Bravo.
The design of the side hinge makes holding the iPhone 5 more comfortable as it provides you with adequate room for your ring or pinky finger (that is if you're right handed) to grasp your iPhone 5 while the front cover is flipped around the back. Doing normal things like talking on the phone and texting is not an issue, but you'll find that flipping the front cover behind yields the best results rather than just leaving it off to the side like an open book. Flip covers and flip cases aren't going to appeal to everyone's taste because of they do require a bit of extra effort from you as oppose to normal cases which have a straightforward mentality. It's like comparing a stick shift to an automatic, both have their ups and downs.
an enjoyable accessory that accentuates the beauty of the iPhone 5 while covering up the naughty bits.
Ultimately, it comes down to pure enjoyment of having to use a minimalist leather flip cover. And the Nuova Pelle ticks every box at being the most luxurious leather flip cover designed to perform exquisitely well using a clever magnetic cover that sits flush at all times no matter the condition of the leather. There's no question that other companies will follow suit. Unfortunately, there isn't an earpiece cutout on this particular flip cover, but the magnetic closure makes up for that in a big way. Though an option for such a feature would've put Vaja's Nuova Pelle thru to the very top of our scoreboard.
As much as I hate saying this since I'm a huge Twelve South fan, Vaja's Nuova Pelle totally smokes the SurafcePad in every thinkable category making it look like Twelve South has much to learn, and indeed it does. If you want the best experience out of using these type of cover concepts, you'll have to pony up some bit of cash. $80 to be exact. But if you want to get something that's really special, the Nuova Pelle is the one to go for. And because the Nuova Pelle showed exemplary performance at what it set out to achieve, we think it's a solid premium leather flip cover worthy of our coveted Editors' Choice Award. It is a pleasure to use, and an enjoyable accessory that accentuates the beauty of the iPhone 5 while covering up the naughty bits.