The (almost) perfect alternative to Apple leather cases

Sep 10, 2022 🇳🇴

With the immanent release of iPhone 14, many people will be on the lookout for a new case. I spent six of the last twelve months with the Apple leather case, and the next six with a great alternative. Here’s what I’ve learned.

My previous phone was the iPhone X (I currently have an iPhone 13 mini) – and I loved the leather case from Apple for it.

The iPhone X case was like this one, for the XS.
The iPhone X case was like this one, for the XS.

The buttons were great, the leather of good quality that got a cool patina – and since the phone had almost no camera bump, the back was flat. So, when I got my iPhone 13 mini last year, I also splurged for an Apple leather case. Three things made me disappointed, though:

  1. The camera bump was dealt with by adding a protective rail, that doesn’t look great.
  2. I don’t know if it’s due to the colour or the new squared of shape (from iPhone 12 onward), but the patina was nowhere near as nice. It just lost colour on the corners.
  3. They closed off the bottom!

The open bottom probably protects the phone less. But, I just really like to swipe up without the lip! Most case makers close the bottoms these days, like Nomad and Nudient, so I was glad when I found a brand that looked like high quality and that had the old design on the bottom: Bullstrap.

A picture showing that the bottom of the iPhone is exposed with the Bullstrap case.
Picture from Bullstrap

A great alternative

I ordered the Ocean colour for my own phone in Midnight, and also one in the black colour for my girlfriend’s iPhone 12 mini in blue. A good friend of mine got the Sienna.

So, how did it fare with my complaints?

The black (left) and blue (right) hasn’t really “patinad” a lot in six months, but they look great imo. Pretty similar, though!
Good looking patina on the brown!

Are there any negatives, though?

Almost none. The buttons are the best I’ve felt on a third-party case, and looks to be made from metal – still, the Apple ones are a bit more satisfying in my opinion. The case is definitely MagSafe-compatible, but when using the Apple case, the magnets felt as strong as when using it without a case. With the Bullstrap, it’s just a bit weaker – and this is the only real negative in my opinion.

The magnets are strong enough to hold it up like this - but perhaps not in a moving car?
The magnets are strong enough to hold it up like this - but perhaps not in a moving car?

The case also seems pretty rugged, when you take the construction and materials into consideration. My (very clumsy) friend lost his down five floors, onto asphalt.

The site of the fall...

Update: Bullstrap claims a limited lifetime warranty, so my mate sent them an email with these photos. He was completely open about it being his own fault, and had no expectations. However, they said he would get a new case - totally free! Not bad.

Bonus review: The wallet

Bullstrap also makes a wallet! Does this compare as favourably to Apple’s offering as the case? Sadly, not quite. But it’s not bad!

It has some flaws, though... Take a look at this picture:

iPhone mini og the left, and the regular on the right.
iPhone mini og the left, and the regular on the right.

Look how perfectly the wallet fits the mini. On the normal one it appears smaller, but that works as well. Now look at the Bullstrap next to Apple’s, both on mini-phones:

This could’ve been fixed just by moving the magnets! The Bullstrap is also just a bit too wide. It’s hard to explain, but Apple’s wallet follows perfectly the taper of the case – the wallet becomes a continuation of the case’s shape. (BTW, it feels just as nice with the Bullstrap case.) On the other hand, the Bullstrap just feels a bit off.

I have a theory why, though: It was probably designed more with the larger (more popular phones) in mind, so it might fit those better!

The hole on the back is also smaller on the Bullstrap. This, paired with a tighter fit, makes the cards harder to pull out (but this gets better with use).

Both wallets fit 3 cards max.

Luckily, on the pictures from the front, you can see that the Bullstrap “shows” more of the card on the front, so it’ easier to grab. This isn’t needed on the Apple one, since the cards are easy to slide out.

Lastly, the Bullstrap misses the NFC chip that Apple has put in theirs. In addition to a fancy animation, this let’s Find my know the last place the wallet and phone parted ways. This isn’t a massive deal though, and I don’t blame Bullstrap for this, as Apple doesn’t let third parties access the NFC chip (insert angry face emoji).

So, what do I recommend?

I prefer the Bullstrap case, since it’s “about as good” in all regards (apart from the magnet), and specifically has better solutions for the camera bump and bottom of the phone. If you have a non-mini, I think I can recommend the Bullstrap wallet as well, if you want it to match your case.

But another solution, that would get you the best of both worlds, would be to let the case contrast a bit with the phone, and then buy an Apple wallet that matches the phone. For instance, a phone and wallet in Midnight would look great with a Bullstrap case in blue or brown.

Is any of this cheap? Absolutely not – but my last leather case lasted four years, and then it doesn’t matter as much if you ask me.

Two fixes, that should be doable (stronger magnets and larger hole on the back of the wallet), would make their offerings close to perfect, though! I hope Bullstrap will look into this.

I like the colour offerings from Bullstrap. Safe and subdued, sure, but still som variation.
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