When Vaja releases a new case made from its supple Argentinian leather, an angel gets its wings and all is right with the world. Well, maybe not but you get the idea. Vaja's spin on minimalist covers with its Nuova Pelle for the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4, a clever magnetic flip cover that wraps your handset with luxurious leather in a very complimenting way, had us lusting for more. In this review, we're going to be taking a close look at Vaja's newly developed flip-style leather Top Flip Case, as well as the updated Grip hardshell leather case for the iPhone 5. Two super stylish premium leather iPhone 5 cases, hand crafted to amaze. Be sure to catch our full review after the jump!
Arguably the most unique, most beautifully crafted leather cases available for the iPhone
We start with Vaja's Top Flip Case, a leather flip cover ranked executive that's available in 11 unique leather colors with a price that starts at $90. As with virtually all cases Vaja makes, you can customize the Top Flip Case to your specific liking inside and out using multiple leather combinations as well as a wide variety of incredible colors. As a reference, the Top Flip Case we're reviewing is the $90 Provence & Marina. It's a beautiful shade of light blue I haven't seen grace leather this amazing before. And it looks fantastic on a black iPhone 5 as much as it does on a white one. It goes without saying that both of Vaja's Top Flip Case and Grip are made using extremely high quality leather hides that smell as extraordinarily as they look stretched over iPhone moulded shells.
Unboxing a Vaja case is always a happy moment to anyone that appreciated good quality leather. Once unboxed, you will find the Top Flip Case protected inside a color-matching leather pouch that's ridiculously well made and can even be used as an iPhone slip pouch if you really wanted to. It isn't as fancy or cut precisely to from fit the iPhone, but nevertheless, that extra bit of attention to detail makes a great product even greater as a first impression. If Element Case does it, why should Vaja? After all Vaja's cases are considered to be high-end, premium offerings you'd expect to find at select boutiques. Which is a shame because I would have really loved to see these stocked at Apple stores instead of having to order Vaja's cases online.
Back then, the iVolution Top was a fantastic leather flip case for many iPhone users. But today Vaja has kicked it up another notch with the highly improved Flip Top Cover, which is essentially built around a similar concept only it's done with a more flowing design that's streamlined and protective all around. Gone is that exposed large corner cut-away around the back-facing camera, replaced by a fully outer perimeter that edges around the top edges of the iPhone 5. The case meets half-way to form a near-solid protective perimeter that conceals every vulnerable part of the iPhone 5. Even though there are access openings around the Top Flip Case, it encapsulates and fully protects the iPhone 5 when closed leaving no exposed or vulnerable areas which has been a concern in Vaja's now obsolete iVolution Top.
Another welcome feature we see as an improvement over previous iterations is the new magnetic closure system implemented here. The Top Flip Case closes like a clam shell does with a subtle magnetic pulling force that also helps secure the front cover flap in its closed position without opening accidentally in the even of a drop or just in normal use. You'd find that you'll still need to nudge the top portion of the cover down on top of the iPhone to fully close it because there's still friction that also plays a small part in ensuring that the cover it secure when closed. It isn't difficult top open or close one handed, but rather really easy once you get the hang of it which is really within a few hours of fiddling around and getting to know how things work.
This new capsule-like shape is a type of design that I really think is a winner in the flip-style case category, and one that is very effective at protecting the iPhone and at the same time it feels better to handle than Vaja's previous flip-style cases. Concealing magnets in leather is not easy, and thankfully we couldn't find or spot any of the Top Flip Case's embedded magnets.
The interior of the Top Flip Case and Grip are identical, each featuring a fully leather lined bed of hugging leather and a texture that's embossed with small Vaja logos so you know it's legit. As was mentioned earlier, you can pick which color you'd like to have this interior colored. A two-tone is always an interesting flavor when it comes to Vaja's flip cases, and I'd even say it's almost an iconic must.
The fit is precise, snug as it should be purely out of the expectations we set for Vaja but also because at its core, the Top Flip Case like all of Vaja's cases is a hard polycarbonate shell that forms a rigid backbone support of protection. And really other than a small but insignificant gap between the two parts where a tiny bit of the iPhone 5's metal peeks thorough the recessed crack, the Top Flip Case is one well crafted and top quality leather flip case that has quickly became my favorite leather flip case of all time.
Let's take a quick moment to take in all that outrageous, highly textured Floater leather grain awesomeness that is Argentinian Vaja leather. The texture on Vaja's Floater leather is so immense that it feels like you're touching an elephant's skin.
Opening the front cover, or should I say flipping it over, reveals an interesting detail that is a first for Vaja's flip-style cases. Hidden from plain sight is what Vaja calls a talk-through earpiece grille that lets audio through one layer of leather without revealing any incisions on the outside of the case so the design can stay clean and unassuming. This means that you can now talk on the phone with the front cover shut which is very convenient when you've got a lot to talk about. Surprisingly, audio does sound clear and loud as it would ever be coming through that talk-through piece.
I'm really impressed by how well this works, however, I do have a concern with the leather getting dirty from rubbing against your face over time. There's no question that brighter colors like white will tarnish very easily when using this feature. On the bright side, it's actually more comfortable to hold the Top Flip Case's supple leather up against your ear than it is a piece of industrial glass and metal let me tell you.
And that brings me to yet another point that I'd like to address which is using the iPhone 5 with the Top Flip like you would normally throughout the day. As much as the front flap cover is an essential part in protecting your iPhone's glass display, it can become a nuisance for people who aren't used to using cases with a moving part that might get in their way of doing things. Fortunately, the leather softens up to the point where you could easily flip around the flap cover where it'll lay relatively flush up against the back side of the iPhone which lets you use your iPhone's touchscreen one handed like you're accustomed to.
With the flap folded back, using the Top Flip Case isn't the most comfortable position to be using the iPhone in especially if you dislike flip-style cases, but otherwise it isn't any less comfortable than using any other flip case for that matter. The more you use it, the better it gets as the leather loosens up and flexes much more easily. Having used many types of flip cases before, I quite like using my iPhone inside the Top Flip Case. But then again, it's really comes down to personal preference. If there was ever a doubt about tactile grip, that elephant-like leather texture does more than enough to make sure you have all the grip you can ask for.
Around the back is where you will find the new "eyelet" cutout for the back facing-camera. Not only is it subtle, unique and aesthetically pleasing, but it also doesn't cause any trouble when using the LED flash.
Just as before, you've got full unhindered access to the volume, sleep/wake buttons and silent switch even with the front cover flap completely closed.
Down south things are a little covered up by the flap hinge when it is closed. While you can plug nearly every headphone plug into the iPhone's 3.5mm audio port, listen to music and talk on the phone all while the flap is in its closed position, you will need to open it up to gain access to the Lightning connector port. It isn't really a downside, but more of a small nitpick that has been pretty much consistent with every top flip-style case we've reviewed. And still, we find them to be favorable compared to bottom or side flipping cases.
Obviously if you use some kind of charging dock then the Top Flip might not be for you. Then again, I think you'll enjoy it enough where using a dock could wait for a while. So at the end of the day you're making a few little sacrifices when using a highly protective flip case such as this one.
Strip away the Top Flip Case's front cover you what you're left with is Vaja's Grip case. This slightly less expensive $70 (or $90 custom configured to your color liking) case for the iPhone 5 is made using the same exact leather with the same exact build quality and from-fitting fit, albeit with a much more minimal and simplistic design that's fully opened around the front yet very protective otherwise. And again, Vaja has redesigned the Grip to feature its more appealing and LED flash-friendly "eyelet" camera opening and complete four corner protection.
The Grip is less bulky and easier to use compared to the Top Flip Case, however it doesn't offer as much protection around the front. And is its name suggests, there's plenty of grip all around which makes the Grip a pleasure to use. I wouldn't say that the Grip is a slim case, but it keeps a very low profile and it fits comfortably in the hand.
The Grip has a wide bottom opening offering full access to ports, and the same can be said about the side and top portions of the case. It's also worth noting that both of these cases have a great lay-on-the-table lip which keeps the iPhone's screen elevated from the surface.
Overall we think both of Vaja's newly improved Top Flip Case and Grip cases are extraordinarily good examples of top notch quality leather iPhone 5 cases made available for people looking to get a uniquely elegant, luxury accessory to compliment the iPhone 5 and its renowned industrial design. The Top Flip Case puts a check mark next to every positive bullet point we can think of, and so does its more simplistic and less protective Grip companion. Metal logo emblems and inlays are Vaja's way of cresting their handcafted pieces of excellence with an added touch of...you guess it - premium qualities. The word has been thrown around more times than we can count, but it is indispensable really.
If protection is your number one priority and style is your close second, the Top Flip Case is the ideal choice that will fully protect your iPhone while it's inside your pocket, purse or gear bag. And if flip-style cases aren't your thing, then Vaja's Grip is the next best thing. If you want to treat yourself to something special that you aren't going to find being sold at your local Apple retail store, then either of these beautifully made leather cases will be worth your hard earned cash. For that reason, we highly recommend the Top Flip Case and Grip as luxury accessories you could probably live without. Bonus tip: Vaja also makes iPad and iPad mini versions if you care to empty out your wallet even more.