Sometimes fine, dainty, pretty stuff just doesn’t work. And sometimes what’s in a name can be pretty dead-on. Blacksmith-Labs does a good job of living up to its name with its new line of iPhone cases. Made of thick leather with strong, sturdy metal clips, their cases really do bring a blacksmith’s work to mind.
Begun as a Kickstarter campaign, Blacksmith-Labs has now expanded to several lines, or collections, of cases – the Barrett, Bruno, and Horween Collections – all belt-clip style holsters for the iPhone 5/5S. The primary style choices are the Barrett and Bruno, which are both vertical pouch cases. The Barrett is perhaps the more traditional of the two, with two pieces of leather making up the front and back of the case with a fold-over top flap. The Bruno is made of a single piece of leather, wrapped around vertically and stitched together for a more streamlined look. The Horween Collection uses leather from the Horween Leather Company and applies it to the Barrett and Bruno designs.
The company was kind enough to provide Gear Diary with a sample case from the Barrett Collection to review. This belt-clip type of case seems to be harder to find these days than a few years ago – what with so many manufacturers and users trending toward bumper cases or shells that allow the user to slip their phones into pockets.
Arriving in a black box with a felt liner, our Barrett model was made of black, full-grain leather. It had a nice finish and a quality feel to it. It certainly gave the impression that it would last and wear well. The stitching was also nicely done. The closure mechanism for the top flap is a metal stud (or “button stud” as referred to by Blacksmith-Labs) over which the flap fits. There is a small slot in the top flap of the case that fits over the stud to hold it in place. The slot didn’t come loose while I was using the case and I found this type of closure preferable to more common snaps or magnetic closures.
My iPhone slid easily into the case. It wasn’t too snug or too loose, so I was able to remove my phone quickly to answer a call but didn’t find that my phone was jostling around while in the case.
The clip on the back is a stunning chunk of metal, known as the Blacksmith-Labs Signature Series Belt Clip. The clip on the sample with which we were provided was finished in a brushed gold tone, but clips are also available in both a gunmetal and chrome finish. It was a solid chunk of metal and really gave the impression that it was not coming off my belt unless I intended for it to do so. The clips are a point of pride for the company, who emphasizes that their clips are made of metal alloy rather than plastic or bent sheet metal. That material choice is important considering that the clips rotate 360 degrees, which would naturally put extra stress on the clip.
At the moment, Blacksmith-Labs holster models are just for the iPhone 5/5S, but it would be nice to see them expand their offerings to other phone models, given the quality of the cases.
What I like: Nice quality leather, substantial clip, clean design
What needs improvement: Nothing, really, but as a matter of personal preference, I wished that the stitching on our black model was a little more “rough” looking to go along with the robust feel of the case
MSRP: Starting at $79.95 directly from Blacksmith-Labs here.
Source: Manufacturer provided review sample.