It’s a book, it’s a wallet, it’s your iPhone…it’s BookBook!

Twelve South’s BookBook wallet case for the iPhone is a premium leather case for the iPhone that doubles as a wallet, while disguising itself as a small classy looking distressed leather book. Hands down, this is one of my favorite and most useful cases that I’ve tried on my iPhone, but at times, it was also the most infuriating.

I was first drawn to this case by its devilishly handsome good looks and the utility that the case offered. If watching Alton Brown has taught me anything, it’s that unitaskers should be avoided whenever possible.

I’m a bit of a pack rat and so my wallet has always been a little too big, not George Costanza-sized mind you, but far bigger than it needed to be. Over the past few years I have slowly pared it down to a much more manageable girth. The left-hand, wallet portion of the BookBook is capable of carrying up to two credit cards in each of the two upper slots as well as an additional card along with your photo ID in the windowed slot. There is also a larger section under these for holding a few folded bills.

I honestly wasn’t sure how I would like the wallet/phone combo, I thought it would be too bulky for phone use. It would also mean that I’d have to reduce my wallet size even a little further, which was actually much easier than anticipated. I now have two credit cards in each of the top slots and my ID and medical cards in the windowed slot. They feel pretty tight in there, but are still easily removable when necessary. The money pocket has plenty of room for my proximity badge for work and some folded bills, though the bill slot is not wide enough and the edges of the bills do stick out a little bit.

To use the phone while it is in the case, you simply fold the wallet portion back to form a triangular-shape. It feels a bit awkward at first, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Intially the cover of the BookBook has some trouble staying flat, but after about a week-long break-in period the leather molds down really nicely. As you use it, you will also may notice a little more distressing, but it just adds to the character and charm of the case.

The BookBook is available in both brown and black, I have the classic black version, which very much resembles a small Bible. While this may garner more than a few looks around town, it does have some advantages like being able to covertly check the scores of the game while waiting for church to start. Also if you happen to leave this wallet/iPhone at your desk, it’ll just look like an unassuming book, safe from prying eyes.

I never go anywhere without my iPhone, but I have, on occasion, left my wallet in my previous pair of pants and gotten to work, only to find that I had no money to buy lunch. Not anymore now that everything is all in one place. Plus if I ever misplace my BookBook, I can call my wallet, or use find my phone to find my wallet as well.

For the most part it didn’t really impact gameplay, except that two-handing the device for portrait oriented games felt a little odd. For landscape gaming the extra thickness from the folded case, actually felt kind of nice. one final caveat is that if you use your phone as a GPS, you will probably need to remove it from the case to fit it into your mount for proper viewing.

At the start of this review, I mentioned that sometimes the BookBook frustrated me. This source of irritation stems from the way in which Twelve South has chosen to secure the iPhone into the BookBook case. Your phone is rather securely held in place by some pieces of leather positioned at the top and bottom of the iPhone, including a large flap at the top which is attached to the BookBook’s signature red bookmark. There are also straps of leather that protect the sides of the phone from scratches and have a cutout for the mute switch. That sounds all well and good until it comes to using the mute switch or camera.

The problem is that when the leather is compressed in your pocket, it causes the edge of the mute switch cutout to shift and push up on the mute switch, enabling the sound…so much for secretly checking those sports scores.

The other major issue with this design is that it severely hampers the use of the camera. There is NO cutout on the back of the case for the camera lens. To take a picture, you need to pull on the BookBook’s bookmark so it lifts out the top flap, then slide the camera up out of the top of the case with your thumb. However, sometimes the camera will fall back down mid-picture, and the top leather straps always obstruct part of your view of the screen. It is just cumbersome and makes you shy away from even wanting to take pictures.

Both of these issues could easily be addressed if Twelve South redesigned the way they hold the phone in the case. The leather straps could be replaced by corner tabs made from either hard padded leather (like many iPad cases) or even polycarbonate. The red bookmark could stay and be used as a kind of pull tab to help you remove the phone from the corner clips. This way a cutout can be added for the camera lens that always perfectly lines up with the camera. Much like what Pad and Quill have done with their Little Luxury Book case, though I much prefer the BookBook’s wallet layout.

Reaction from friends and family has been decidedly polarizing. My wife is not a big fan of the case, she thinks it is just strange to be pulling out your wallet with your phone. My 5 year-old daughter thinks it’s the coolest thing ever, and kept insisting that I show my In Laws the case while we were on a Facetime call with them (from an iPad). Co-workers were split, with some thinking is was cool and others just not getting it.

In Conclusion

The BookBook is a stylish and unique looking case that is perfectly priced at $59.99 when you consider that you are getting both a genuine leather iPhone case and wallet, heck you could spend almost that much on the wallet alone and it probably wouldn’t even look as cool!

After using the case for nearly a month, I don’t want to go back to a separate wallet and phone. I carry my wallet in my front pocket, so having both it and my iPhone in the same place, has been very liberating, and the pocket containing my BookBook looks no more bulky than it did before. When I upgrade my phone to the next generation iPhone, the only thing that would give me pause from immediately picking up the new model BookBook (when it’s available of course) is if they did nothing to fix the accessibility of the camera, otherwise I’d buy another in a heartbeat (probably in brown).