Review: Twelve South SurfacePad For iPhone 5

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“Don’t call it a case” is Twelve South’s catchphrase when talking about their new SurfacePad…umm…cover for the iPhone 5. Where as many folio style cases and other similarly designed covers are bulky and cumbersome, the SurfacePad is not – at least it sets out not to be. Can this (not) case satisfy those looking for some good screen and backside protection on their iPhone without having to wield something that makes using your phone a chore? Gadgetsteria investigates…

Design & Construction

The best part about the SurfacePad real Napa leather, the SurfacePad looks and feels nice. It’s not some fancy vinyl or other faux material covering the SurfacePad’s bits. While color selection is a bit small for now (red/black/white), the colors are nice and bold and each compliment the black and white iPhone 5s exceptionally.

What’s most unique about the SurfacePad, though, is that instead of some type of plastic case insert in the flap that holds your phone in place, Twelve South went with an adhesive covering that makes the SurfacePad incredibly thin – more-so than a typical case with this design. This approach is both good and bad. Good, as we’ve already discussed, is that it allows the SurfacePad to be incredibly thin. The downside, of course is that when you want to remove the SurfacePad you weaken the adhesive as you stick and remove it multiple times. We attached and removed the SurfacePad a solid 10 times. And even after removing it a 10th time found that it held onto the back of our phone well enough that we didn’t have to worry about it falling off. That said, there was a noticeable decrease in the amount of “stick” that the adhesive had between removal number 1, number 3 and even number 10.

Daily Use

Construction aside, the SurfacePad is quite simple. It’s a flap cover for your screen. Flipping it open and wrapping the SurfacePad around the back of your phone is easy to do with one or two hands. Equally so, using your iPhone with the SurfacePad in this way is just as easy with your left hand as it is with your right hand – something that isn’t quite as easy to do with a bulkier folio style case like the BookBook (also made by TwelveSouth).

On the back of the SurfacePad Twelve South made a small cutout in the corner to allow full camera and camera flash use while the SurfacePad is installed. The only problem is that when you actually open the SurfacePad to use it, the most natural way to hold it is with flap wrapped around, and the flap itself then covers up the camera and flash completely. Similar to the BookBook mentioned above, you have to hold the SurfacePad like a book with two hands to take pictures. Not a big deal but certainly something that can get old after awhile.

The other thing that is something to consider if you’re going to pick up a SurfacePad for long-term use is commitment. Removing the SurfacePad a handful of times isn’t going to ruin it to the point of you not being able to use it. However, 2-3 dozen times will substantially reduce the amount of stick the adhesive holds. In daily use, we had to really force our SurfacePad equipped iPhone 5 into the dock we have (and we’re sure many people have docks with slim pockets for the iPhone 5 itself). Likewise, if you’re someone who likes to switch up cases occasionally, having to keep track of the SurfacePad’s finite number of removals is something you always have to keep in the back of your mind.

Perfec…For The Committed


If you’re the type of person that wants a super thin case with good screen protection for things like purse/bag/pocket storage, the SurfacePad is a great idea, especially those that rarely (if ever) change cases. For those that do change cases fairly often or have a dock for their iPhone 5 that they couldn’t dream of giving up, the SurfacePad isn’t your best option namely because the adhesive, as long lasting as it is, will run out eventually. A standard non-adhesive case won’t ever “run” out and as such, constantly removing to accommodate charging via dock isn’t an issue.

In the end, we find the SurfacePad a brilliantly designed addition to many iPhone users’ repertoire provided they’re committed to long term use. For the others highlighted above, it’s sadly one you’ll have to pass over.

More: Twelve South SurfacePad – $34.99

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Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I've been writing about gadgets and mobile technology since 2008 and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors and playing guitar and drums. I'm always up for a good conversation so feel free to drop me a line on any of my social accounts or via email.