Apple is often both praised and criticized for being a “luxury” tech brand, particularly now that iPhone prices have breached the $1,000 threshold. MacBooks, iPads, Apple Watches — they all look expensive and stylish, in addition to being functional. With so many people shelling out big dollars for the newest gadgets, luxury accessories-makers have decided they want a piece of the action, too.
“Luxury” is relative, though. At the ultra-high end are products like the titanium Gray Aurora iPhone case, which retails for a whopping $3,787. Then there are premium accessories with high price tags, but aren’t too high. The question is whether it’s worth splurging on a nice leather messenger bag when your trusty old backpack works just as well.
I set out to answer that question (at least partially). In my quest to find some of the best leather bags and cases, I was surprised by the sheer number of companies playing in the space. There are loads of options, and I couldn’t review all — or even most — of them. Instead, I picked four products that caught my eye. All of these were purchased outright, except for the Blake Leather Folio, which was sent to me to review. I received no financial incentives, compensation, or discounts from any of these companies.
With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Monogrammed Blake Leather Folio for iPhone XS Max by Greenwich
I have to start by saying I’m not a huge fan of iPhone cases. Apple does such a fantastic job with industrial design, and iPhones feel so good in the hand, that a bulky case often ruins it! But as the cost of iPhones and repairs have increased, cases have moved from optional to almost required. (Though I suppose if people can afford luxury cases, they can afford to fix shattered iPhone screens…) If I’m being compelled to use a case, then I want one worthy of the phone itself — something that looks good while providing adequate protection.
The Greenwich iPhone case is definitely more expensive than most standard cases at $159, but it’s not unreasonable considering the quality. They sent me their Blake Leather Folio for iPhone XS Max in a color they call “Seal”, complete with my initials monogrammed on the front.
The first thing I noticed is the presentation. Like any respectable high-end product, it was delivered in a large box with the case itself underneath a beautiful paper map of the world. It immediately felt like the contents were special.
The case itself is a very soft, supple leather called German Bull Hide that wraps its way around the phone in a classic folio form-factor. It’s very light, and has a card slot on the inside cover. The color looks fantastic, though quite hard to pin down; some say it’s a darker shade of green, while others see some blue in there. Regardless, I love it.
Another cool aspect of the case is the gunmetal edges. At first glance, it looks like the top, right side, and bottom of the phone are exposed — but they aren’t. Greenwich has decided to use the gunmetal material for more protection, and it looks like a higher-end version of the stainless steel Apple uses on the iPhone itself. It fooled a lot of people when I showed it to them, and added to the premium-feel of the case.
The only problem I had with the case isn’t unique to Greenwich — it’s a byproduct of the folio form-factor. I am frequently out-and-about with headphones on, listening to music or podcasts, and want to change the volume. The folio case wraps around the volume controls, covering them completely. That means you’d need to haul the phone out of your pocket or bag, open the case fully, and then toggle the volume. First world problems, I know, but worth mentioning, particularly for people who frequently listen to music.
The primary purpose of a case, though, is to protect the phone, and the Greenwich Blake Leather Folio didn’t disappoint. The inside of the case is lined with microfiber to keep the screen free from scratches, while the gunmetal frame provides an extra layer of protection. In my limited testing, knocking it off a kitchen table, the Greenwich case stood up well.
Greenwich has a wide selection of cases, bags, and accessories for all kinds of gadgets, with a wide range of prices. You can pick up multiple colors of the Blake Folio iPhone XS Max case from $159 to $179.
Port 11 by Satchel & Page
Satchel and Page is a leather goods-maker based in Austin, Texas. I first heard of them via a tech blog, when the writer briefly mentioned their Founder briefcase while talking about something else entirely. I clicked through immediately to have a look, a click that has already proven costly!
Satchel and Page does not have an extensive product line; instead, they make roughly a dozen bags and a few more small accessories using vegetable-tanned leather from Ponte a Egola, Italy. I thought I had an idea of what nice leather was, but I didn’t. Not until this arrived. It looks fantastic, smells great, and feels incredible. I knew I loved it as soon as I opened it up.
I got a bag in their Port line, which are slim portfolios meant for laptops and related accessories. While it’s carried like a messenger bag, either on one shoulder or cross-body, it opens like a book. There is a compartment for a laptop on the right, while the rest of the bag features a number of loops, pockets, snaps, and elastics to keep various and sundry items cleanly organized. This isn’t the kind of bag you toss items into — it requires some thought.
The Port line comes in multiple sizes from 11 to 15, and a chart on their website explains which Port you should get based on the laptop you own. I would’ve preferred the Port 15 for my 15-inch MacBook Pro, but it’s sold out (to be back in stock in May, I’m told). So I went with the Port 11 and figured I’d use it as an iPad bag for my 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It turned out to be a good choice.
There is room inside the case for nearly every accessory you could imagine needing for a laptop or tablet. I squeezed in dongles, adapters, chargers, and a wide variety of cables, some I almost never use (like a USB-C to VGA adapter). If you need a bit of extra room, it comes with a tiny little standalone compartment that can be snapped onto the Port if needed, which is a handy way to provide extra space.
The Port bags also come with a leather insert that attaches to the bag via magnets. It has room for multiple notebooks, pens, credit cards, and a zipper pouch for smaller items.
This is truly a unique bag for a tech warrior that stands out, feels great, and is truly functional. It would be ideal as a carry-on or for a jaunt to the local coffee shop to get some work done. The downside is there isn’t a lot of room for anything beyond one laptop and related accessories. It is a single-purpose bag that won’t fit some bulkier items one might normally bring along, like a camera or water bottle.
Of all the items on this list, the Satchel & Page Port is probably my favorite. It regularly sells for $450, but is currently listed at $325. That’s expensive when compared to other portfolio-style bags that target the tech set, but is very reasonable compared to true luxury bags — which is what the Port feels like. Who am I kidding, it is a true luxury bag. I will definitely be buying again.
iPad Pro 12.9″ (2018) Leather Case (Tentation Tropezienne) by Noreve
I had never heard of Noreve before, but it turns out they’ve been making high-quality leather accessories for a long time. The company is based in France, with a large portfolio of offerings for a huge variety of laptops, phones, tablets, and more.
Noreve’s uniqueness is its wide selection of both color and leather options. I opted for the simple Apple iPad Pro 12.9″ 2018 Leather Case, but that was just the start. The next step is to select the type of leather you prefer, along with the color.
On the Noreve website, you are presented with a list of 10 different kinds of leather to choose from, from “Synthetic leather” ($107) and “Exception” suede-like leather ($130) to higher end choices like the “Tentacion Tropezienne” ($192) and top-level “Patine” ($226). There are also a huge selection of classy color options, along with engraving and other customizations.
With so many choices, it’s a good bet that you’ll end up with a one-of-a-kind case. I ultimately went with the Tentation Tropezienne (dubbed “the must in leather” on their website) in black.
The case itself is absolutely beautiful. It’s a portfolio-style case with a flap that securely snaps into place to keep the folio closed. The leather is plush, soft, and has a true premium feel. There is room for the Apple Pencil to be magnetically connected to the iPad underneath the small flap, and there’s a kickstand on the back if you want to watch a show or haul out a keyboard. I often use my iPad without a case, but do need one when I toss it into a bag. Since getting this, I’ve left the case on much more than I normally do.
$179 (converted from Euro)
Luxury Leather Briefcase for Men by Pad & Quill
I own a few items from Pad & Quill and I’ve always loved the durability and quality of their products. But after clicking around their site recently, the Luxury Leather Briefcase for Men caught my eye.
I work in a formal office during the day, and needed something I could carry with me that looked good, didn’t draw too much attention to itself, and held a MacBook Pro and iPad with various cables and chargers. This briefcase appeared to tick all of those boxes.
Pad & Quill offers two color options for the briefcase: Chestnut or Whiskey. I went with Chestnut, a slightly darker shade of brown that looks super sharp over the black leather. The bag itself is incredibly roomy, with standalone pouches for a 15-inch MacBook Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro along with a spacious spot in the middle for other items.
There are also several mini-pouches inside for smaller items like pens, a keychain, cables and chargers, and two exterior pockets for newspapers and magazines. The leather was particularly stiff when it arrived, but I imagine it will break in over time and develop a nice patina.
The briefcase comes with a shoulder strap, but I’ve found myself carrying this one traditionally. The full-grain, American cowhide leather is beautiful, but the quality is probably a notch or two below the leather used by Satchel & Page. Still, this is a classy briefcase that works as an everyday carry or as a perfect carry-on when flying.
There are many more companies out there making high-quality accessories meant to be used over the long-term. If you have any particular brands you like or recommendations, let us know in the comments!