Review: Castello DaVarg KANAM5 for iPhone 5

by on March 14, 2013

We’ve recently reviewed a number of cases for the iPhone 5, made from a number of materials, including plastic, rubber, or some sort of fabric. Still, the idea of a leather case is intriguing in a timeless and natural way. That’s why we were eager to try the KANAM5 for iPhone 5, a $45 cover made by Castello DaVarg.

Castello DaVarg KANAM5 Castello DaVarg KANAM5 Castello DaVarg KANAM5
Castello DaVarg KANAM5 Castello DaVarg KANAM5 Castello DaVarg KANAM5

Castello DaVarg isn’t a known manufacturer of iPhone cases—instead they are a new company, focusing on making high-quality, full-grain leather. They seem to be very customer-oriented, with a thirty-day return window and longer-term exchanges due to defects or non-wear failure. Appropriately enough, the company itself is based in Texas (near Houston), and all of their products are handmade in the United States. This made the KANAM5 even more exciting to try.

Made from a piece of full-grain leather and available in a few colors (some likely being added in the future), the KANAM5 is available in Ember (reddish), Tobac (greenish brown), and Karmel (caramel). Each one features stitching around the outside edge, either blending in or handsomely contrasting. The leather is a vegetable-tanned cowhide, and it’s also very thick (with the corium layer still attached) and feels very durable. It’s about the thickness of an iPad Smart Cover, but one solid piece (as opposed to a leather/microfiber/magnet sandwich that could separate). Everything seems very well-aligned and cut to very precise dimensions.

Our first concern was how the case attaches to the phone—a number of removable adhesive contact points. While there aren’t many ways to attach a product such as the KANAM5 without making some sort of holster, this may be a bit concerning and lead to premature wear for those who like to switch cases based on mood. We reached out to Castello DaVarg and received this feedback regarding the adhesive pad:

We tested the adhesive pad up to 85% relative humidity will stay on as long as it is protected or if the phone is attached to it. You might have noticed that the adhesive pad in fact 35 individual pads to optimized for adhesion and ease of removal. But contamination, especially lint and finger prints can reduce the adhesive properties considerably. Once the adhesive properties is lost the case will require a new pad.

Normal usage should allow more than 40 applications of the case, and the company can replace the pad if necessary. In our tests, it removed without any residue and seemed to hold up with a few installations and removals. When not in use, Castello DaVarg suggests reusing the backing paper to protect the contact points. It seems to stick the best to the bare aluminum back, rather than the glass inlays on the iPhone 5. Still, the KANAM5 feels secure and this method seems to work well enough. This did leave us wishing that Apple had included magnets in the iPhone 5 like the iPad.

Much like any other leather product, the KANAM5 requires time to break in. For about the first week or so, it never seemed to want to stay closed, but after some time in a pocket and making sure to put the iPhone face-down while in the closed case, the crease on the flap started to break in. The case itself wraps around the phone on the side opposite to the silent switch and volume buttons. This makes it easy to silence your phone without having to open the cover. Additionally, all sides are exposed, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on your thoughts on protection versus accessibility. The case is a bit bigger than the phone, so corners are pretty well protected when the flap is closed.

One thing that took time to get used to was that the flap of the case added significant bulk when folded behind the phone and typing was a bit awkward to use if left hanging off to the right side. This seems very similar to Uniea’s Colorama Folio, although the location of the “hinge” prevents the aforementioned typing issues. To help with phone calls, there is a small cutout for the speaker, allowing you to use the phone with the flap closed (and maybe prevent accidental button presses).

Some may be concerned about the price—arguably it is on the higher end of iPhone cases, but it does seem like a well-made product, and the attention to detail in design and manufacture is impeccable. This is something that will last a long time and wear nicely. Obviously, this is a judgmental call for the purchaser, especially since it commands $10-$15 over most cases. In comparison to Apple’s own leather Smart Covers, the price premium doesn’t seem so ludicrous.

Although usability and protection are highly subjective for the KANAM5, the case feels very good. It’s something that seems to go well with the metal-and-glass aesthetic of the iPhone and will likely outlast the device itself. While there are some limitations due to the nature of the product (notably the potential annoyance of the flap and adhesive attachment), we can see some people really enjoying this product, especially if they aren’t fans of many of the more “traditional” iPhone cases.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The KANAM5 is a unique take on the iPhone folio-style case, mixing high-quality materials and good looks, but may not be for everyone.

Pros: Natural, simple, well-made and precise construction
Cons: Attachment to phone could be better, flap sometimes awkward for typing

The Facts

3,5/5Product: KANAM5
Company: Castello DaVarg
Platform: iPhone 5
Price: $45

This post has been filed in Cases, iDevices and Reviews