Review: Vaja iPhone classic urbano pouch

Argentina-based Vaja is well known for designing luxury cases for portable gadgets and consumer electronics. Combining premium leather, elegant designs, and the occasional sprinkle of Swarovski crystals, the company can easily command upwards of $300 for a single case.

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Fortunately for those who’ve already spent more than that on an Apple iPhone, Vaja’s current selection of cases can protect your new investment for much less.

But with prices starting at $55, is it really worth it?

Vaja Choice

Through its Vaja Choice customization service, Vaja offers more options for its products than any other accessory manufacturer around. Customers can personalize their cases with text and graphics, choose from a selection of belt clips, and even mix-and-match a vast assortment of colors depending on the overall design and the kinds of leather used.

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The urbano pouch is made of two different types of leather, aniline and caterina. Each is treated and tanned differently, so not all of the same colors are available to both.

I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous when I placed my order, so even though there are more than 650 combinations possible, I chose black on black. Boring maybe, but also classic, simple, and elegant.

Note: The handicraft process takes 15 days and the case ships via FedEx from Buenos Aires, Argentina. In total, from order date to delivery, my iPhone was caseless for 19 days.

Packaging

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The urbano pouch is well packaged in a Vaja-branded white sleeve encasing an equally excessively branded sturdy white box.

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Accompanying the pouch, which is unwrapped and not protected in any way, are a nice set of glossy brochures for other Vaja cases.

Design

The urbano isn’t the only pouch Vaja makes for the iPhone, but I do think it’s the nicest. Look at it!

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The build quality and attention to detail is really amazing. I’m a stickler for straight stitches and even lines, and this case does not disappoint.

Here’s a closer look.

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A magnetic closure keeps the case securely shut with an audible snap.

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On the front is an unassuming Vaja logo and the only real design flourish on the pouch: dotted caterina leather. I doubt that "dotted" is the correct term, but it sounds better than "punched-out" or "dimpled."

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I opted for a plain back because it’s less bulky and I don’t ever make use of belt clips.

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The same Vaja branding that’s wallpapered on the packaging is literally branded into the pouch’s interior leather. It’s a nice touch and in keeping with other premium labels.

Leather

Vaja claims to use only the top 10% of Argentina’s full-grain, unaltered cowhide for all of its products, and I believe it. Not only does it look great and feel exceptional, but it smells amazing. Anyone not immune to that luscious scent of leather will be intoxicated almost immediately.

Vaja_iphone_leather

Both aniline and caterina leathers are used in the urbano pouch. Aniline leather is tanned with vegetable pigments to allow all of its natural markings and characteristics to be seen; it has an incredibly smooth finish. Caterina leather, on the other hand, has a matte finish and is softer and more flexible.

Size

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Like all leather cases, the urbano pouch is considerably thicker than the device it is meant to protect. Excluding the flap, it’s about three-quarters of an inch thick, which is roughly a quarter-inch more than the iPhone.

Fit

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The iPhone slips easily yet snugly into the pouch no matter which way its facing or lying.

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I think it’s designed for the iPhone to be put into it in only one way, though, as the headphone jack is only accessible on the right side.

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t putting the phone into the pouch like this backwards? It suggests that you hold the case in your right hand and open the flap with your left. 

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I think holding the case in your left hand, opening the flap with your right, and putting the phone in the other way seems more natural.

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The problem with this, however, is that the headphone jack, volume rocker, and mute switch all become inaccessible.

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In-case use issues aside, the iPhone fits perfectly and is well protected.

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The device’s silver corners peek out from the open corners of the pouch and complement the silver Vaja logo quite nicely.

Conclusion

The classic urbano pouch by Vaja offers stylish and highly customizable protection for the iPhone, but it comes at a premium price.

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As with most top-tier brands, you’re definitely paying more for the name than for anything else. Because although Vaja uses superior leather and hand-makes each of its custom orders individually, what the pouch actually does is nothing out of the ordinary. There are already countless other side pouches out there specifically designed for the iPhone that are not only much less expensive but that probably even offer more "features" (inner pocket or more cut-outs, maybe?).

Whether any of them looks, feels, and smells as good as the urbano pouch is up to you.

The Vaja classic urbano pouch is available now for $60.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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