Striking a good balance between protection and style
Totallee has a habit of releasing thin smartphone cases and the company is now back again with its latest offering for the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
The company previously released a transparent case for the Pixel 3 series but what makes this one a little different is the emphasis on leather this time.
The Totallee Pixel 3 leather case employs an “ultra-thin polypropylene housing” which is then accentuated with what the company says is a “sophisticated leather backing.”
That is, a “real, calf-skin leather backing.”
Generally speaking this combination results in a case that feels nice and this is especially in spite of how thin the case is in general. One of the downsides to the dual-use of polypropylene and leather, compared to traditional molded units, is that you can feel the join.
This is not a massive issue, but it is something that will be noticeable to those who go looking...or feeling around the case. This might also be something to look out for when it comes to long-term use as it is not clear how well the seam between the two portions will hold up over time. The very fact the seam is noticeable enough on installation suggests this might be one of the weaker links in the case's durability chain.
Adds style without the bulk
There’s little denying this is a nice-looking case. It is. The leather adds a touch of premium to the proceedings and the emphasis on thinness means you don’t have to worry about any additional or unnecessary bulk.
However, as is typical of thin cases like this, it remains to be seen just how much protection is actually on offer.
The polypropylene frame is a help here. As in spite of this essentially being a two-piece case, the frame will help to ensure the phone is better protected against drops and bumps.
This is a very thin case for what it is though and while that is the reason you'll opt to buy this case, it is also something to keep in mind when making the decision on whether this case offers enough protection for you.
Officially, the company states the case is designed to protect against “scratches and bumps” and that seems to a fair assessment of the protection limitations you should expect. Bumps, not crashes and most probably, not major drops.
Speaking of drops, the leather backing does also feel as though it adds a bit more grip than what would otherwise be on offer. This is not a massive difference, however, and won't necessarily protect from accidental slips, but the phone certainly does not feel as slippery in the hand in this case compared to other thin, molded cases.
Power and volume suffer
As you would expect, this is a made-to-measure case for the Pixel 3 and 3 XL which means you can also expect precise cutouts for all the various button and ports.
However, one of the biggest and most immediate criticisms of the Pixie 3 XL case we tested was the cutouts for the power and volume buttons.
There’s no issue in the placement which are perfectly in line, but with the case in use the buttons become less accessible.
In spite of this being a thin case, the buttons lose their sense of presence completely. To be clear, this is not a matter of the buttons being flush against the lip of the case, they are beneath the lip and a little too far below at that.
This results in a massive increase in the force needed to press the buttons compared to without the case. For example, if you are holding the phone in your left hand it is not easy to press the power button with your index finger. The same goes with the volume buttons with your other fingers. In the latter case, you are far more likely to press to hard and activate the Active Edge feature than actually adjust the volume as intended.
During the first few days this proved to be such an issue that it was simply better to use the other hand to press any of the buttons. Over time this did become slightly less of an issue as the case seemed to relax a little, although it never stopped being an issue altogether. The use of the case consistently required far more force than would be expected or wanted. This is one of the main concerns to consider and accept before purchasing.
Of course, this does arguably mean the buttons are very well protected as they are in essence buried within the case completely so it seems unimaginable that any damage will come to the buttons. While a selling point to some, it's not enough of a feature to offset against how the convenience of button access has been greatly restricted.
How much this affects the Pixel 3 owner experience for any individual will highly depend on how often that individual uses these buttons in the first place.
Arguably, the volume is the bigger issue as those who opt for the use of the fingerprint sensor and the automatic phone lock to turn on and off the phone will rarely need to press the power button. Then again, if you are not someone who is often adjusting the volume of the phone then the reduced access to the volume buttons might not prove to be much of an issue either.
For some Pixel 3 phone owners this will also impact on the camera experience. As those who use the volume down button as a way to quickly take a photo without touching the screen will find this route is no longer as easy as it once was. The same could be said for when trying to take manual screenshots.
To be clear on this point, the buttons are still accessible and functional - it is just the level of force that's needed compared to without the case.
In spite of its limitations, it’s worth the purchase
The Totallee leather case is available for both the standard Pixel 3 or the larger Pixel 3 XL. In both instances the case is priced at $39.
There are some limitations with this case with the most notable one being the force needed for the power and volume buttons but for the price, the case is a good purchase overall.
It is especially appealing to those who do want more of a premium feel while also utilizing an extremely thin design.
There are definitely other case options that will offer greater levels of protection, but do also result in a bulkier experience overall. This case instead looks to balance the style with the durability and does so to a good degree for the price.
One of the aspects that will likely appeal to buyers is the simplistic and minimalist approach taken by Totallee. This is a company that intentionally looks to offer cases that lack in aspects like branding and this was seen a positive as there’s very little here to detract away from the look of the phone.
It is simply, a very nice-looking and thin leather case for the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.
Note: The information provided here is based on the limited time spent with the case so far. There’s not much we can say on the long-term durability of the case at this point although this article will be updated if any major durability issues arise later on.