After reviewing Bellroy's leather case for the Pixel 3, I was smitten with the combination of luxurious leather and great overall design. But at the same time, I know not everyone is willing to use a thin and soft leather case that provides relatively little protection for their phone. That's where Nomad's "rugged leather" case steps in: it's a leather case that's designed to provide more robust shielding from drops and bumps. It attempts to split the line between comfort and strength.
Here's how well that dance between form and function works.
A case can look great and add extra protection.
Nomad's rugged leather case looks a whole lot better than typical "rugged" cases, with a quality leather back that should age nicely. But it pairs that with a tough rubber frame and a bit of extra bulk to keep your phone safer from drops and bumps. It's a bit thicker than typical style-focused cases, and the leather isn't as supple as a result, but Nomad strikes a great balance between form and function.
- More rugged than typical leather cases
- Hard rubber edges take a beating
- Good ridged covers for buttons
- Big opening for fingerprint sensor and USB port
- Adds considerable bulk
- Leather is stiffer than you'd expect
- Expensive compared to typical rubber or TPU choices
First, the form. Nomad's case is proudly made with Horween leather from Chicago — some may remember that brand from Moto's early watches and leather-backed phones. It comes in a rich brown color that's reminiscent of a nice pair of dress shoes or a lounge chair. Unlike Bellroy's offering there aren't multiple colors to choose from — but this is a classy deep color that I'd probably choose from a lineup anyway.
The leather should wear in nicely over time, but out of the box it's stiff and less inviting.
Nomad says the leather is expected to wear gracefully with a nice patina over time — and anyone with a Horween-backed phone or its other leather products know that'll happen — but out of the box the case is very stiff. Whether it's the thickness of the leather, the backing it's on, or some combination of the two, the end result is a case that doesn't feel as supple or luxurious as some even though I know Horween leather is of a higher quality than most in this space. The case is more focused on longterm wear and extra strength, so I get the trade-off, but right from the start you can tell there is a trade-off.
In a bit over a week my case picked up some nice little scuffs and bumps that add character, but don't in any way show a propensity to make the leather break down. You can tell it's made to last.
How about the function? Nomad nails all of the basics. The rubberized frame is thick and sturdy, with a good ridge that helps you grab the sides and a seamless connection with the leather on the back. There are ample cutouts for the camera, fingerprint sensor, USB-C port and microphones. And the convex areas along the side for the buttons work perfectly.
This is a leather case built to protect your phone and look great doing it.
But owing to its rugged nature, the Nomad case is quite a bit thicker than many of the style-focused leather cases. That rubber frame can absolutely handle drops (Nomad claims 6 ft drop protection) and everyday abuse, but it makes the phone thicker than my other slim and stylish cases. The rubber lip on the front of the phone lets you carelessly toss it face-down on a table, but is just tall enough to sometimes interfere with edge swipe gestures on my Pixel 3 XL.
As a complete package, the Nomad rugged leather case is amazing. If you've looked lustfully at people's beautiful leather cases with unique aging and rich colors, but held off because you were worried about their longterm durability, Nomad has you covered here. The leather may not be as immediately soft and luxurious as others, but it's designed to last and is married to a case that fundamentally puts strength and durability above sleek sizing.
Nomad's case may seem expensive at $45, but that's what you need to pay to get quality materials and construction like this. Whether you choose a Nomad rugged leather case or a competitor like the Bellroy leather case will come down to how much you value a focus on strength versus design. You win either way.
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