Twelve South SurfacePad for iPhone Xs Max REVIEW Luxury Feel but Minimal Protection | Mac Sources

4 min readJul 17, 2019


Twelve South SurfacePad for iPhone Xs Max


Think of the SurfacePad not as a case but rather an ultra-slim leather cover.

With modern smartphone prices reaching absurd levels, it makes me nervous to see people with naked iPhones. My choices often reach the opposite extreme however, sacrificing function for protection. I am sure that there are people who feel that a bomb-proof/bullet-proof case is likely unnecessary. Luckily, the market is saturated with cases to meet most of our varied desires/needs. Lately, I have attempted to reverse my innate drive to focus solely on armoring up my iPhone. Instead, I have tried to look at a balanced functional, stylish, yet guarding case.

The twelve south SurfacePad for iPhone XS Max arrived in a 4 1/4 inches wide by 7 inches tall by 3/4 inches thick retail case. Instead of a standard box style packaging, twelve south chose to jazz up the experience by directly displaying their case behind a clear window. They did not use the trendy magnetic front flap, nor they did not rely upon subpar rendered images. Instead, we were able to see the ultimate prize. The case had a 2 7/8 inches tall by 3 1/8 inches wide slipcover, which detailed the 2-card wallet, hands-free display, and instant-on technology. Flipping the packaging onto the cover, I was pleased to find a lifelike photographic image of the case/features. The panel promised an ultra-slim, luxury, genuine leather cover, two card slots, a built-in stand feature, an automatic wake-up/sleep feature, and a secure attachment to the back of your phone.

Lifting the first of the three magnetic flaps, the inner cover displayed the integrated display stand and the same features as the back cover but in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Korean. The middle panel showcased the teal SurfacePad and the sleep/wake feature. With the trifold packaging fully deployed, I was able to review the bright red congratulatory panel. I removed the 1.9-ounce SurfacePad iPhone Xs Max case from the packaging and noticed a single red arrow jutting from the side. The blue colored cover had a satisfyingly soft-suede feel, which was both visually and tactilely appealing. The grey inner cover, with SurfacePad along the lower margin, had two perfectly cut oblique credit/ID card slots. The back plate, colored in the same blue as the cover, had a double row of stitching along the center. This feature allowed the case to assume the display stand configuration, which was my favorite feature of the case. Both the front and back covers showed exceptional stitch work, with stitching along the borders and along the center of the back panel. The inner surface of the back panel was covered with a plastic shield layer, which was easily separated from the sticky glue backing. To install your phone, place it face down on the counter, align the vertical iPhone XS Max camera and then press down along the edges.

The case may be the most minimalistic case that I have tested so far. I loved that the case provided the two credit card slots and that it had the automatic awaken/sleep features. The stitching was superb, and the case played to the senses. The smell of leather, when combined with the visual/touch sensations provided a luxury feel. If I were in charge of the SurfacePad 2.0, I would change a few things. First, I wish that the case was about 1/16–1/8 inches longer to protect the edges of the phone. In the current form, the edges were left to defend themselves. I would also appreciate a locking strap[/magnetic closure latch to keep the soft shell case closed. With the edges not secured, I could not test the case for fear of damage to my iPhone Xs Max. Despite the limitations, the case was a huge hit with my wife, who loved the credit card and viewing stand features. We were surprised by the stickiness of the glue and how well the phone remained affixed to the sticky surface. However, we were displeased that three of the four edges of the iPhone remained unadorned. I love twelve south and their quality products. Unfortunately, this case failed to provide adequate protection for my phone. For that reason, I could not trust this case to protect from drops or scuffs.

If you think of the SurfacePad more as a cover or as a second skin than a case, it may be the optimal device for you. I cannot mark down the company for their quality craftsmanship, just on my personal needs/tests.

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Originally published at on July 17, 2019.




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