Hands-On with Mobile by Peak Design

I’ve been using prototypes of the new Mobile phone case system by Peak Design. Here are my quick hands-on impressions.

I’ve never been a phone case guy. Why buy an iPhone, consistently featuring some of the most cutting-edge industrial design on the planet, and then hide that design behind a bulky case? I’ve owned two cases since the original iPhone. One was an Apple slim leather case, I think for the iPhone 6, and the other was during the infamous “you’re holding it wrong” controversy over the iPhone 4, when Apple offered a free “bumper” case to anyone who’d bought the phone and was concerned about blocking wireless reception. Soon after, I accidentally dropped that phone, it landed on its face, and the screen cracked. So much for cases.

But I get it. Some people are more clumsy, or unlucky, or use their phones in circumstances that are more prone to getting dropped or banged around. Over the last several years, with Apple’s rounded-edge iPhone designs, I’ve had people react with terror when I’ve handed them my naked phone because of its “slippery” design. Me, I’m a freelance writer whose iPhone mostly sits in a Stump Stand during the day while I’m working.

A case isn’t just about protection, though, and I’ll admit that when we replaced our car earlier this year, finding a phone holder for it was frustrating: the options are either magnetic, which require a case or adhering a plate to the back of your phone, or mechanical mounts with spring-activated arms and bits to hold the phone steady. (We ended up getting an iOttie Easy One Touch Mini CD Car Mount Phone Holder, which mostly works but occasionally completely falls out of the CD slot.)

So, I’m mostly blind to the massive ecosystem of cases and mounting accessories. And then I received an email from Peak Design about a new project they’re working on called Mobile.

Before I get to that, a word about Peak Design. I own several Peak products, from the recent Travel Tripod to the Everyday Messenger bag; my current bag is the Everyday Backpack. I’ve always been a fan of high quality, smart industrial design, and the folks at Peak Design work to solve problems in new ways, not just find a new color to squirt into an injection-molding machine. To be honest, I’m interested in this new project because it’s from them.

Every Peak Design product has started as a Kickstarter project; Mobile is their tenth. That sounds odd for an established company, but I respect their reasoning: they don’t have to find outside investors for funding (and the strings that are attached), and the initial burst of interest and direct customer support is fantastic marketing to get a project off the ground.

Mobile

Now, Peak Design is putting their attention toward the phone accessory market with Mobile, a case that plugs into an ecosystem of mounts and add-ons. The whole system is well thought out and impressively manufactured. I received a kit containing prototypes of the Everyday Case and a handful of accessories.

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(Photo by Peak Design)

Answering my main question: the case itself isn’t bulky, and in fact features flat edges that resemble the new design of the iPhone 12 models. I can obviously tell that my phone is sheathed in a case, but if I’m going to make that concession, this is a pretty good accommodation. The case I received fits my iPhone 11 Pro; Peak is committing to manufacturing cases for the iPhone 11 line, the iPhone 12 line, and the Samsung S20 line, with future models to be added as they’re introduced. If you own a different phone, or if you don’t want a full case, the Universal Adapter adheres to any flat surface.

The main feature of the case is the Slim Link mount, a rounded-square recess in the middle of the back that connects to the other components. In most situations, this slot is for aligning with a matching extrusion on the add-ons, with strong magnets in the case and the accessory holding them together. The Slim Link mount is also ringed by a zirconia ceramic band that allows sturdier mounts, such as the bicycle and motorcycle adapters, which maintain a solid grip with retractable teeth.

Peak Design’s attention to detail is consistently impressive. For mounts with the locking mechanism, pressing the two levers to release the lock is smooth; the metal components have been machined to strict tolerances. And when you attach the phone to the lock mechanism, the magnets pull it into place and lock securely without the need to spring the clamps manually.

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(Photo by Peak Design)

Components like the Wall Mount and the Wireless Charging Stand are also well made, though they don’t include a rounded-square nub that fits into the slot on the case. For these, the magnets handle alignment.

For the most design-y of designs, though, I have to talk about the Mobile Tripod, which is exceptionally well made, clever, and unobtrusive. It’s about the size of a credit card in its X and Y dimensions, and roughly half the width of the case, small enough to keep it stuck to the back of the phone if you don’t mind additional thickness and weight. The legs can be pulled out as one quasi-triangular foot that acts as a stand, or you can open them to their full three-pronged arrangement. Again, everything is metal, finely machined, and sturdy.

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mobile-peak-tripod-extended_2048px

(Photos by Jeff Carlson)

There’s a mini-ball head connecting the legs to the body that doesn’t look like it should work as well as it does due to the size. I’ve sworn at many, many small ball heads of various types before, usually because they’re plastic or held in place by plastic screws, or they’re just dumb—I’m sure you’ve been in the same situation. Well, this one is sturdy and also easily adjustable. A small, specially-designed hex screwdriver embeds into the foot to be used for tightening or loosening the head’s tension. Even that screwdriver is cleverly designed, such that you pressing a fingernail into a notch pops the tool up to be easily grabbed.

mobile-peak-tool_2048px

(Photo by Jeff Carlson)

One outstanding question between now and delivery is how Apple’s MagSafe system will affect the overall design. I had the pieces in hand when Apple announced the iPhone 12 and MagSafe, so Peak Design clearly didn’t have any sort of heads-up about it (Apple keeps new features like that secret from almost everyone before announcing them). Peak promises compatibility with MagSafe, and I’m guessing they’ve spent many hours since then reworking how the magnets in the case will be arranged.

With all of that in mind, you won’t be surprised that the Mobile system is more expensive than most (all?) cases and accessories out there. The case itself is $32 during the Kickstarter launch (regularly $40), or the Universal Adapter is $16 (regularly $20). From there, the accessories range in price from $24 for a two-pack of Wall Mounts to $72 for the Mobile Charging Stand; the Mobile Tripod is $45.

As I write this, the Kickstarter project has passed $1 million in funding, with 55 days left, so I imagine Peak Design has another success in progress.

If you’re a phone case person, and a fan of great design, definitely check it out.

Disclaimer: The links to the Mobile by Peak Design Kickstarter project are affiliate links. If you click a link and fund the project, I get a small commission that helps me do the work I do. If you would prefer not to use an affiliate link, use this direct link instead.

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