Blacksmith-Labs Bruno Case Review (for Nexus 5)

Mobile Accessories, Reviews

A few weeks back I was sent a leather smartphone holster from Blacksmith-Labs. The case is meant to be a premium offering at $80 and is hand-crafted from real leather. I’m looking at a case for the Nexus 5, part of their Bruno collection in Chestnut Brown with a Gunmetal clip. Here are my impressions.


Packaging can be one of the best ways to make a good first impression, and Blacksmith-Labs have taken that to heart. The box boasts of their “craftsmanship. redefined” slogan, and is made of stiff black card.


A smaller gray box slides out, and opens to reveal some velvety covered stickered across the case itself. Undo that sticker, and you have the first view of the case itself.


Physical Features

The one thing you notice immediately about this case is its weight – at 126 grams, this case is essentially the same weight as the Nexus 5 itself (130 grams). That’s pretty crazy for a case, but it’s understandable given the amount and quality of materials used and the holster form factor.


The case feels soft in the hand, with that trademark smell and feel of real leather. The single piece of leather is complemented by some bronze-coloured thread. The case is fastened with a button stud. The metal belt clip is incredibly solid feeling, and no doubt contributes much of the weight of the case. It opens easily and snaps around your belt easily, with its significant length ensuring an easy fit around even larger belts.


One thing you’ll have to be aware of is that the soft leather scuffs and is marked quite quickly. These photos were taken a few minutes after the case came out of the box, and already some marks are visible. A week later, and we’ve got quite a few marks visible, particularly around the stud and the top of the case. It’s fairly natural for leather to become worn over time, but it’s certainly something to be aware of.



Using the Bruno was an interesting experience for me, as I’ve almost always used a shell-style case or none at all. I found that my usage of my phone changed fairly significantly while I was using it; I relied more on my smartwatch to triage notifications and was less likely to take my phone out of the case as it took too long. The case felt more secure on my hip, and looked good as well – although the leather used here seems of much higher quality than that of my belt! The style definitely doesn’t fit everyone – and it’s not my personal favourite – but I had to admit that it provided a bit of respectable classical style to my wardrobe.

One nice benefit to a holster case is that your pockets are kept free, which makes for a more comfortable day-to-day fit. It also ensures that your screen is protected much more often, as the it’s covered the whole time it’s in the case. The space and protection of leather is also quite reasonable, and can protect against drops about as well as more advanced (albeit thinner) shell or folio cases.


The BlackSmith-Labs Bruno leather case delivers on its proposition of a top-quality leather case at a fitting price. While the holster / pouch form factor isn’t as popular as flip or shell cases, this is a great example of its benefits: full coverage from scratches and knocks and a classical style that accumulates a natural worn look over time.

The case is also one that you can keep using after you upgrade, as it’ll fit any other similarly sized phone on the market. That makes the $80 initial investment more agreeable than it would be otherwise.

If you are looking for a leather holster for your smartphone, the Blacksmith-Labs offering is a reasonable one.


  • Soft leather gives a look of classical style
  • Full coverage ensures scratch protection
  • Pouch form factor allows compatibility with a range of similarly sized phones


  • Premium price point
  • Quickly shows sign of wear
  • Incredibly heavy

Last modified: July 15, 2014

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