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Dbrand leather skin review: Slap a cow on your phone

If you've ever considered putting a skin on your phone, you've undoubtedly heard of Dbrand. The company has been around for a full decade now, offering up precision-cut vinyl skins with plenty of attitude. Coinciding with that 10-year anniversary, Dbrand has launched a limited-time drop of leather skins for most of the best Android phones around, like the Google Pixel 6 and the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Dbrand sent me a pack of skins for the Galaxy S21, Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Galaxy Z Fold 3, and Galaxy Z Flip 3 in each of the three available colors, tan, brown, and black. These phone skins are made from real leather and will make your phone smell as wonderful as you'd expect. Better yet, they're only 0.5mm thin, meaning they won't add any real weight or bulk to the phone.

They'll also patina properly since they're real leather, an effect that takes more time than I have for this review period but can be spurred on more quickly by using Dbrand's leather oils. You apply them just as you would expect — that means peeling it off the 3M paper and slapping it on your phone — but there are a few extra steps (and time) that need to be taken over the usual vinyl skins.

So are these worth the effort and the cash? Let's take a look.

Dbrand leather skin: Price and availability

Dbrand is selling its limited-edition leather skins throughout the month of December 2021. Leather skins can be ordered for any product that Dbrand makes skins for, which can be selected on the order page. Leather skins for most phones cost $34.95 and can be ordered in black, brown, or tan colors. They even make them for consoles like the PS5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch controllers.

If skins aren't enough protection for you, Dbrand also makes leather skins that can be applied to any Dbrand Grip case. The case plus the leather skin costs $54.90. If you already have a Dbrand Grip case for your phone, you can order the case-sized leather skin separately for $24.95 in black, brown, or tan colors.

All leather skins come with a matching color microfiber cloth with an embroidered stylized cow skull in the middle.

Dbrand leather skin: What you'll love

If you're anything like me, you love the smell of leather. But, unlike a leather belt or another piece of leather that you wear, it's a lot easier to smell your phone, which — sorry for the weirdness here — I've constantly been doing since I dropped that gorgeous brown leather skin on my Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Adding leather to a device like a Z Fold 3 makes an inordinate amount of sense, especially given that the phone already operates like a notebook. For other phones like the Google Pixel 6 Pro, adding a leather skin erases one of the worst parts of the phone. That's its terribly slippery nature, of course.

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Depending on the phone you're rocking, the amount of grip added will differ. For instance, on a Galaxy Z Fold 3, only the small back of the phone is covered, while the slippery hinge still retains its original finish. There's nothing Dbrand can do about this, of course, simply because the design of the phone doesn't allow a 0.5mm skin to reside on the hinge without causing problems.

Most other phones — even the Galaxy Z Flip 3 — will benefit immensely from a leather skin on them because of the added grip factor.

Since it's real leather, time actuallyenhances the look and feel of the product. That's at odds with most materials normally used to cover a phone — especially those clear plastic cases — which usually get greasy and worn-looking over time.

Leather, as you might know, if you've owned any leather products in the past, will patina over time. That means a year from now, your Dbrand leather skin will look distinct and distinguished, especially since each skin features a naturally unique pattern.

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Once I got the skin properly on my phone and used it for a few days, I regularly marveled at how it began to almost fuse with the phone itself, giving it new life and a super classy new look. The black leather really matches brilliantly with the Pixel 6 Pro Sorta Sunny's gold rails, while the brown leather makes the Z Fold 3 look like a genuine notebook.

Dbrand leather skin review: Slap a cow on your phone

By nature, a skin won't usually enhance the protection of your phone. Given the material and the increased thickness — that's 0.5mm thick for the leather and 0.2mm thick for the vinyl skin — there's a slight chance that your phone could withstand a drop better with a leather skin than it would with a vinyl one. I still wouldn't count on that, but it is certainly a possibility.

If you actually want drop protectionas well as that beautiful leather finish, you can get a cut-down version for phones that have a Dbrand Grip case. I previously owned a Dbrand Grip case for my Pixel 4XL and was enamored with it — it's my favorite phone case, in fact — but having a vinyl skin on it made it greasy over time.

Since this one is leather, that shouldn't happen. The oils on your skin are what make the leather patina over time, so these oils end up being beneficial instead.

Did I mention that it smells amazing?

Dbrand leather skin: What's not as good

I have almost no complaints about the skin itself. Rather, depending on the device you're skinning and how many curves it has, installing a Dbrand leather skin could take a notable amount of time. For the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, installing took just a few minutes and a little TLC on the edges to ensure they were fully set.

During installation, you'll need a heat source — like a hairdryer or something else that emits lots of heat — to help soften the leather and warm up the adhesive back. Heating up the skin and using the included microfiber cloth to smooth out the edges helps the skin better adhere to the curves of your device.

A gadget like a Pixel 6 Pro, for instance, took me more like 30-40 minutes before I was satisfied with the application. In this particular case, the Pixel 6 Pro offered up two unique challenges when compared to the other phones I installed these skins on.

First up, it's a 3-piece skin. Only the Z Flip 3 featured a similarly complicated skin, and, even then, it wasn't complicated by the second challenge the Pixel 6 Pro brings: curves. Each of the three pieces has to be curved around multiple edges — the camera bar being the easiest part to apply — while the corners posed a particular challenge for me.

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I highly recommend following Dbrand's official how-to videos for your particular phone, which will guide you through any tricky steps the phone might provide because of its design.

Even after following these steps, however, you might find that you need to heat up and smooth out the edges a few more times over the first few days. Again, the Pixel 6 Pro's skin kept popping up at the points where the camera bar meets the rest of the body, causing me to heat it up a few additional times to ensure it would finally stick.

Not taking the extra steps to ensure your skin is smoothly curved to the body will almost certainly result in a flat, rough edge that'll be accidentally peeled back by your finger at some point in time. This happened to me on the first installation attempt with the Z Fold 3 when I went to open the phone and accidentally pried the back off instead of opening it.

Dbrand leather skin: Competition

There aren't too many leather skins out there, but there are plenty of leather cases available. No matter what phone you're rocking, retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and probably even your phone carrier will sell you a leather case.

Bellroy makes a gorgeous leather case for many phones that comes in several snazzy colors, including unnatural ones like blue. These usually go for about the same price (~$50) and are typically made entirely of leather. The downside here is that you can't just peel the leather off if it gets snagged or torn, whereas a Dbrand Grip case with a leather skin can have a new strip of leather easily applied. The same goes for a phone with just a Dbrand leather skin, of course.

Most leather cases aren't quite as protective as a Dbrand Grip case with a leather skin, but you will have the added advantage of a full leather cover around the sides. Neither Dbrand's case nor skins envelop the sides in leather. Just the back.

Dbrand leather skin: Should you buy it?

You should buy this if ...

You shouldn't buy this if...

Like any skin, adding a Dbrand leather skin to your phone won't protect it from drops. It will certainly keep it protected against scratches, though, and will make it less likely to drop since it's no longer enveloped entirely in shiny, slippery glass. You can always grab a Dbrand Grip case and the matching leather case skin, though, giving you that leather feel with proper protection.

4.5 out of 5

This one takes a bit more work to apply than a vinyl skin but is totally worth it in the end. Unlike a vinyl skin — which has no natural way to wick off or absorb skin oils — a leather skin gets better over time in both feel and look. It's a time-honored classic that you can finally add to your phone and one that's easily Dbrand's best product since the Grip case. The latest version of that case, of course, not the early ones that were falling apart.

Dbrand leather skin

Bottom line: Add a crop of leather to your phone and give it that time-honored look and feel with Dbrand's limited-run leather skins. They'll even make your phone smell fantastic, thanks to the fact that they are real genuine cowhide.

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