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2024’s coolest iPhone accessory is a throwback to old Android phones

The Nomad Magnetic Leather Back on an iPhone 15 Pro.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

I’ve long been a fan of leather. It’s probably the metalhead in me. Judas Priest. Metallica. Or maybe it was the smell of the baseball glove when I was younger.

And it hasn’t gone away as I’ve aged. Leather belts. Leather wallets. And, of course, leather phone cases over the years. A ridiculous number of phones and cases, given my profession for the past 15 years. And that means when I saw the Nomad Magnetic Leather Back make an appearance, I knew I had to have one.

It’s a pretty simple proposition: The back uses the MagSafe connection and three “micro-suction” pads to keep the back affixed to the iPhone. The sides and the front of the phone are left unprotected. The buttons are exposed. And so far, so good.

But I was hit with a weird wave of nostalgia as soon as I put it on. A leather case is one thing. A leather back is another. Was another, actually. Because we’ve been here before, about a decade ago.

Phones used to be more fun. And in the mid-twenty-teens, nobody has having more fun than Motorola and LG.

The second-generation Motorola Moto X, in 2014.
The second-generation Motorola Moto X with its leather back, in 2014. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Motorola made its triumphant return in 2013 with the Moto X, which you could custom design. A year later, it followed up with a bigger phone — the Android world was still moving really fast back then — and more options for the second-generation Moto X, including a leather back. Of course, I got leather. How could I not? (A wood veneer was still a really cool option, too.)

The Horween leather looked great. It felt great. And it aged really well. And most of all, it didn’t look like anything else anyone was doing.

The LG G4 with a leather back, in Yankee Stadium, in 2015.
The LG G4 with its glorious leather back, in Yankee Stadium, in 2015. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Until a year later, anyway. LG had been pushing design and functionality with its LG G series of phones. And in the early spring of 2015, it debuted the LG G4. Unlike the second-gen Moto X, which didn’t have a removable battery, the G4 had a swappable power cell — and various styles of covers to hide and protect the guts inside. And one of those options was leather.

The G4 leather back led to some of my favorite smartphone pictures. I remember picking it up at a briefing in downtown New York and catching a Yankees game. To this day, I have yet to take pictures of a device like I did that night in The House that Ruth Built. Maybe it was the spirits. Maybe it was just the lighting. Maybe it was the leather.

In any event, the awkwardly-named Nomad Magnetic Leather Back took me back to that time. To a time when phones had more flair in their design and weren’t immediately covered by a protective case. I don’t know if we should ever go back to that. But maybe it proves that Motorola and LG were onto something. Maybe they were just ahead of their time.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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