Tenerarca's leather cell phone cases help keep germs away (hands-on)

Combat bacteria and radiation with these stylish leather cell phone cases.

Sarah Mitroff Managing Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
Expertise Tech, Health, Lifestyle
Sarah Mitroff
3 min read
Josh Miller/CNET

Chances are you know that smartphones are little hubs of bacteria, carrying around germs, viruses and, in some cases, E. coli. I, for one, am a fan of just wiping down my phone with an alcohol swab to kill pathogens, but there's a new line of cases that promise to continuously combat germs without any extra effort.

The Tenerarca leather phone cases hail from Par'sk USA, and have a built-in line of defense against bacteria and electromagnetic radiation. According to the company, they carry a special coating called Upskin, a "proprietary antibacterial, sanitizing, and negative-ion-generating technology." It's supposed to not only shield against cell phone radiation, but also eliminate up to 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria that comes in contact with the surface of the case. However, the company doesn't cite any laboratory test results to back up Upskin's claims.

Since CNET obviously doesn't have a biology lab attached to our offices, I had to come up with a few not-so-scientific means to test if the Tenerarca cases can keep bacteria at bay. For reference, I like to think that my immune system is strong, but I can still get sick if someone coughs in my general direction. I let a few cold-ridden friends fondled the cases with their germy hands, and one even sneezed on the Tenerarca model I put on my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (the nerve!). I took my phone back and used it as normal, including putting it up to my face for phone calls. I'm happy to report I didn't catch any maladies my friends were spreading, but it's hard to say if that has anything to do with the cases' disease-fighting technology. It could have been that I dowsed myself in hand sanitizer afterwards, or that my immune system was being particularly defensive, or even that my friends weren't contagious at the time. If and when I get the chance to put these cases through some real laboratory bacteria testing, I'll update this post.

The iPhone 5 case (right) and Samsung Galaxy Note 2 model. Josh Miller/CNET

Beyond fighting germs, Par'sk says the Upskin coating also generates negative ions, which allegedly neutralize radiation, though I had a hard time hunting down any reputable evidence to support that claim. For me, the cases' protection from electromagnetic radiation protection isn't a huge selling point. After all, the FCC has safety standards for radiation levels, so I rarely worry about if my phone is silently hurting me. If you're concerned about the potentially harmful effects of cell phone radiation, these cases might be able to offer some peace of mind. If you want another case option, consider the Pong case, which also blocks radiation.

If neither Tenerarca cases' germ nor radiation protection features appeal to you, perhaps their stylish looks will. The entire line is made from lightweight leather that's soft and supple, and felt great in my hands. The cases also all feature a flip cover, which protects the screen. It's held in place by magnets, which is a nice touch. There's a small T-shaped grill on the cover which fits over the earpiece so that you can keep the screen covered while on a phone call, which is supposed to cut down on the spread of germs.

The cases have a special coating that supposedly fights germs. Josh Miller/CNET

My biggest gripe with these cases is that they get their shape from a thin metal frame which rests on top of the front of your phone. Since it's so thin, it bends easily, which makes the cases feel cheaper than their $70-and-up price tags would suggest. There's not much corner protection either, which means that if you drop your phone and it lands on a corner (as phones are want to do), it could suffer some damage.

The Tenerarca cases come in five models: Samsung Galaxy Note 2; iPhone 4/4S; iPhone 5; iPhone 5S/5C; and original iPad/iPad 2. Each of those come in various color options, including red, camel, black, aqua green, blue, and even a gold version for the iPhone 5S/5C.

The Galaxy Note 2 case costs $85, the iPhone 4/4S model costs $69, the iPhone 5 and 5S/5C versions are both $75, and the iPad case is $150. Compared to other, less expensive leather cases from Apple and a company called Sena, those prices are steep. But, if the bacteria-busting technology works as well as Par'sk says it does, the money you spend on the case could save you the cost of a trip to the doctor and a bottle of antibiotics.