Battle Pocket Bulge With The Hint for iPhone

One of the problems with tech gear is that in order to use it you have to carry it with you. I know that seems like an obvious statement, but think about it for a moment. Not too long ago we carried a cellphone, iPod ( and the headphones that go with it), a watch, some of us carried pagers or handheld game systems. We determined that we either needed or wanted this stuff with us and carrying it all on our belts or in our pockets and they made us look like Star Wars extras, or like were gathering nuts for the winter.

Women who carry large purses can get away with lugging around tech stuff, which can be literally buried in those sacks and yet the girls still manage to look chic. Of course, finding anything in those bags is a whole different story.

Men, however have few fashionably acceptable alternatives. We can get cargo pants (big pockets are fine in some situations, but not others), a man-purse (OK in Europe, California, and some parts of New York City, but not widely acceptable elsewhere), backpack (often it’s overkill, and it’s something we have to haul around and could get separated from), or briefcase (like the backpack, just dressier).

I’ve made many attempts to reduce my pocket bulge, but it wasn’t until I started using the iPhone did I make any real headway. The iPhone combined my phone, watch, pager, game system, music player, even a keyboard and mouse into one thin device. No man-purse or backpack needed. My pockets are saved.

Or are they?

See, try as I might, I still can’t rid myself of that one persistent pocket resident, the one object that I both need and hate: My Wallet.

My current wallet is a smallish affair; just a bit of leather with two pockets for holding cards and money. Yet even that can swell to unnatural proportions. So, now I have my sleek iPhone in one pocket and a bulging mass of leather, plastic and paper in the other. Depending in the type of pants I wear, I now look as if I have a dangerous, possibly gangrenous swelling on my upper thigh. Very sad.

I guess there are others who want to reduce pocket bulge as much as I do, which is likely why Waterfield Design developed The Hint; a leather iPhone case that doubles as a small wallet. There are other iPhone case/wallets out there, even one from Waterfield Design, but The Hint tries to be different by limiting the amount of space it provides for carrying your wallet contents, forcing you to take along only what you need for the evening. It’s an interesting concept and, for the most part, works.

The Hint

The case is made of thick, durable leather that comes in tan or black and it wears well. I have the tan and it’s taken on a nice used look that makes my hard-edged iPhone 4 look less industrial, more earthy.

Calling The Hint a case is actually a bit of an overstatement, it’s more of a leather pocket with a clear window on the front that allows limited touch interaction when your phone is tucked inside. The window also lets you see who’s calling or texting without you having to remove your phone first. The thick leather provides good drop-protection, and the thick plastic window protects your iPhone screen from scratches from other pocket residents.

The Hint

Because the leather and plastics are so thick, taking calls or texting with the iPhone in The Hint is not practical. The best way around this is to use a wired or Bluetooth headset for calls, and remove your phone from the case to text.

The back is covered with a sheer, stretchy fabric that expands to accommodate a small amount of cash and cards. While your mileage may vary, I found that I can carry about ten bills, folded in half, and four cards comfortably, but the fabric will stretch to hold twice that.

It’s been my experience that elastic fabrics don’t wear well and lose stretchiness over time. So far the fabric on The Hint is holding its own, even after I’ve abused it to the point where I’ve torn a gaping hole in it.

The Hint

That windowed leathery goodness is sadly defeated every time I need my credit cards or cash. The iPhone 4 or 4S fits snugly in The Hint. A good thing, to be sure, but that snug fit makes it tough to get anything out of that stretchy pocket on the back.

I actually have to remove the phone to get to my cards or cash. Not a fun thing because every time I need to pay for something I have to juggle my phone, my cash, and The Hint, shoving one in this pocket, the other in that pocket, then reassembling it all when I’m done paying. Using fewer cards or less money improves on this, but only marginally.

I’ve found that reducing my cash wad to 5 bills and taking only one credit card and my license works best, but that still requires me to fumble and pull to get at my stuff. I’ve even resorted to putting the cards in a small envelope, which marginally increased access to them, but did nothing to help me get my cash.

However, if you use The Hint’s back pocket to keep your headsets in then The Hint is perfect. Of course, that means you’ll have to carry a wallet, but at least you won’t have to fish around in your pocket or purse for your headsets.

The only other negative I can find about The Hint seems little more than an annoyance. When the iPhone is in the case it covers the light sensor and your phone will think it’s dark and reduce the screen brightness. There are ways around this, course, but it’s another sacrifice I’d rather not have to make.

Bottom Line:

I like the idea of The Hint, and, for the most part, that idea is executed well. Take only what you need -some cash, a few cards, and your iPhone- and you reduce your pocket profile significantly. The case is well constructed and durable, and the touch-sensitive window is a welcomed convenience.

Unfortunately, when you reduce something to its most spartan form you wind up making sacrifices. For The Hint, you sacrifice easy access to your spendables, and if you spend a lot then that could be a major inconvenience.

You’ll also find that it’s tough to talk or text while your phone is in The Hint. Headsets fixes the talk problem, but you’ll have to remove your phone to do any reasonable texting.

I wish the case didn’t cover the light sensor, it’s only a minor ding, but it needs to be said.

Still, if you value a smaller pocket bulge over some inconvenience then you should give this leather case a serious look. I did, which is why I can easily Recommend* The Hint.

Review ItemThe Hint
ManufacturerWaterfield Design
List Price


Minimum Requirements

iPhone 4 and 4s

* Note: My rating system goes like this;

  • Get it Now! - Highest rating and an absolute must-have
  • Highly recommend - Minor flaws, but a great product
  • Recommend - Flawed, but still a solid product
  • So-so - Problem product that may find a niche market
  • Avoid - Why did they bother making it? A money waster.