Speck’s SmartFlex Card for iPhone 5 has a slot that supports up to three credit cards plus cash in a flexible, single layer of protection. The question at hand is: does this case solve a real problem?
Let’s start with the basic premise of this case. The idea is that three credit cards and a twenty dollar bill is a replacement for a wallet. I am skeptical of that notion.
I will, for starters, admit that one of our distinguished reviewers, Nancy Gravley, did review an iPhone case like this awhile back and mentioned that it was perfect for going to a big picnic event. She didn’t want to carry a purse, and a driver’s license, a credit card and some cash was all that she wanted to take anyway.
However, even that convincing analysis assumes that you already have such a case in hand. In other words, if the case were handy, and one of many cases, one could swap out cases as needed for special events.
So the question is, would one pay US$34.95 for a single layer case, with no screen protector included, that only does only one thing well? Moreover, one tends to carry a lot of things in the wallet. It has room for receipts and lots of one dollar bills when you need them. So is this design so all encompassing that, even with Apple’s Passbook, that it can be your goto case? If so, this case may be for you. But these ideas deserve some thought before coughing up 35 bucks.
Using the Case
First, like all cases of this design, the iPhone 5 slips in easily. The case is a firm plastic, described by Speck as a “ lightweight, resilient polymer” that is warm and nice to the touch, won’t pick up lint like soft silicone, and yet won’t annoyingly slide off the edge when held and manipulated. It does that via a slight wrap-around bezel that keeps the edge in place. That also keeps the face of the iPhone from touching a surface if it’s placed face down.
Close-up showing material texture, anti-glare aperture.
Apertures that need a connection are open while controls are covered with raised buttons. That’s nice because it both protects the iPhone and gives you a little more leverage.
No matter the color, and there are five to chose from, the aperture around the camera lens is black to provide some anti-glare protection. I like that kind of thinking from a case maker.
The credit card slot has two sides. On the long slot, you insert the credit card. On the opposite side is a smaller opening so that you can push one or more cards out with your thumb. That’s a thoughtful feature.
A screen protector is available from Speck at extra cost.
The packaging is nicely made and easy to open. It includes a slip of paper with the full description of the warranty, which is one year. Again, the maker must have thought for sure that the iPhone 5 would be called “New iPhone,” so be aware of that if you see it hanging in a retail store.
Easy open package, warranty statement, but no screen protector.
Summing it up
The packaging describes this case as a “quick wallet alternative,” suggesting that it can be used for a special occasion. That reaffirms my thoughts above that this may not be the permanent, everyday case you would use.
In terms of the fit and finish, I really like this kind of polymer. It does double duty: it's stronger and tougher than silicone but warmer and grippier than polycarbonate. Plus, as I mentioned, it doesn’t pick up lint -- so it will remain good looking. But all you get is that single layer.
An interesting variation to look at is a more complete solution along these lines, the WaterField Wallet/Case for iPhone 5, reviewed by Nancy Gravley. Of course, it's also likely to be more bulky.
The rating comes down to this: it’s a specialty case that has very good construction and materials but is expensive compared to the competition, especially for those who can afford just one case. Accordingly, the rating is simply “solid.”