When I initially asked Case-mate to send over their Credit-card-holding iPhone 4 case, I was planning on including it as part of a post called “Your wallet is dead”, based on the idea that smartphones can pretty much entirely supplant those bulging hunks of cow skin we gents lug around. I ended up scrapping that post, having come to the conclusion that the wallet isn’t dead just yet (give it another two or three years, tops) — not to mention that declaring things “dead” has become terribly cliché and is, from a writing standing, dead.
Though that post met an early demise, I’m driven to give this Case-mate case a bit of time in the sun with its own review. Why? Because I love it.
Where to find it: Product Page
The Short Version: Going bar hopping? Leave the wallet at home, take this. It’ll hold two credit cards, or one credit card and an ID. Get the black case, as the mirror finish case seems to show wear pretty quick. Bonus: this thing will blow the mind of every cashier you whip it out in front of.
The Long Version:
Making the case for using the Case:
I don’t carry cash.
Now, don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of reasons for physical monetary marks to exist — they just don’t affect me. Buying coffee? Debit card. Paying rent? Check. Crossing the bridge? Fastrak. Hopping on the bus? RFID cards. While I’ll make the occasional exception for swap meets and garage sales (until Square becomes commonplace, at least), a “CASH ONLY” sign on the door means I don’t shop there.
When I realized just how much I loathed carrying cash, I took a closer look at my wallet. 50% of its reason for existence was to (not) carry cash, with its remaining purpose being to carry all my various plastic. All in all, I had 15 cards in my wallet. The number of cards that I actually use on a regular basis? Two. One debit card, one id. The rest was almost all junk; beyond my insurance card and Costco membership, it was all Subway Sandwich cards, gift cards I’d long forgotten I had, etc.
I’ve been living with this case for 3 weeks now, and I don’t think I’ll be going back. The two cards I carry in it are the same two cards that had a purpose being in my wallet: my credit card, and my ID.
Now, it has required a few tiny, tiny changes to my lifestyle, but we’re talking really trivial. If I’m going shopping, I need to remember to grab any relevant gift cards and tuck’em in my pocket. My Costco card and insurance card stay in my car at all times — and why shouldn’t they? If I’m going to Costco or the doc, I probably have my car, afterall. In case of emergencies, I’ve got a picture of my insurance card on my iPhone.
Three weeks in, I haven’t once thought “Damn! I wish I had my wallet on me!”
What’s in the box:
- The Case-mate ID Credit Card Holder for iPhone 4
- Display cover
- Screen wipe
- Easy slide back cover
- Installation directions
The Case itself:
Off of the iPhone, the case feels a bit flimsy. Slap it on, and that goes away. As pictured above (#4), the case comes with a transparent cover for the back of the iPhone. Use it. Not to protect the back of the iPhone, but to make cards a bit easier to slide in and out. It also comes with a screen cover, which I didn’t use; anything that can scratch the iPhone 4’s crazy-tough screen probably won’t be hindered by a bit of plastic.
Cards fit snugly into the case — but unlike the past generations of this case (for the iPhone 3GS and earlier), the cards aren’t tough to get out. Just push the card from the bottom, and it’ll slide right out. It’s worth noting that the case, being that it’s made of hard plastic rather than soft leather, is a bit tougher on cards than your wallet might be. Specifically, the silver paint on my credit card’s extruded numbers wore off in about a day. The mag stripe (the important bit), however, remains in perfect shape.
OH GOD BUT WHAT IF IT GETS STOLEN:
Every single person I show this case to has the exact same reaction. It’s a two part thing:
- Whoa! Whoaaaa! Whoa! That is cool. (Really — I’ve never had this many reactions to a review product before. Every single cashier I used it in front of asked about it.)
- “If that gets stolen, you’re totally screwed!”
Yes, yes I am. But I’d be just as screwed if I had my wallet stolen, just in a different way. If the iPhone and case get yanked, I’ve lost my ID, my main credit card, and the thing I’d use to call my banks to cancel the cards on the spot — and that sucks, a lot. On the other hand, imagine the damage if my wallet got stolen: my main credit card would be gone, along with my ID.. but so would my secondary credit cards, 2 or 3 membership cards, and countless unregistered, unrecoverable gift cards — and that sucks pretty damn bad, too.
It’s rare for me to find a product that I can so whole-heartedly recommend. In a nutshell: if you can minimize your life down to two plastic cards (if even only for nights on the town), get this case. If you can’t, don’t.
What we like:
- Holds cards nice and snug, but not too snug.
- Looks pretty good on the phone, and barely adds any bulk.
- Between the easy-slide plastic adhesive sheet for the back of the iPhone and the thumb-sized hole at the base for sliding cards out, you can tell they definitely put a lot of thought into this
- For something so simple, the reactions this thing gets are awesome. It’s worth it for the conversation-starter value alone. (“Sup girl? You ever seen an iPhone that can hold credit cards? Yeaaaaaah.“
What we don’t:
- The paint on the mirror-finish model starts showing wear pretty quickly. I’d recommend the black one instead.
Disclosure: This product, like nearly all products we review, was provided by the company for evaluation purposes. We approach all reviews with objectivity as a goal (in other words, we review everything as if we’d spent our own hard-earned cash on it. We’re consumers too, after all), but disclose this for the sake of full transparency.