After spending about 10 months without an iPhone, I stayed up late to order the iPhone 4S. Then the next question occurred to me: "What am I going to do for a case?"
I ordered 3 different cases for three different purposes: an AmazonBasics Silicone Case for everyday use, a Mophie Juice Pack Air Case/Rechargeable Battery for "really long day" use, and an iPhone Wallet from the folks at Waterfield Designs/SFBags.com.
Back in February, I bought a bag for my MacBook Air from Waterfield Designs, and I absolutely love it. I carry my 13" MacBook Air and my iPad in it every day. When I decided to get an iPhone, I knew I'd be heading to SFBags.com to see what they had to offer.
The iPhone Wallet
I love this idea. You carry a wallet, you carry an iPhone, why not carry one thing instead of two? For the past several years I've had a wallet which was used mostly to carry cards. If I have cash (which I often don't) I carry it in my pocket but not in my wallet. I have also been known to walk out of the house without either my iPhone or my wallet, so having one less thing to remember seemed like a good idea.
Let's start with what's good about the iPhone wallet. The first thing I noticed is that it looks and feels well made. This isn't a case that's going to start fraying around the edges after a few months. It also already feels "broken in" rather than stiff.
The window in the front will allow you to see the entire screen. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I could actually use the touch-screen right through the plastic. Even the plastic window seems to be made of sturdy material that won't easily scratch and won't start to pull away from the edges. I assumed this plastic would be the "weakest link" in the case, but it seems just as good as the rest of it. The window is just a bit too small to let you see the iPhone's home button, but you should be able to judge where it is, and you can press it while it is still in the case.
You can fit the iPhone in the wallet while it is in the silicone case (which I assume is about the same size as Apple's "bumper" case). It will be snug, but it will fit. However, once you do that, you have added considerable "bulk" to the iPhone (relatively speaking) and putting it inside the wallet like that will not leave room for much else. If I have the silicone case on, I can only fit 3-5 cards in the wallet before it really starts to feel "too big." (I tried the wallet with the Mophie Juice Pack on it... I did, and it does not fit. The Juice Pack extends the length of the iPhone, and the wallet does not have enough extra room to accommodate that. Nor should it; I only mention this because I assume someone else might want to know.)
If you carry the iPhone "naked," then you can easily fit about 8-10 cards inside the wallet. There are two separate pockets which hold the cards securely.
One unexpected detail was a divider between the "iPhone" part of the wallet and the card section. It is mentioned in the wallet description and shown in the video (see below) but it is thicker than I expected it to be, about 2-3 credit-cards, and covered in "ultrasuede." At first I thought that was intended to protect credit cards from being demagnetized, but Richard tells me that isn't much of a concern these days.
I'm not sure the divider is 100% necessary, but I'm willing to bet that someone at Waterfield Designs had practical experience with another a case that led them to include it. My best guess is that it is probably intended to keep the cash or anything from the "money side" from falling out when you are taking the iPhone out of the wallet. It adds a bit of bulk, but it's not a huge deal. As Gary points out in the video, it does help keep the iPhone pressed up against the window
Two minor complaints...
There's one drawback to the iPhone wallet that should be fairly obvious: if it's in your pocket and you get a call, you have to get the wallet out of your pocket and then the iPhone out of the wallet before you can begin your conversation.
The only other minor complaint I have with the iPhone wallet is with the placement and direction of the zipper. If you think of the "window" side of the case as the "front" then the zipper runs from top-left (when zipped) to bottom-right (when unzipped, as shown above).
The headphone jack is on the top-left of the iPhone. Why is this combination a problem? Because if you are using headphones, you can't keep it in the wallet.
If they had made the wallet so that it zipped from "top-right" to "bottom-left" then you could have stuck the headphones in and threaded the wire out. However, that would have made it a little more awkward for people who are right-handed.
Let's be clear: this isn't a wallet for slipping into the back pocket of your "skinny jeans" before you go out clubbing. It has a certain heft to it. But before you decide whether or not it's "too big" take a minute and walk through this next section with me.
Take out your wallet, put your iPhone on the table, and stack up all of the cards that you carry around with you. Then imagine that wrapped in leather and lined with ultrasuede. Ok, now take a look at those cards again. How many of them do you really need in your wallet all of the time? I took most of my cards out of my wallet and put them into my old wallet and leave it in my office desk drawer or the glove compartment of my car. Library card? Sam's club? Prescription card? AAA? I never carry any store card if they can lookup my account by my phone number.
I was able to get my total down to 5 (and could probably get by with 3 for 95% of the time), which means that I could even leave the silicone case on and still have it not feel "too big." The biggest adjustment for me is that I am used to having my wallet in one pocket and phone in the other, but I love being able to feel it in my pocket and not have to think "Is that my phone or my wallet? Do I have both?" With this I know if I have one, I have the other.
If the idea of a combination wallet/iPhone case appeals to you, the Waterfield Designs iPhone wallet is a great option. A reasonable $41 ($39 + $2 US shipping) buys a great product that will most likely still look and work great even when you're thinking about the iPhone 6!
If you're on the fence, Waterfield Designs has a 90 second review video available too. It shows that you can text or email through the case, and even suggests you could talk on the phone while it was still in the case. I haven't tested that theory because the only people I know who talk into their wallets are crazy people.