Three Wallet Cases: Bellroy, Encased, and Smartish
When I first got my iPhone 11 Pro in 2019, I decided to switch to a wallet case that would hold several cards and a couple of bills (see “Two Wallet Cases: Twelve South BookBook Vol. 2 and Ekster iPhone 11 Pro Case,” 12 December 2019). Using the Ekster case instead of carrying my wallet whenever I left the house was such a success that when I upgraded to the iPhone 13 Pro in 2021, I went looking for another wallet case.
Ekster didn’t make a version of its case for the iPhone 13 Pro, and the way it left my cards exposed caused three problems that I wanted a new case to address: the cards could (but seldom did) fall out, my main credit card delaminated a little from the friction of continually sliding into my pocket, and frankly, the cards sticking out just looked ugly. Plus, revealing the cards like that seemed like poor personal security.
Bellroy Phone Case – 3 Card for iPhone 13 Pro
After some research, I settled on the Bellroy Phone Case – 3 Card. It retained the leather exterior of the Ekster case and even had room for a SIM card and tool inside, but instead of exposing the cards, the Bellroy case hid them behind a door with a magnetic closure. It could hold three cards comfortably, and I’ve stuffed a fourth in a few times. The only obvious downside was that it’s not compatible with MagSafe or Qi wireless chargers. And it wasn’t cheap at $79.
I’ve lived with the Bellroy case for a year, and I like it a lot. I prefer having my cards out of sight because it looks better and keeps them safe. Plus, while I seldom use it that way, the door can do double duty as a kickstand. The case is solidly constructed, and the door has withstood innumerable cycles of opening and closing. The leather looks a little worn, but in a good way.
Apart from the inability to use a wireless charger, I have three complaints.
- It’s quite difficult to remove the iPhone from the case. That’s not something you’d normally do, of course. However, I keep two bills in there, so on the few occasions when I need to pay with cash, I have to pry the iPhone out.
- The inset buttons are clumsy and provide little tactile feedback, which makes them hard to press accurately. I often have trouble double-pressing the side button to invoke Apple Pay or confirm a Face ID purchase. And it’s difficult to change the volume by feel—I sense how far up or down my finger is on the case more than I can feel the buttons.
- The extra space necessary to hold the cards nearly doubles the 7.6 mm depth of the iPhone 13 Pro to 15 mm, making it a bulkier package to stow in a pocket. It doesn’t feel heavy, but it does feel big.
Encased iPhone 14 Pro Clearback Case with TPU Wallet
Upgrading to the iPhone 14 Pro this year presented me with an opportunity to try another type of case. I had ordered the iPhone 14 Pro in Deep Purple, so I thought it might be nice to show off the color in a clear case with a separate MagSafe wallet. It wouldn’t conceal my cards completely, but I’d carry it only when I left the house, so most of the time, the iPhone would be thinner and less bulky. Numerous companies sell such a clear case with a MagSafe wallet, and after comparing a few, I chose the Encased iPhone 14 Pro Clearback Case with TPU Wallet, which was just $19.99 on Amazon.
Its wallet holds three cards, and I could also stuff in two bills with some effort. It has a pleasingly rubbery feel to the edges, and the buttons are slightly raised and easier to activate by feel than in the Bellroy case. I presume it charges via MagSafe; I don’t have a MagSafe charger to test.
Unfortunately, not only will I not be using the Encased Clearback case, I’ll be returning it. Some of the problems are either minor or personal preference:
- I dislike how the Apple logo doesn’t look centered within the MagSafe circle. Nor do I like how the MagSafe circle butts up against the camera cutout. I wasn’t expecting either of these issues based on Encased’s product images. Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Clear Case with MagSafe seemingly avoids this problem but costs $49, and Apple’s MagSafe wallet is another $59 for an eye-watering total of $108.
- Although it prevents the iPhone 14 Pro from wobbling as much as it would without a case when sitting on a flat surface (the curse of that massive camera bump!), it can still rock side to side and front to back. I fiddle with things, and the rocking while using it on a flat surface would drive me nuts.
- It’s a little hard to get the cards in and out of the wallet, particularly when I’ve put a couple of bills in as well.
- This isn’t the case’s fault, but I was looking forward to seeing my Deep Purple iPhone through it. Unfortunately, because it’s an iPhone 14 Pro, Apple’s “Deep Purple” turns out to be “Weak Purple.” It’s gray. Admittedly, my Sierra Blue iPhone 13 Pro was also gray, but I never noticed it in the all-encompassing Bellroy case.
But the big problem with the Encased Clearback case is that its MagSafe wallet doesn’t fit properly. The company seems not to have realized that the larger iPhone 14 camera cutout would impinge on the MagSafe wallet case. When I let the magnets position the wallet how they want, it sits on top of the camera cutout (below top). I can nudge it down off the camera cutout (below bottom), but that still doesn’t allow it to sit flat, and its magnets don’t hold as firmly. And no, it won’t hold at all if it’s further down or flipped around.
I gave the MagSafe wallet a chance for a few hours, but the incorrect positioning prevented it from sticking to the case as firmly as I’d like. Plus, as an inveterate fiddler, I regularly found myself nudging the wallet off center and back on to feel the magnets grab.
It’s going back.
Smartish Wallet Slayer Vol. 1
So now I’m back in the market for an iPhone 14 Pro case. (The Bellroy case for the iPhone 13 Pro almost works, but its camera cutout isn’t quite large enough, so one corner of the iPhone sticks out a little—it’s sufficiently functional for now.) I could order another Bellroy case, but I’m instead going to try a Smartish Wallet Slayer Vol. 1 case like the one that Tonya purchased for her iPhone SE.
It too holds three cards plus some cash, and although it has a plastic exterior instead of leather, the tapered edges give it a pleasant hand feel. Its buttons also stand out more than on the Bellroy case. The Smartish Wallet Slayer Vol. 1 has survived months of constant use for Tonya, and she has been pleased with how well it holds her cards. They aren’t as concealed as in the Bellroy case, but neither are they particularly exposed.
The space scene Tonya chose was one of the company’s standard images back then, but Smartish also lets you upload your own images to personalize the case. A single color case costs $24.99, Smartish’s patterns are $29.99, and a custom image bumps the price to $39.99, half the price of the Bellroy case. I didn’t love the standard colors or patterns, so I went for a custom background. At first, I considered exploring the Mandelbrot fractal set for an image but ended up settling on an Electric Sheep pattern. Now there’s some purple!
With luck, I’ll be as happy as Tonya has been, and if the Wallet Slayer Vol. 1 doesn’t work out for me due to some unanticipated issue, I can always fall back on the iPhone 14 Pro version of the Bellroy case that I’ve liked so much over the past year.
If you use a wallet case with your iPhone, which one did you choose, how do you like it, and would you buy it again for your next iPhone?
I have used the Edward Field classic for IPhone for a number of years. Very well made. Holds more than those you consider. Check it out.
How does MagSafe and these attached wallets affect the magnetic properties of credit cards?
I used a Toru XP Pro for my iphone Xr, so when I got a 14, I went back to them. The earlier case stored the cards inside the back, hinged cover and my Qi charger worked. The Toru iPhone 14 Pro with card case stores the cards on the back, and the card holder must be removed to do wireless chargine but otherwise this is a good case. Available via the Toru store at Amazon.
I’ve been using a MagSafe wallet for most of the last year. No issues at all with my credit cards. (Though honestly I don’t often swipe; these days most of the time it’s chip reading or tap-to-pay, or hand the card to the waiter at a restaurant to pay for dinner and I don’t know how they use it.)
I’d recommend you take a look at MagSafe wallets. The pop socket one has an incredibly strong grip. I’d also recommend looking at the MOFT wallet and case combo. The wallet can also be used as a stand in various configurations and their cases have an enhanced MagSafe magnet built in which is much stronger than the original MagSafe on the iPhone so is useful with multiple accessories not just their wallets given the extra grip.
I have had the Pad&Quill wallet for my 13 Pro Max for about a year. It’s similar to the Edward Field wallet at less than half the price. As a former leather shop owner, I can say that it is well-made. It will hold 4 to 6 carts, and then some, in the pocket underneath the cards. It accepts the MagSafe charger. I wish they would have the security strap set up so that it would hold the MagSafe charger in place when I set the phone on a stand. Otherwise I have been very happy with it. All the ports are available. The on off button is pretty stiff but usable. I don’t have to carry a regular wallet or card holder. I put some cards in my apple wallet. I wish the Wallet app could take a greater variety of cards. I use Pass4Wallet app but it’s not ideal for all cards.
Looks nice, but I tried a folio wallet case with the iPhone 11 Pro and found having to put my iPhone in it when I left the house fussy, and then using the iPhone required entirely different physical interactions. I decided in the end that it wasn’t any easier than just putting a traditional wallet in my other pocket.
Looks good, and while the cards are little exposed, not using MagSafe to attach the card holder is probably more secure.
Both of those look interesting, and it’s good to hear they have really strong grips. The link below is for the iPhone 13 Pro because it’s a good explanatory page, but it also supports the iPhone 14 Pro.
Much as I’m not looking for a folio wallet, Pad&Quill also has another wallet case with the cards on the back in a magnetic case that’s also sewn to the leather back. It looks a little bulky and would probably take some time to break in, given the stiff leather.
Thanks for all the suggestions, folks!
I’ve been using Greenwich cases since my iPhone X. Always been happy with them, nice looking, strong, functional.
My only con is the expense.
I use and am really happy with the “Peak Design Everyday Case” - it’s expensive, with strong magnet, very protective, and - beside a wallet and a kickstand wallet - there are a family of tools (e.g. mini tripod, cycle or motorcycle use) also including travel and photography gear. >>> peakdesign.com <<<
I found a unique KIHUWEY Premium Leather case I really like. It doesn’t support wireless charging, but it has the card capacity I want and a nice look.
Thanks for the pointer—it looks like a really solid case and a clever ecosystem of accessories, although the wallet ($50 or $60) is more expensive than the case ($40 or $50). Backordered for a bit in the US for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, though.
Interesting! There are a variety of Chinese manufacturers making this sort of wallet case, which has a folio-style flap, but on the back, so it doesn’t obscure/protect the screen and can act as a kickstand. My only hesitation with these is they look like they’d be pretty thick in the pocket. But they’re really inexpensive and thus easy to try.
Boo! That’s not very good customer service. Keep us posted.
Going to follow up on my previous critical posts on Smartish. In reviewing all paperwork, now can’t tell, but might have been my fault. Still hoping for my Smartish cases and glass protectors that fit my phone.
I had an Apple Wallet and translucent MagSafe case. Yes I overpaid, but thought I’d try keeping to within the ecosystem.
After over the year with iPhone 13 Pro, I lost the wallet 2 days ago. I think of Find My, and it shows the wallet’s location at 7+ miles away at an REI retail store. Great! I’m about to retrieve my wallet …
… NO …
The Apple Wallet does not support precision finding, unlike an AirTag. It doesn’t support an audible alarm, unlike an AirTag. I therefore had Apple Maps navigate me to the store, but then utterly fail to find the Apple Wallet. While I searched inside and outside the store manually, abetted by very gracious retail personnel, it was hopeless. An Apple device in an Apple software Find My ecosystem had no chance of being found.
I call this a UX flaw. Do you agree?
The standard answer would be to get a bigger wallet and use an AirTag. Kinda going backwards in tech to get a big wallet, and besides my main need is to be able to find it – sonically or otherwise.
Is there such a thing as a Wallet that supports Find My with an audible alarm? I don’t recall anything in @ace article mentioning that, and don’t recall anything in comments either. Anyone heard of such?
I could have started a new forum topic, but @ace article on iPhone Wallet Cases in September was a good one with good comments. I thought I’d try responding to @ace
That’s correct - the MagSafe Apple Wallet has no AirTag like functionality. It just tells you where it was last connected to your phone after you disconnect.
I know I’ve seen ads for wallets that let you put an AirTag in them - but they may not be MagSafe.
Thanx for your comment, Doug. I’ve searched some and can only echo what you said. There’s no such wallet that acts like an AirTag without including an AirTag.
I will continue to review articles and comments on wallets, and keep an open mind. Honestly don’t know how I’ll choose.
I can’t add anything to what @ddmiller said, but I hadn’t previously thought of the fact that the wallet comes off the iPhone entirely as a bad thing. At home, it’s a good thing, since you can carry the wallet only when going out. But if you were to lose it out of the house, yeah, that’s problematic and not something that could happen with the integral wallet cases I’ve been writing about.
I honestly wish that the wallet had the ability to not notify me at specific places of my choice (home, for example). I don’t use the wallet all of the time - only occasionally, when I am making a quick trip somewhere and don’t want to carry my full wallet, and really don’t need to see a notification that it’s separated when I’m at home.
I know other devices have the ability not to warn you when you are away from them when you leave a specific place - I’d like the wallet to do that as well.
It’s not a big deal, just a nice-to-have if Apple adds it.
My experience, by the way, has been that the wallet stays connected to my Apple magsafe leather case fairly well. Sorry that Suman didn’t have that experience.
Turns out Apple lied to me.
Find My told me my Wallet was last seen at an REI store last week.
Instead, it was found today at my workplace. It was run over and beat up, but it had my license and other two cards within it.
Points for reference:
I daily use a MagSafe vent mount for my iPhone 13 Pro with its transparent case. That means I must separate my Wallet every time I get into the car. Maybe that wasn’t an optimal implementation?
I wonder if @ddmiller keeps his Wallet connected and never separates it when he’s out and about?
Maybe I should use a non-MagSafe mount? My intent was to try out MagSafe technology at the time, as something relatively new from Apple. I wonder what car mounts people use. I’ll search for iPhone car mount articles
Ah! Good question. For the most part, it is always connected, except when I am extracting a card. If I am in my car my phone is almost always in my pocket, but I do have a magnetic mount, and in that case (a rare occasion) I’ll separate and keep the wallet in my pocket and reattach it when I dismount the phone. But if I know that I’m going to need to mount my phone on a particular day (such as yesterday, when I was driving somewhere I’d never been), I’ll use my big wallet and leave the MagSafe wallet at home.
Thanks for closing the loop on this, @scstr, and I’m glad you found your wallet. I will admit that I have had mixed results with Find My, as I wrote here. I do think taking the wallet off to use a MagSafe vent mount sounds like a recipe for trouble.
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