“What the hell is that?”
a BulletTrain SAFE Wallet Prototype Review
By Matthew Taylor
“What the hell is that?” That’s the kind of reaction I’ve been hearing when I pay for stuff with my iPhone 5. The cashiers’ bug eyes say it all. If there’s anyone who sees a lot of iPhone wallet cases, it’s cashiers. Without fail, every cashier who sees my BulletTrain SAFE Wallet has said something over the top like that, followed by “Everyone’s going to want one of those,” when I explain I’m using an unreleased prototype.
Tech geeks are reacting similarly. I took the SAFE Wallet into a veritable Apple lions’ den, my men’s Bughouse chess club, where about 50% of us were using iPhones within a year of the original model’s release. I bet that’s an early adopters’ rate higher than any group of guys outside a certain walled Cupertino garden. When I showed off the SAFE Wallet to a gentleman who’s currently using an Incipio wallet case that can only hold three (as opposed to the SAFE Wallet’s five) plastic cards and lacks a stand, he told me he’d much rather be using my case.
Here are the top eight reasons my chess buddy couldn’t pry my SAFE Wallet out of my cold dead fingers. I’ll give it up only when Jake hands me the final release version…
1. Mind Like Water
If you know David Allen’s philosophy of Getting Things Done, the main reason to organize your life through a trusted collection of lists is not so you’ll get things done, although that’s a nice side benefit. It’s so your mind will be still, like water, not cluttered or distracted. This is the feeling I get when I walk out the door with one thing in my pocket instead of two. No fear of loss, or distracting thoughts like, “Did I forget my wallet?” I’ve lost my wallet three times in the past three years. Never again. I’m so attached to the iPhone that I never lose or forget it. Die, 1950s wallet technology, die!
2. Pocket Like Air
Ever since the first iPhone model, I’ve used Otterbox Defenders. While those cases have served me well – a Defender saved my iPhone 3G from water damage – I never realized how ridiculously heavy and unnecessarily bulky they are. The SAFE Wallet is lighter and thinner than a Defender, as well as being more ergonomic and far more functional.
3. Paperless Lifestyle Re-Wiring
Carrying the SAFE Wallet means rewiring old habits. No more stuffing receipts and slips of paper. If I really need paper data, I’m forced to capture it at point of contact with an app such as Scanner Pro or Evernote. The SAFE Wallet is pushing me toward my goal of being entirely paperless, and has forced me to reduce the amount of plastic garbage I carry.
4. The Built-in MagicStand
It’s really nice to be able to set the iPhone upright when I’m reading or watching video. I also appreciate being able to see notifications appear on the screen when the SAFE Wallet is standing up on my desk.
5. Simple Bank Integration
Although this may only apply to a small percentage of users, it’s so nice to use the SAFE Wallet in conjunction with my Simple Bank Account from Simple.com. The two are a match made in digital heaven.
Simple is the first bank ever to be designed from the ground up for the iPhone. When you swipe your Simple Visa, a notification appears almost immediately showing how much you spent and where you spent it. The Simple App provides an intuitive, user-friendly interface for tracking your spending and categorizing your expenses. The experience is so much better than the big banks, that comparing Simple’s iPhone app to Wells Fargo’s or Bank of America’s or any of the others is like comparing the iPhone user experience to a Palm Treo. The SAFE Wallet totally completes the Simple experience.
Until the day we can digitally pay using an iPhone 6/7/8 equipped with NFC or whatnot, SAFE Wallet + Simple Bank = the closest we can get with current technology to wallet/iPhone convergence.
6. Easy In and Out
I found removing an iPhone 5 from an Otterbox Defender to be a time-consuming fingernail strain, at least 30 seconds to a minute of annoyance. In and out with the SAFE Wallet is an easy 5 seconds. That’s helpful when I want to take photos with a clip-on wide-angle lens such as the Mobi Lens.
7. Lost Credit Card Notification
Brilliantly, the SAFE Wallet notifies you when you lose a credit card. If the card-holder is full of five pieces of plastic and you pull one out, the resulting gap causes the remaining four cards to rattle. If you forget to put your card back in the case, the rattle notifies you to reclaim the forgotten card. I had this happen when exiting an Indian restaurant.
8. Using My iPhone 5 For the First Time
Here’s the most unexpected upside: it’s like I’m using my iPhone 5 for the first time. From launch day in Sept. 2012, I’ve had the device in an Otterbox Defender. I never appreciated how horribly compromised the experience was due to the Defender’s crappy and easily scratchable plastic screen cover. I was paranoid about leaving the screen uncovered, and now I think I was taking my fears too far by covering that beautiful retina display. The SAFE Wallet provides excellent protection with a solid casing and a raised rubberized bezel that resists drop shock. With no plastic cover, I’m touching and using the actual Gorilla Glass for the first time, and it’s so much nicer. In a new way, I get what John Gruber meant about the 5’s “niceness.” That same niceness applies to the SAFE Wallet’s contours.
If you preordered a SAFE Wallet like I did, rest assured that it’s worth the wait. I was able to become a beta-tester for the iPhone 5 SAFE Wallet because I was a long-standing BulletTrain customer, having previously blogged about my outstanding experiences with the BulletTrain Express Keyboard Platform.
If Jake’s running into production delays at present, cut him some slack. I promise you’ll forgive him when the final version arrives and you experience first-hand the level of iterative perfectionism that went into this baby’s design. Delays are annoying, but imperfection is a thousand times more so. In the publishing industry the relevant motto is: “On time, on budget, excellent, pick two.” I think Jake’s picking the right two. In the software world the goal of any dev team is to create a Killer App. I think Jake’s designed a Killer Case.