Monday, June 22, 2015

BulletTrain SAFE Wallet for iPhone 6Plus: Prototype First Impressions By Matthew Taylor

Customer Review Of 6 Plus SAFE Wallet
First Generation Production Prototype

The article below was written by Matthew Taylor who became a BulletTrain customer in 2011, and since then we have become good friends. Matthew wrote a review of his experience with the SAFE Wallet for iPhone 5/5s when it came out.

We gave Matthew, and another one of our great customers the opportunity to test T1 prototypes of the 6 Plus SAFE Wallet. The review below was written by Matthew Taylor who was the first to receive his prototype.

BulletTrain SAFE Wallet for iPhone 6Plus:
Prototype First Impressions
By Matthew Taylor

For the past ten days, a prototype SAFE Wallet for the iPhone 6 Plus has been my daily carry, and it’s such a relief to finally be home again. Ever since I upgraded to the 6P last September, I’ve bounced between cases that didn’t come close to the versatility and features to which I’d grown accustomed. In fact, upgrading from my 5S to the 6P always felt like an incomplete experience… until now. All of what I previously wrote about the original SAFE Wallet still applies, so I’ll focus this commentary on what’s new and improved.

New Features and Design Enhancements

• Larger and More Accessible Secret Stash: The new door, underneath the credit card holder, accommodates a folded up bill. This is a great usage of the 6P’s larger footprint to add a much-needed feature. It’s a major improvement over the previous design—no need to remove your phone to access the cash. Although I don’t use the Secret Stash to store keys, Jake has showed me how he uses it for that purpose. (Note: not all keys will fit inside the stash.)

[Editors Note: The Secret Stash on the 6 Plus SAFE Wallet can hold two cash bills, if properly folded. Matthew points out that not all keys will fit inside the secret stash compartment, and this is true. The good news is that from our extensive testing, all standard Kwikset keys fit, this includes both style heads, including the standard Art-Deco key head, as well as the more modern larger one.]

• The Leash: BulletTrain is introducing a leash that you can attach to the bottom rear of the case, and then clip on to your pants belt-loop. This keeps your phone safe from drops, as well as being a theft deterrent. For extreme sports situations, the leash is a great insurance policy. For example, while ziplining in Kauai last December, I kept my phone in my pocket because I was afraid of dropping it, and missed out on some epic, high-flying videography opportunities. Next time, I won’t have to worry!

[Editors Note: We also gave Matthew a production prototype of our upcoming SAFE Leash System, which will be compatible with our SAFE Wallet for iPhone 5/5s, as well as our 6 and 6 Plus versions. We intend to launch this product in the next few months.]

• Third-party Lightning cable access: The redesigned case accommodates any third party cable, which is great because I own several.

• SIM card storage: I’m a frequent international traveler, and this would have been so helpful the last time I was overseas! I recommend taping the extra SIM card down to keep it secure when you remove your phone.

• SAFE Pen: Although I haven’t made use of it yet (handwriting? so last century!), if you’re in a pinch, it’s great to have on hand.

• Exposed volume, sleep/wake, and mute buttons: The prior design covered these buttons with plastic switches. This wasn’t my favorite choice over long-term use. Now they’re bare and exposed, which make them far easier to access and operate.

All of these new features and design improvements add up to a major leap forward in comparison with the previous model!

A Philosophical Note:
BulletTrain and the Wallet/Phone Convergence

I’ve been using BulletTrain products since 2011, starting with the eXpress Keyboard Platform, which I lugged with me to Bali in order to work on a book manuscript without destroying my wrists. Prior to finding the eXpress, I’d literally spent years searching for a solution that would allow me to use a wireless keyboard and trackpad in an ergonomic fashion. It was quite a revelation when I found the eXpress; the design was precisely what I’d been imagining would be the optimal approach. Since then, Jake and I have had many deep conversations about innovative design that solves real problems.

In mid-2012, Jake told me he believed that someday, the iPhone would completely replace the wallet. Although others in the tech industry had made similar predictions, it was really exciting to hear Jake lay out this vision in detail. He told me that it would take many years for this to fully come to pass, and in the meantime, his new product—the SAFE Wallet—would be a bridge toward that future. By converging the wallet with the iPhone, he’d help Apple eventually reach that destination.

Flash forward more than two years, and it was quite a trip to see Tim Cook on stage in September 2014 proclaiming Apple’s vision to “replace” the wallet (43:20). I had goosebumps listening to this announcement, as large tracts of the commentary mapped closely, if not identically, to what Jake had said back in 2012.

With the world’s most successful company working hard to replace your wallet, what, one might ask, is the point of an iPhone case that acts as a wallet? What Jake said three years ago is still true: full-fledged wallet replacement isn’t here now, and is unlikely to arrive for many years. Apple Pay isn’t close to being a universally accepted payment method. One of the biggest obstacles is that tens of thousands of mom and pop retail outlets will need to upgrade their payment processing hardware in order to interact with the NFC chips in the latest iPhone and Apple Watch models. How far are we from the date when Tim Cook’s vision comes true, and we will no longer need to carry a single piece of plastic or paper with us? When will all fifty states allow digital drivers’ licenses to be as accepted as physical ones? When will digital business cards completely replace our antiquated paper business cards? That day is an inevitability, but I’d bet it’s at least five years out, and perhaps as many as ten. Until then, the SAFE Wallet will continue to bridge the gap.

Comparison with Other Cases

Starting in September 2014, when I walked out of the Apple Store with my shiny new 6 Plus, I tried out several case solutions while awaiting the new SAFE Wallet. None of these cases worked for me, but I thought I’d share some of these experiences briefly.

• First I tried out a Spigen leather wallet-case, which I now refer to as “the atrocity case.” Because the design is atrocious: thick, bulky, obnoxious, and you look like an idiot taking photos with the flap hanging open and all your credit cards exposed. I gave it away after less than a week.

• Next, I used an Apple leather case. Although attractive, it’s certainly no wallet. I tried to remedy that by adding a Sinjimoru Stick-on wallet compartment, but I missed features like the SAFE Wallet’s Magic Stand, and I found that my cards kept falling out of the Sinjimoru. And then I dropped the phone on an exercise machine and cracked the screen. Thank goodness I had AppleCare Plus. Next!

• Finally, I started using an ultra-protective LifeProof Nuud. It’s truly waterproof as advertised (I did a submersion test), but it’s extremely bulky, lacks a wallet, and its headphone port is difficult to access. On top of all this, the design makes it very difficult to slide one’s thumb up to activate Control Center. By no means a daily carry, this case is only useful when in extreme weather situations or for a trip to the beach.

I’m so happy to finally have the versatile, useful SAFE Wallet on my 6 Plus.

In my ten days of use, the only significant issue I’ve run into with the SAFE Wallet is that it doesn’t work with my JBL OnBeat Mini Speaker Dock –– the Lightning connector simply won’t reach high enough. However, this problem is not unique to the SAFE Wallet; any case that has an edge bezel won’t work. For example, an iPhone in an Otterbox Case also can’t be used with my JBL. I would call this a flaw in the speaker dock, not the SAFE Wallet; it really should be designed with third party cases in mind, and offer a Lightning adaptor that protrudes higher. I don’t fault BulletTrain for this one. To design a speaker dock so it’s utterly impossible to use with any bezeled case is just beyond lame. I’m buying a Lightning extender in an attempt to solve this issue.

[Editors Note: It is extremely easy and simple to remove the 6 Plus form the SAFE Wallet. It takes around 2 seconds to remove or install. Thus, if you have an edge-case situation, like the one Matthew mentioned, you can simply remove your iPhone to use it, then easily install it in when you are done.]


Overall, I think the new model is well on track to becoming the best daily carry iPhone case ever, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final production version.

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