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Review: Speck SmartFlex Card Case for iPhone 5

by on January 21, 2013

One of the biggest complaints from the tech press regarding the iPhone 5 was its lack of NFC, or near-field communications, a technology primarily used for mobile payments. While this technology is still nascent, the idea of using your phone as an electronic wallet appeals to many. Speck hopes to help combine the phone and wallet concepts with the SmartFlex Card Case, an $35 iPhone case that allows storage of up to three cards and cash.

Speck SmartFlex Card Case Speck SmartFlex Card Case Speck SmartFlex Card Case

Made of thermoplastic polyurethane, a flexible, yet rigid material commonly for iPhone cases, the SmartFlex Card Case offers a bit of grip, but still can be easily removed from a pants pocket. The case is much like other TPU cases, including Speck’s Pixelskin HD or Belkin’s Grip Candy Sheer and available in red, green, purple, grey, or black. All sides of the iPhone are protected, including buttons, with cutouts for the silent switch, Lightning connector, and headphone jack. The buttons are a bit stiff, especially the sleep/wake button, but we got used to this tactile change. A camera cutout features a black ring to prevent glare from the flash.

The big difference between this case and others is its unique back—a slot on the left side allows up to three cards (standard ID/credit card-sized) to fit comfortably behind your phone. A bill or two can also be added if you’re worried about a particular business not taking plastic. A notch on the right side allows easy removal of cards. A strip on the inside of the case puts just a bit of pressure on the cards, preventing them from falling out—this strip also has a smaller rubber strip for added grip.

One concern is that this case would be too bulky—it’s actually not bad. Speck has managed to slim down the design so it’s not much bigger than a normal iPhone case with three cards stacked behind it. Part of this comes from its flexible nature, and part of this also comes from the material used. The company’s prior CandyShell Card was always the same size, regardless of how many cards were stored.

Speck has also done a good job with reinforcing the areas on the top and bottom of the case where cards do not sit. At the bottom, there is a generous headphone jack connector and a relatively large Lightning connector cutout. Small holes allow use of the speaker and microphone, while offering protection, much like Speck’s other cases.

In the past, wallet cases were something that you could transition to if you were planning on a minimalist combination—a night out with friends, attending a sporting event, a quick run to the store, and so on. Most people carry more than three cards, so the SmartFlex Card Case will most likely not be able to replace your wallet, but could in a pinch. Still, the relatively slim design, pleasant materials, and good protection make this case, once a niche category, something you could use every day.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The SmartFlex Card Case may not be a case that you use everyday, but it does keep your phone, money, and identification in a convenient package.

Pros: Well-designed, simple, Lightning connector cutout large enough for some third-party cables, could be a good everyday case
Cons: Actual utility will vary from person to person, sleep/wake button a bit hard to press
Rating: 9/10

The Facts

Product: SmartFlex Card Case
Company: Speck
Platform: iPhone 5
Price: $34.95

This post has been filed in iPhone, Mobile Devices, Reviews