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The $35 Stowaway from Incipio is a wallet-style case for the iPhone 4/4S composed of a hard polycarbonate outer shell and a silicone core. It comes in six attractive color combinations, including black on black, gray on pink, and blue on gray.
A door (which doubles as a kickstand) on the back of the polycarbonate shell swings open to reveal space for a few cards and some cash. On their website, Incipio asks, “Who needs the bulk of a wallet when you have the Stowaway?” I’d say in reply, “Almost everyone.”
Ignoring the irony that this case is about as bulky as it gets, the card and cash compartment is simply too small to be useful: I was only able to fit my license and two cards. (In Incipio’s defense, the Stowaway’s product description mentions that only two to three cards can be stored in the back compartment.) When trying to stow some cash, I had to remove one of the cards, and even then, I could only fit two or three bills (folded into quarters) comfortably. I can’t imagine using this case as a complete wallet replacement.
That said, if you ignore the Stowaway’s wallet feature, it’s actually quite good as a rugged, protective case—and the kickstand is an added bonus. Apart from the touchscreen, the case covers the iPhone’s entire body, including the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons, which are quite easy to press through the case’s raised use-through button overlays despite the case’s thickness. The case has raised edges around the iPhone’s screen to help prevent it from being scratched or cracked when set facedown or in a short fall.
The Stowaway has cutouts for the headphone jack, speaker, microphones, and the Ring/Silent switch as well as the camera and LED flash. Although I had no problems accessing most of the ports and buttons, the Ring/Silent switch was a little tough to flip. It’s important to note that photos I took with the flash on were noticeably affected by the case—light from the flash reflected off of the thick case onto the camera’s sensor, causing an unattractive sheen over every photo.
Despite the drawbacks of the camera and the limited wallet compartment, the case offers solid protection. If you can overlook these flaws and you like the idea of having a case with a kickstand—or if you simply don’t carry much in your wallet—I recommend the Stowaway.
[Frank Tisellano is a user-interaction designer, born and raised in New York City. When he gets fed up with markup, he plays hockey or writes about technology, politics, and design at his blog.]