At first glance, Speck’s SmartFlex Card for iPhone 5 looks suspiciously like any run-of-the- mill iPhone case. In fact, its single-color, unibody appearance almost screams generic. On closer inspection, however, there’s an important function built into this case that few others offer: A secure slot for holding currency and credit or ID cards. This setup is designed for traveling light—perfect for outings like neighborhood shopping, going to the gym or library, or picking the kids up from school. Even fully loaded, the case fits right into your pocket.
While it may seem ill-advised to carry important documents like a driver’s license and major credit cards in the side-loading slot of this case—not to mention a $20 bill, that’s exactly what I did for a couple of days as I tested this case. I’m pleased to report that, fortified by the case’s tensioning system, no card or bill budged from its designated spot while I carried the case. But there’s an easy way to remove these items if you need to—just push the cards out from the other side of the slot.
The SmartFlex Card is made of a resilient, hard rubber polymer material, and is thus a little more flexible and less protective than some of Speck’s CandyShell line of decorative cases. It’s also easier to remove from the body of the iPhone, thanks to the more flexible material. The case adds a bit more heft than some of the CandyShell models we’ve looked at. Happily, it has the same bezel around the front edge of the iPhone that prevents the touchscreen from making contact with most flat surfaces when placed facedown.
One major issue I had with this case is that the Sleep/Wake button is hard to press. The press-through button overlays are made of the same hard rubber material as the body of the case, so turning on my iPhone up was literally a two-handed operation for me. Not only was the button hard to press, but the overlay also didn’t provide that satisfying tactile click, which I found bothersome. I had to rely on watching the screen to see if the iPhone woke up or went to sleep properly. Otherwise, it was easy to operate the volume controls and to wake up my iPhone using the Home button.
A complexity for anyone riding mass transit is that your iPhone will demagnetize your RFID bus or train pass, and the SmartFlex Card will not prevent this. However, you will not experience such issues with credit cards or other IDs. So you’ll want to carry transit passes separately.
This case comes in only five colors—unique shades of green, red, gray, and purple accompany a tasteful matte black.
Note that to charge the iPhone in its case, you need to use Apple’s Lightning charging cable. The case will not accommodate Apple’s 30-pin to Lightning adapter.
The SmartFlex Card for iPhone 5 provides an attractive protective cover for your device and offers some cool extras. Being able to ditch your wallet at least some of the time, knowing that major cards and money are safely tucked into your phone, is a compelling selling point. However, the hard-to-use Sleep/Wake switch is a major drawback for me.