Review: Marware CEO Card Wallet and CEO Billfold Wallet for iPod nano
Pros: Padded leather wallets that look and feel entirely worthy of their reasonable asking prices, especially by comparison with other iPod wallets currently available. Billfold in black gives you a complete (and excellent) wallet, plus a good iPod nano holder. Card is a cards- and nano-only wallet available in four colors.
Cons: Both cases expose both of nano’s bottom corners - the headphone port less than ideally - and Card also exposes nano’s entire top. While less expensive than other simple wallet options we’ve seen, Card isn’t as well-designed inside as the best of them. Billfold is, but raises even more practicality questions - do you really want to pull all your cash and credit cards out in public to use the screen and controls of your nano?
In the last week, Marware has released a huge collection of new iPod nano cases that range in material from silicone rubber to neoprene and leather. Part four of our look at these new cases focuses on two leather designs in the increasingly popular “wallet” style - fold-open holders with your nano on the right side and cards or cash on the left side.
Wallet-style case designs for the iPod nano have good points and bad points: they’re almost ideally suited in concept to the thin, long iPod, which is made to fit in any pocket, yet can’t do so without protection. But they can also present dual practical challenges: as with PDA cases, using your iPod’s controls will require you to open a lid, and with more sophisticated wallets, you’ll be pulling out both your iPod and your entire wad of cash and credit cards at the same time. This is as much an issue of practicality for in-car iPod users as subway travelers: have wallet-style nano cases become one-stop enablers for the next generation of muggers and thieves?
Marware’s CEO Card Wallet and CEO Billfold Wallet offer two different wallet-type options for your nano. Card Wallet ($25) makes no pretense to be a complete cash and iPod carrier - there’s enough room for your nano on its right side, and space for a couple of business cards, credit cards, or a small amount of cash in the single pocket found on its padded left. On the interior, it’s highly similar to Incase’s leather Wallet for iPod nano (iLounge rating: C-), limited by design and not intended as a complete wallet replacement. Tunewear’s more expensive TuneWallet (iLounge rating: B) is a bit smarter in internal implementation, but also considerably more expensive.
Billfold Wallet ($35) is a bunch more complex. In addition to a horizontal iPod nano holder with a clear screen protector (and no Click Wheel protector), there are five horizontal compartments for credit cards, plus a non-detachable ID card (drivers’ license) flap, and two interior pockets for additional cards. There’s also a lined bill pocket at the case’s top, enabling the Billfold Wallet to serve as a complete wallet replacement and iPod nano holder - arguably more practical in our view than Card Wallet.
Other than color, both cases share the same exterior design: very nice padded leather that has a grid of punched holes on all sides. We underscore the words “very nice,” because these look and feel as good as any leather wallets we’ve seen shy of hundred-dollar branded ones, and even then, they hold their own quite well - they feel at least as worthy of their prices as Tunewear’s more expensive leather cases, which were priced high enough to negatively impact their ratings. But both of Marware’s CEO iPod holders both have complete holes for the nano’s top, and two holes at the bottom - one ever-so-slightly-too-small one for the nano’s headphone port, and one unnecessary hole at the bottom left corner, both touches we disliked by comparison with Tunewear’s design. However, because Billfold mounts the iPod horizontally, only these corners are exposed to possible damage in your pocket; Card’s vertical mount exposes both the top and bottom. Billfold is available only in black, while Card is sold in black, tan, pink, and red.
It’s worth a note that Marware’s boxes both carry a prominent disclaimer: “For jacket pocket use only. Not for use in pant pockets.” We note this only for those who might be thinking of putting a nano in their back pants pockets - this case won’t protect nano from those types of physical forces. We’ve kept it in a front pants pocket without issues, but still, neither we nor Marware will recommend this as safe for all people.
Of the two cases, we are a bit more favorably disposed towards Billfold - it stands out more from cases we’ve already seen, and is a bit more useful in one way: now your nano integrates cleanly into something already in your pocket, rather than requiring a separate case. But both cases have a similar issue: they’re not right if you’re trying to find an ideal case to use in your pocket, and in a car, and on the subway. It’s one thing to whip out a little iPod in public, another thing to pull out a complete wallet full of cash and cards. You’ll need to decide if this “usage model” fits your needs, but by comparison with existing options, we think Billfold is better than the wallets we’ve previously seen when judged collectively on features and value, while Card is a rough equal for the prior best (Tunewear’s TuneWallet) when all factors are considered, but a step under if you’re willing to ignore the TuneWallet’s higher price.