Review: Incipio Cashwrap Mobile Wallet Case for iPhone 5/5s
First announced over a year ago at the 2013 CES, Incipio's Cashwrap Mobile Wallet Case for iPhone 5/5s ($70) is finally available, at least for customers on the AT&T and Verizon networks. While the case is respectable enough in its own right, it's the payment options that are most intriguing. Cashwrap comes with a microSD card that allows for tap-to-pay functionality at NFC terminals, when used in conjunction with the free Isis Mobile Wallet app. Load up your credit card within the app, and once you've entered a self-determined PIN, you're good to go. Because the case connects to the Lightning port, a micro-USB cable is included for passthrough charging, and there's also a headphone port extender in the box.
Cashwrap’s general aesthetics are very much in line with what we’ve come to expect from Incipio over the past few years. Coming in black, white, or pink, the case has a rubber bumper running along its perimeter, while the rest of the body is hard plastic. At the bottom there’s a small plastic chin, 0.38” at its highest point. The Lightning plug juts up from the middle, and there are two audio vents for the microphone and speaker. To install the iPhone, you place it at an angle, slide it onto the plug, and then push the top in. Removal is more difficult, as you need to push out from the camera hole. The volume buttons click well, while the Sleep/Wake button puts up a little more resistance than we prefer, but is still totally usable.
The bottom third or so of the case’s backside is actually a door, which can be pried off to expose a microSD card slot towards the upper right corner; the card comes already installed, and while there’s no reason to take it out, it can be removed if needed. This card adds NFC capabilities to the iPhone — a common feature among Android handsets which Apple has chosen to keep out of its devices so far.
Cashwrap is specifically designed to work with a single app, Isis Mobile Wallet. The idea is that in conjunction, the hardware and software will eliminate the need to carry physical credit and loyalty cards. While the concept is a noble one, it’s clearly in its infancy. Upon launching the app, you have the ability to enter information to create digital versions of your credit cards. The app comes with support for American Express cards, as well as those issued by Chase and Wells Fargo. For those using MasterCard, Visa, or Discover cards from other banks, there’s the option to setup an account with American Express Serve, which is a reloadable prepaid account. It’s not an ideal option, but it works for those who don’t have a supported card.
In addition to credit cards, loyalty cards can be programmed in. At the time of this review, there were just two cards listed in the app — Coca-Cola and Toys"R"Us. Special offers are listed in the app, including cash back off accessories or free beverages; you must pay with Isis to take advantage of these discounts. Much like the number of supported partners is limited, so are the locations where Cashwrap can be used. A search in the Buffalo, NY area brought up a smattering of spots, most of which were fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores.
When you do find a location that accepts contactless payments, there’s a multi-step process for actually completing the transaction. It’s not laborious, but it’s also not as streamlined as other payment processes. First you must turn on your phone and launch the Isis app, then you enter your PIN. Once you’ve done so, there’s about about six seconds of loading time before your card is ready to be used. Finally, when the “Ready To Pay” message is displayed, you can hold the back of your phone against the payment station. In our testing, it worked just as well as when doing so with a supported credit card.
Members of our editorial team have longed for a solution that allows them to slim down their wallets. While Apple has been slow to move, we realized it would take a third-party solution such as Cashwrap to achieve this goal. Unfortunately, while the core is there, it’s not fully baked yet. Yes, the physical Cashwrap unit works, and works relatively well. The software and support are what’s holding it all back though, earning the overall solution a limited recommendation. There aren’t enough places that accept Isis payments, and using it isn’t any faster than just pulling out a credit card, then either swiping or tapping it. It’s a start, but at this point, one can’t reasonably expect to ditch a physical credit card for a digital one yet.