“You have a Costanza.”
That’s what a producer on Grey’s Anatomy said to me several years ago, when the show was in its infancy and I was an assistant in the writers room. I had no idea what he was talking about.
“I have a what?” He pointed to the wallet I was holding, a leather trifold filled beyond capacity. I still didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Seinfeld,” he said, “you know the episode with Costanza’s wallet?” And then it hit me. That was the episode where Costanza’s wallet, overstuffed with receipts, coupons, scraps of paper, and, well, just about everything besides actual money, started affecting his health. Carrying it around — and specifically sitting on it — was giving Costanza tremendous back pain. I looked down at my own overstuffed wallet. Yep. I had a Costanza.
I became immediately self-conscious about the size of my wallet. I traded my triple fold for a double fold. But that wasn’t enough. Some time later, I traded the double fold wallet for a super-slim one that basically held an ID and a few credit cards, and that’s it. That worked well for a while.
Until I lost the wallet.
At least, I thought I lost the wallet. I really didn’t. It was in the couch, where they always are. But I didn’t find it until after I had cancelled every credit card and been the recipient of a fair amount of spousal criticism — enough to make me reconsider whether or not I really needed a wallet anymore in the first place.
The next day, I bought a new iPhone case – a Twelve South BookBook for iPhone 5/5s – that could serve as both an iPhone cover and a wallet. Never again would my wallet and my phone be in two separate locations. Finding a lost wallet would be as easy as pinging my phone. But cases like that are huge. They made the svelte iPhone seem like an ungainly no-name Android knock-off. Or worse, a feature phone.
In other words: I had a Costanza again.
Ordering an iPhone 6 gave me a chance to rethink my wallet/phone case dynamic. The Twelve South BookBook made the iPhone 5 bulkier, but it was still easily pocketable. Because the phone 6 is bigger, though, the addition of a wallet-like case didn’t seem like an option anymore. Then I saw this piece on TUAW, an excellent Mac-centric website. A company called X-Doria had sent them a bunch of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cases to review before the iPhone 6 officially came out — a risky move if X-Doria didn’t get the details right, since the cases were presumably produced based on rumored and leaked specs. One of the cases I saw well-reviewed was a tempting folio-style case with a cover and a single slot for a license/credit card. It’s called the Engage Folio and it comes in three colors (cream white, black, and red), and it appeared to respect both the ultra-slim profile of iPhone 6 while still offering a place to hold a card or two. I was hesitant to order an iPhone case without trying it out first, especially one potentially built on bad info, but TUAW was confident enough in their positive review they even orchestrated a contest to give away a few cases to their readers. Also, the price was right. At $30, it was cheaper than similar cases you’d find at the Apple Store.
First, I waited to see if I won the giveaway contest… which I didn’t. So I broke one of my cardinal rules of web shopping: I paid for an iPhone case before ever touching it. Thanks to the fact that the company is based in Southern California (the label proudly declares it “designed in Santa Monica”) the case didn’t have far to travel, arriving the day before my iPhone did, actually.
My first thought: It felt a little cheap and flimsy. Now, just about any phone case without a phone in it will feel flimsy, so I decided to withhold real judgment until later.
My second thought, with the iPhone 6 firmly encased in it: It still feels a bit cheap. But in a not-terrible way. The clear polycarbonate backing really does preserve the slim profile of the phone while also allowing Apple’s design details to be seen. The leather-ish cover feels like it might easily rip-off, but so far that fear is unfounded. Overall, it feels quite good in my not-giant hands. If $30 is a mid-range price for an iPhone case, then this definitely feels like a mid-range product. And that’s okay.
So I can easily recommend it, right? Not so fast. The case fits the phone a little too tightly. You have to apply a lot of pressure to get it on (enough that you’ll worry you’ve scratched the phone, even if you haven’t), and getting it off requires really strong fingernails and a lot of finesse. If you’re the kind of person who likes to swap cases depending on the occasion, this isn’t the folio for you. The other drawback: The slot inside the cover. According to X-Doria’s website you can use the slot to “store a credit card and a license”(emphasis mine), but that combination doesn’t fit well for me. Together, they don’t slide in all the way. And when I just put my driver’s license in the slot, it feels a little loose, like the license could slip out if I wasn’t careful. So the slot, for me, isn’t very useful, as it’s a little too big for a single drivers license but not big enough for a drivers license/credit card combo. (FYI: The combination of a drivers license and a health insurance card, though, does fit snugly without being too tight or too loose. So there’s that.)
So, will I be returning it? Well, there’s a lot to like about the Engage Folio — the price, the design, the form factor — but as long as I feel the need to carry around at least one credit card (which will be for a while, even in the Apple Pay era), it’s not my ideal wallet replacement. That said, the case is so slim, I can easily fit it in the same pocket as my current, non-Costanza wallet… So for now, it’s a keeper.
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