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For the last week or so I have been evaluating the smrtcase Glide for iPhone. I’m happy to report that in many ways it has exceeded my expectations. While the case market for iPhones is over saturated beyond all reason, the smrtcase adds some much in demand functionality at a truly bargain price.

The killer feature of the smrtcase Glide is the ability to easily store and access cards from the back of the case. You can put in business cards, credit cards, and of course smart cards like Edy electric money or train and subway transit cards. There is enough space to hold about 2 credit cards or 3-4 business cards. The center opening in the back makes it easy to slide out cards as needed from a slot along the side of the case. This works well, but does have some drawbacks (namely exposing the top card in the case to dirt and other environmental elements).

Beyond the card holder, the case stands up well against the standard case offerings. The plastic is high quality, although a bit slippery for my tastes. Remarkably, the case is not much larger than many full protection iPhone cases. It’s a bit of a hybrid, completely covering the back and side bezel, but leaving the top and bottom edges exposed. Corners are also fully protected. This is a single piece case with a snap on design similar to a lot of the minimal scratch-guard shields that are all the rage. It also comes in three colors, however out of the pink, white, and black, I think black is by far the best looking. Overall the case looks good, is lightweight and adds a minimum of bulk to the phone.

(Not much thicker than my Griffin Carbon case)

The card compartment is not actually a sealed separate compartment inside the case. When you slide a card in the slot, the card becomes sandwiched between the back of your iPhone and the inside of the case. Don’t worry, you won’t scratch your phone with raised numbers on your credit card. smrtcase provides a protective sticker that you ally the the back of your iPhone to prevent scratches. I found this solution to work well, although it feels a bit inelegant and the rounded back of the iPhone makes it impossible to apply the sticker without tons of bubbles. Since the case and cards cover the back pretty much all the time, this isn’t such a big deal, however it does make it less than ideal if you like to swap cases around often or let you phone go commando from time to time. Basically once to you apply the sticker, you best leave the case on from now on.

(Plenty of space in the back for cards)

(Not so nice. Back protective sticker is functional, but not so great looking)

Using the case is pretty much exactly as you would think. Cards slip into the back compartment easily and can be pushed out with just a flick of the thumb. The shape of the iPhone does force the cards to bend slightly, but it’s little enough that cards will lay flat immediately after you remove them from the case. Of course due to the nature of Smart Cards, it’s difficult and in many cases impossible to put in two smartcards at the same time and have them both function properly, but it can easily hold a train pass and a couple of business cards. You can put in a train pass and swipe it at an electric gate without removing the card at all, but I’ve found the iPhone will block enough of the signal, so make sure to swipe it with the card/backside down and the screen up. Other than that, it works the same as the small plastic card holder I used to use.

Using the smrtcase Glide as a trainpass:

While this doesn’t enable the full “saifu keitai” functionality that most Japanese cellphones have, it does bring the most desirable functions at last to the iPhone. Of course there is no actual interaction between stored cards and the iPhone, but I have happily used my iPhone as a train pass and to pay for food and drinks in a train station. Best of all the look of envy in the faces of my iPhone wielding friends when they realize what the case can do.

So this case finally adds the capability to the iPhone that I have wanted since it first came out. The only thing that could ruin it of course is the price. I am happy to report that this is where the best news of all is. When I first received the review unit I thought cost would be the weak point. With the multitudes of competitors out there a single trick case like this might have difficulty winning over buyers. Knowing this, smrtcase partnered with Focal Point in Japan to bring it out here for only 1,980 yen. That makes this one of the cheapest cases on the market (not counting the cheapo disposable silicon cases). Considering the build quality and the usefulness of the card holder it’s an amazing deal.

So to sum up.

Pros:
Good build quality
Great feature to add smart cards
Small, stylish design looks good
Great low price

Cons:
Sticker protection functional, but makes it impossible to swap around cases.
Open hole in back exposes cards to dirt
Color options not great. Would like a carbon fiber or leather version.

If you would like to order one you can get the in Japan at the Focal Point Online Store and at Rakuten Ichiba

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