Modern mobile man -- giving up a fat wallet for a slim wallet

Modern mobile man -- giving up a fat wallet for a slim wallet

Summary: I carry around a smartphone, a Fitbit, keys, and a wallet. Yet my wallet looked like something out of the 1980s. I needed to catch up with fashion...

TOPICS: Mobility

My ZDNet colleague James Kendrick has done some great pieces over the past few months about the various paraphernalia that you need in order to have a satisfying mobile life. For example, "What's in my platform agnostic gear bag?", and "Five trips to travel smart with mobile gear".

But there's one thing that that's been bugging me, and perhaps it's been bugging the other men out there. I have to carry around a remarkable amount of stuff in my pockets. Between my smartphone, Fitbit, wallet, and keys, I'm constantly weighed down and accompanied by bulging pockets.

Something I could fix, I surmised, was my wallet. And so I looked into -- and bought -- a new one designed for my "mobile first" digital life.

Slim wallet

First off, let's talk about a wallet.

They're stupid. They're about -- what -- five years away from being redundant. I need a wallet to carry the following:

  • Credit cards -- essentially just a huge chunk of solidified petrochemicals each carrying a few bytes of data. Data which could be expressed on my phone perfectly easily.

  • Receipts -- mashed up dead tree, which could more appropriately and easily just be emailed to me whenever I bought anything.

  • Photos of loved ones -- again, I have a smartphone weighed down with gigabytes of pictures.

Here's my current wallet. A smear of murdered cow's skin wrapped around a whole load of stuff I don't need to carry around:

163g (0.4lbs) of wallet and stuff. I've carried this around with me every day for eight years.

What's curious about that wallet is that it's basically identical in terms of volume, mass, and contents to the wallet my dad carried around with him throughout the 1980s. But wait! This is 2013. We men are supposed to be all metrosexual and avant garde. We must eschew the ways of the menfolk that went before us, yet still learning from their wisdom, yadda yadda...

If I have to carry around all this anachronistic stuff, there must be a better way.

What I didn't want was as wallet-slash-smartphone holder, such as this one by Sena, as I didn't want the smartphone experience compromised by a flappy wallet-y bit.

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 09.02.04
A smartphone case and wallet combined. Not my thing...

Googling for "slim wallet" throws up loads of results -- they really are the height of fashion at the moment. But a lot of them are Kickstarter projects.

I've bought quite a few things off of Kickstarter over the past eighteen months. Scratch that -- I've wasted a lot of time, effort, and money on Kickstarter over the past eighteen months. I've come to the conclusion that Kickstarter is essentially just a way of spending money in exchange for disappointment.

What I've always looked for in a wallet before is one that could hold each of my cards individually. I did a MoSCoW analysis of my wallet contents (I want to be cool, but I'm such a geek…) and discovered that I have four bank cards I must have, two store cards I must have, four other cards I need to keep around, and some detritus I didn't need at all. I typically don't carry cash, but I do collect a ton of receipts.

I happened across Bellroy, which specialise in slim wallets. They have a bunch of different wallets. What I liked about them -- and why I ultimately bought this one -- was that each product page on their website has a clear video that shows exactly how the wallet works. This made is super-easy for me to understand whether the wallet would fit my needs. None of the other sites did this, and it made the sale very easy.

I can't embed the video here, but here's a screenshot from the "Note Sleeve" wallet that I bought. Click through to have a look -- the video makes it so obvious how it works.

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 08.51.03
The videos Bellroy have on their website make it really easy to understand the product proposition...


And so?

The wallet came beautifully packaged. (And so it should at $100/£65.)

Beautifully packaged slim wallet is beautifully packaged...

Do I like it? I had my old wallet for eight years, and every wallet I had before it was more or less the same idea -- a slab of leather stuffed with rubbish I'm dependent on. But here's the Bellroy Note Sleeve side-by-side with my old wallet:

Fashions of 2013 and 1983 compared...

What I don't like about it is that each card doesn't have it's own slot, so accessing a card on-demand is a little fussy. But I do like the fact it's smaller. And, you know, I feel more metrosexual and cool. I'm living the dream of modern mobile man! Here's the final result:

Nice enough wallet, but would be nice to lose it. Although "lose it" in the sense of "not needing it", as opposed to actually "mislaying it", having to cancel all the cards, etc. That would be a pain...

The fact is though, I don't want a wallet at all. A smartphone should really be everything I need.

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Topic: Mobility

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  • you can get even slimmer

    After years of messing around I found this: and have been using it ever since. Very practical for cards. I hardly carry coins any more, if I do I keep them in my pocket, directly accessable like paper mony. Reciepts I keep in my notebook. Don't think I will ever bother with a leather wallet any more.
    • Secrid

      Excellent recommendation, and you've made a good point with it. I think Mr. Baxter-Reynolds should have mentioned the advisability (or necessity) of having a wallet that protects your smartcards (including smart drivers licenses) from being secretly scanned.
      Ira Seigel
  • wet!

    what happens if your phone gets wet and becomes inert?
    Credit cards will still work if your wallet falls in the toilet or the pool.
    • Lake

      It's anectotal evidence, but the only case I know where that happened was when the phone fell into a lake from a boat. Can't be certain that it went inert because it wasn't recovered.
      If the same happens with a wallet, it's lost as well. Only it's cheaper and easier to buy a new phone and set it up with a backup than it is to replace the content of a wallet.
      • buddy really?

        You've never heard of a phone being wet and not working? wow you live a sheltered life.

        Also, how are you going to buy a new phone when all your ID and credit cards are on your dead phone?
        • Its in the clouds man

          If all your data is backed up to the cloud.. you'll never loose it. You would need dome bad-ass encryption there or possible something along the lines of iPhone style biometrics, but in principle you could secure all you credit cards and even ID that way.
          David Watssman
    • Exactly

      I got caught in a downpour in England on my way back to Germany. It was so heavy my waterproof bag had a big puddle the bottom, my book blew up to 3 times its original thickness, my flight information was soggy, my passport was soggy and I was glad I had removed the battery from my phone before I left the hotel!

      By the time I had travelled across England to the airport, flown back to Germany and driven back home (about 8 hours), my clothes were still damp and my phone still needed several hours more drying out, but the soggy flight information was enough to get a boarding card and my passport could still be read.

      The one thing Matt didn't mention was cash. I always carry around wad of cash for small purchases (under 50 Euros).
  • Wow...

    Even your non-anti-Microsoft articles are grumpy. Buy a money clip and be done with it. This wasn't worth your time to write, except to meet your article quota.
    • And...

      I'm much more likely to have my wallet on me than my phone...
  • I switched to...

    I switched to the Bellroy Card Sleeve wallet, its their smallest. Drivers license on one side quick access, and the credit card I use 99% of the time on the other... a few insurance cards, ATM/Debit card, and another credit card in the center. Nice and tiny, and carries all I need.
    • security

      So how do you protect your rfid cards in such a leather wallet?
      • easy!

        easy, by not having any :-)
      • well

        I did once try a lead wallet, but it was a bit impractical.
        Then I just got so paranoid I bought a tin-foil hat and built a protected bunker, and keep all my money in the mattress.
        Oh, crap. The monsters in the web might get me.
        Pull the plug....................
      • forget RFID!

        I wouldn't have an RFID card.
  • Modern mobile man -- giving up a fat wallet for a slim wallet

    That's a nice looking wallet and congrats on your purchase. We are getting closer to removing the physical wallet with the digital wallets on phones. It feels odd when I don't have a wallet in my pocket though.
    • Mommy said you couldn't have any money

      Too much ice cream being spent on. That's why you have all those cavities.
      • Daddy doesn't need dental.

        Don't be jealous, just because you don't have any teeth.
        • Now, now...

          CaviarColoroftheWeek's mother has said he seems to be cutting one, that's why he has been such a bad mood and crying a lot lately. So I recommended "Humphries #3" teething tablets to help with the symptoms.
          • Oh, and did you know our own CaviarColorof theWeek

            was featured in a commercial on television?!!! I saw him in a Pine Sol commercial, running down the hallway exclaiming "Mommy, mommy...I made a poopoo!" Of course, Mommy had trouble finding it...good thing she had Pine Sol to clean the tub!
          • Oops...

            CaviarColoroftheWeek's mommy just corrected was a Clorox commercial...almost cost them some of their revenue sharing! Sorry about that CaviarColoroftheWeek!
  's a joke, sheesh, some people have no sense of humor...Now, put that down! Just because the monkeys at the zoo throw poo at the visitors doesn't mean you can throw it around here! Go wash your hands!
            Kids...if we ever get him raised!! ;)