MagSafe SurfacePad Is the iPhone Wallet I’ve Been Waiting For

Cash? Who needs cash?

Key Takeaways

  • The TwelveSouth SurfacePad for iPhone 12 is a slimline, leather, MagSafe-compatible wallet case.
  • It comes in three sizes, to fit all iPhones 12
  • TwelveSouth ditched the "viewing mode" stand feature to accommodate MagSafe.
Someone using a TwelveSouth SurfacePad on an iPhone 12.

TwelveSouth

TwelveSouth’s SurfacePad for iPhone 12 might just be the perfect iPhone wallet case. 

This new case is an update to TwelveSouth’s long-lived SurfacePad line. It’s now sized to fit the various iPhone 12s, but it is also MagSafe compatible—with a twist. The case still sticks onto the back of your iPhone with an adhesive layer, not magnets, while MagSafe compatibility lets you charge the phone through the case using one of Apple’s charging pucks.

This setup is ultra-slim, ultra-secure, and it looks pretty great. 

"There are several ways to turn your iPhone into a wallet, including Apple’s own stick-on MagSafe wallet, but I think the SurfacePad is still the most elegant..."

The Case For A Wallet Case

In Europe, all cash under €5 is change, and you have to put these coins somewhere. That makes US-style card-wallets impractical—what’s the point of carrying a wallet if you still have change jangling around in your pocket?

Just pay with a card, you say? Hold on one second. In much of Europe, cash is still popular. Try paying for a single can of soda or a takeaway coffee with a credit card, and you’ll be laughed out of the store.

And yet, over this past year, more and more payments have become cashless, thanks to the early belief that handling dirty cash would spread disease. Meanwhile, over in the US, more of our cards have been digitized. Apple Pay puts your credit cards into your phone. Apple Wallet lets you ditch physical loyalty cards and scan them into your phone. Some cities allow you to replace transit cards with your phone, and soon, in iOS 15, the Wallet app will even hold your ID or driver's license.

An iPhone 12 in the TwelveSouth SurfacePad case on a wireless charger.

TwelveSouth

In short, you barely need to carry cards anymore. This makes phone wallet cases practical because who wants to carry a wad of plastic on the back of their phone? Nobody, that’s who. 

Why SurfacePad?

I used SurfacePads on my old iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6, and they're the best cases I ever used. The new iPhone 12 version removes one great feature, but I can look past that because it looks like the ideal way to carry a phone and a couple of cards. Perhaps ID and one backup credit card. Or a paper transit ticket. Or a shopping list. Or a few bills of cash money.

The SurfacePad is a folding, book-cover-style case, crafted from Napa leather, with a magnet stuck in the back, and two card slots cut into the interior of the front flap. This keeps the cards away from the back of the case and out of the way of the magnetic induction charger, aka MagSafe puck.

The case sticks onto the back of the phone with removable, reusable adhesive. I removed my old ones quite often because I reviewed gadgets—and cases—at the time. As long as you clean the back of the phone with alcohol before installation and use the protective plastic sheet to cover the adhesive layer between uses, you should be good for a while.

The Downsides

The older SurfacePads had a vertical crease running up the rear half of the case. This lets you use it as a stand and was a surprisingly useful feature. It sat steadily on a desk or knee, much like the iPad Smart Keyboard. This feature is missing on the new model (you can see it in action on TwelveSouth’s site).

Older model TwelveSouth SurfacePad for iPhone with the back stand.

TwelveSouth

The other downside is that the case is thicker, thanks to the magnetic compatibility. The rear used to be two layers of leather, plus the adhesive. That was it. Whatever is stuffed into the back to make it work with MagSafe has also made it quite a bit thicker. Still, it’s not enough to put me off buying one. 

There are several ways to turn your iPhone into a wallet, including Apple’s own stick-on MagSafe wallet, but I think the SurfacePad is still the most elegant, despite the extra thickness and lack of a stand mode. This will be enough storage for most people to let you leave your 'real' wallet at home. And those Euro coins? Well, Europeans have carried these neat coin wallets for years.

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