Incipio Stowaway Credit Card case review for iPhone 4S

Cards — credit cards, loyalty cards, business cards, gift cards — we all have too many. And at a time when people are trying to carry less, not more, on them, lugging around a fat wallet is the last thing they want.

Enter the credit card phone case. It’s an old idea that has been with us since the early days of the iPhone 3G, but lately manufacturers are remixing the idea into something more practical and focused. The Incipio Stowaway is the first in a series of three cases we’re going to be looking at over the coming weeks, and it’s perhaps the simplest. At its core, the Stowaway is a rugged two-stage iPhone case with a small latched compartment for storing up to three cards, or a single card and some cash.

From the front, the case is not the most attractive I’ve seen, at least in the colour I sampled. There are four varieties — blue/grey (seen here), purple/magenta, orange/grey, and black/black — each consisting of a soft silicone insert and a harder polycarbonate that wraps around the sides and back. Think the Otterbox Commuter without the port covers.

The silicone portion doesn’t conform to the front as nicely as I’d like; certain parts curl up slightly, and don’t line align with the hard shell exactly. There in addition to the rear compartment, you’ll get plenty of protection from the elements here. Only a small percentage of the iPhone’s bezel is exposed once installed, and most of the perimeter is guarded by a protrusion of the hard shell itself.

The case adds some significant girth to the iPhone 4S, and a considerable amount of weight, too. Though if you consider that it could potentially replace a wallet when you go out, it’s actually not bad. The Stowaway’s side profile is a little cartoony; the power and volume buttons resemble lego pieces.

Headphone, power and mute ports are all accessible, and the camera hole is unobscured, though I’d prefer it to be a bit larger for successful flash diffusion.

The Stowaway’s compartment latch is extremely secure, though easy enough to open with two hands. If you’re planning on slipping out your credit card while holding a Starbucks cup you’re out of luck; there doesn’t seem to be any practical way to open the latch one-handed.

I managed to fit three cards with embossed numbers in the compartment, and you shouldn’t have an issue getting eight or nine business cards in there depending on the stock.

When unoccupied, the compartment cover doubles as a pretty nice stand for media consumption. It rests at an angle that is comfortable to watch without needing to adjust too much. The hinge is strong and won’t easily break if you happen to knock the phone over when it’s mounted, too.

Overall the Stowaway is a pretty niche case but extremely valuable for those who are looking to replace, or even augment, a wallet. Three cards — driver’s license, debit card and credit card — should be enough for most people going out on a Saturday night. It may look a bit rotund when viewed from the side, but when you pull out a card from the back, no one is going to doubt the Stowaway’s efficacy.

The Incipio Stowaway Credit Card case is available for $34.99 from their website.