Hands-on with the Nomad Wallet for iPhone

No, it's not a wallet case -- it's a wallet, one with a built-in battery and Lightning cable. Mobile charging meets back pocket!

I've seen mobile chargers slim enough to fit in a wallet, but I've never seen a wallet with a built-in mobile charger. Until now.

The Nomad Wallet is a black leather bifold with something a bit unusual sewn into the middle: a 2,400mAh rechargeable battery. When you open the wallet, there's a Lightning cable ready to plug into your iPhone. The idea, of course, is to put power in your pocket, ready to come to the rescue when your phone's battery gets low.

You could say I've been sitting on this review for the past couple days. The Nomad measures about five inches across when folded, only about half an inch longer than the bifold wallet I've carried for years. Even so, it feels a bit smaller on the inside, with six very snug card slots (three on each side) and no picture window.

Once I'd packed in the fairly modest amount of stuff from my previous wallet, the Nomad wouldn't lay flat -- I think because of the bump caused by the Lightning cable that runs up the center. The whole thing will probably loosen up (and lay flatter) with time, but right now it just feels tight. If your current wallet resembles George Costanza's, you simply won't be able to carry everything in the Nomad.

Another issue: Like most gents, I carry my wallet in my back pocket. Because the battery has an aluminum housing (translation: metal tube under your butt), it's not super-comfortable to sit on.

There's an easy workaround for this: Put the wallet in your pocket fold-side-up. That goes against some 30 years of wallet orientation, at least for me, but it does solve the problem.

The real pain here is the price: The Nomad Wallet sells for $99.99, though until Nov. 15, you can preorder it for $79.99. Given that a standalone 2,400mAh mobile charger can be had for all of around $10, and a black leather wallet for $20-$30, it seems ludicrous to pay more than double just for the convenience of meshing the two together.

That said, I do love the convenience, and although I probably wouldn't spend that kind of money on a wallet for myself, I'd certainly welcome one as a gift. Food for thought as December rolls near.

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