It is clear after the Passbook announcement on iOS 6 that Apple isn't quite ready to manage NFC payments yet. The introduction and adoption of this technology, which eventually will allow you to pay for things with your mobile phone, is still far away in US and Europe.
For those you would like to use their iPhones as a payment method there is still a little ray of hope from the Korean design studio KON Story & Matter company — creators of the Jambo Island series. The iPUP is a case for the iPhone 4 and 4S that doubles as a protector for the gadget and a convenient card holder. Unlike other cases that come with a leather pouch for bank and travel cards, the iPUP gives you immediate access to them on the outside thanks to a conveniently placed slot.
Why would you leave your precious cards exposed like this? This is the obvious concern you get when you first try it, but it ends up being a matter of trust. First of all, it is convenient. If you have to use chip and pin or swipe with the magnetic stripe, you can detach the card easily from the case. For those using contactless payment services, transport cards such as the London Oyster or maybe your badge at work or at school, the iPUP allows electronic readers to register the card.
For example, I keep my Oyster card to travel in London in my wallet. The thin leather allows the card to be read every time I touch in and touch out. With the iPUP, instead of taking my wallet, I could simply take my phone and use it for the same purpose.
The external slot for cards comes with a custom protective card, a piece of glossy paper used to avoid scratching the magnetic strip of the credit card on the case but also to provide some padding so one single card doesn't fall. The fit is very tight and it's very unlikely that you lose the card even if you drop the phone on the floor.
In addition to the functionality, the iPUP is an impressive example of good design from KON. The matte finish of the plastic case makes it super smooth to the touch. The colour gradation in my yellow version gives an extra layer of quality you don't get in most iPhone cases. This is a well-thought product that your device deserves and not a cheap bumper from eBay.
The attention to detail in the packaging is evident. KON design sent a review copy with the retail packaging and a few treats from the Jambo Island family. The case came with a custom protective card illustrated with the rabbit Toki, a badge with the Robo alien and a tiny home button sticker with Ah-ji, the funny labrador that is also the character on the case.
Overall, the iPUP case and card holder is a great option for those of us waiting for some NFC action in Europe. Having your travel card or a contactless bank card such as a VISA PayWave can be a great addition to your iPhone. The bright colours might not make this case a hit for everybody although the finish and the quality feel wont leave anyone disappointed.
iPUP is on sale for $29 in yellow, dark gray, white and pink at the KONstore.