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Why I won't use iPhone 13's MagSafe wallet, even though it's better than ever

The iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe on the back of an iPhone 13 Pro in blue
(Image credit: TechRadar)

There’s nothing more frustrating than misplacing an item; whether it’s the TV remote, your house keys, or your wallet. Spending time searching for the item, or worse, forking out to replace the item isn’t something any of us want to be doing. 

According to research by Pixie, a locator app for iPhones, 20% of Americans misplace their wallet every week, and it costs a collective $2.7 billion a year to replace the items that are never found. So, when Apple launched the iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe for the iPhone 12 last year, I was, well, surprised. 

After all, it’s one thing storing your debit or credit card digitally on an iPhone through Apple Pay so it can only be used to pay for goods and services when Touch ID or Face ID is activated, but attaching your physical card to the back of your phone case with just a magnet. If you’re a serial loser like me, that’s asking for trouble.  

However, this year Apple has taken a step towards fixing the issue by launching a new version of the iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe, at the same time as the iPhone 13, which supports the Find My service. This means you can track its location if it becomes detached from the phone, in the same way as an Apple AirTag. Although, in my opinion it’s still missing one vital feature. 

Not quite an AirTag

MagSafe is a small magnetic coil in the back of the iPhone that ensures the smartphone can be wireless charged without having to worry about positioning the handset on an exact spot on a wireless charger. It also provides scope for various accessories to be attached to the back of the smartphone too - one of which is this card holder.  

I’ve never been a fan of phone cases that have slots so you can store your credit cards -  for me it feels like I’m bundling too many important items together, and if I misplaced them, it would result in a big headache. However, when Apple launched the iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe last year, I tried to persevere with it. 

MagSafe creates a strong connection between the wallet and the phone, so there’s no fear  of it sliding off the phone for no reason, but when my phone was in the bottom of my bag and jangling around with other items such as make-up, keys, anti-bacterial hand gel and the like, I found there were occasions when it did detach from the phone accidentally.  

There’s also no way to get your credit card or ID out of the wallet without removing it from the phone first, which, for me at least, increases the chances of placing it down in a shop or cafe, and forgetting to pick it back up again. 

However, a re-designed version of the iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe, which was launched at the same time as the iPhone 13 and is available now from the Apple store supports the Find My app. 

This means you can see its last location on a map in the app and get a notification when the wallet has become detached from your smartphone for longer than one minute. However, unlike AirTags you can’t make the wallet emit an electronic beep to help you find it easier if you’ve misplaced the wallet in your home. 

Nor does it have the Precision Finding feature, which uses Ultra Wideband radio technology to identify the distance and direction your iPhone is from the item, and display the information on-screen alongside haptic feedback to help you locate the AirTag.

However, these aren’t my biggest concerns  - instead it’s that the Apple’s Find My device network can’t be harnessed to help reunite you with the wallet if it really is lost, rather than just temporarily misplaced. 

An AirTag that can’t be found can be placed into Lost mode, and if another device in the Find my network - be it an iPhone, iPad or even your AirPods - passes by the AirTag, you’ll get an anonymous update on its location. This would come in extremely handy, for example if I’d left the wallet in a shop where I’d removed it to pay for something, and then returned home. Instead, if this did happen, I’d have to follow the tried and tested method of retracting my steps. 

However, there is something that AirTags offer that is also totted by the wallet - the ability to assign your phone number to the accessory. In the case of the wallet, this means if anyone finds it and attaches it to their phone, a notification with the phone number will be displayed on screen, asking them to call you. However, unlike with AirTags, when we tried tapping the wallet on the top of another iPhone, and an NFC-enabled Android smartphone, this message wasn’t displayed. 

The iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe on the back of an iPhone 13 Pro in blue

(Image credit: TechRadar)

How to use Find My to locate your MagSafe Wallet 

Find My for the MagSafe wallet is extremely easy to set-up. As soon as you place the wallet accessory directly on the phone or on a MagSafe compatible case, the phone will identify the wallet and ask if you want to add it to Find My. That’s it, then you can leave it alone until the worst happens and you need to locate the wallet. 

To do this, open the Find My app and tap the devices tab. In the list you’ll see the wallet, with the location and the time it was last connected to your iPhone. Tap the wallet from the list and you’ll be able to see a map with the location pinpointed - giving you somewhere to start your search at least.  From here you can get directions in Apple Maps and also adjust whether you get a notification if the wallet becomes detached from the phone, as well as if you want your phone number to be displayed when someone attached it to their iPhone. 

For some people the idea of the MagSafe wallet will make perfect sense. No more frayed slots on your phone case because you’ve pushed a card in and out too many times, and for those that want to travel light it means you can leave your usual wallet at home - it can fit up to three cards comfortably. 

However, at $59 / £59 / AU$95 - which is around the same price as a card holder from designer leather good brand Coach - the iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe is certainly not something you’d purchase on a whim. 

Right now,  however, I would rather stick with Apple Pay, which allows me to keep digital copies of my credit and debit cards as well as loyalty cards and keep my traditional purse for ID, well at least until the iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe has all of the AirTag features baked in. 

Carrie-Ann Skinner

Carrie-Ann Skinner is Smart Home & Appliances Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, and blenders. When she’s not discovering the next must-have gadget for the home, Carrie can be found cooking up a storm in her kitchen, and is particularly passionate about baking, often rustling up tasty cakes and bread.