AMEinfo had the opportunity to review the newly released Ekster 3.0, the world’s first voice-activated and solar-powered smart wallet. Ekster sent us a review copy to try out.
Born as a crowdfunded Kickstarter campaign in 2015 by a Dutch duo, the campaign went viral and raised over $1,000,000, 7,000% of its original goal.
This month, the now world-famous brand has launched the third generation of its smart wallet range – the Ekster 3.0 product line.
Of the multiple models, we opted for the most comprehensive of their offerings: The Parliament wallet, including the tracker card that goes with it. The Parliament retails for $79, while the tracker card retails for $49.
After spending some time with the wallet, here are our thoughts.
Storage: Card capacityEkster makes it clear that are not making any compromises. In fact, Ekster makes sure to remind that their products are the market’s slimmest smart wallets, and the world’s first to be solar-powered.Right out the gate,
Essentially, Ekster wallets pack quite a lot of features into a centimeter-slim body (technically 0.4 inches thick). The Parliament, which we received, offers maximum storage capacity, supposedly capable of holding 10+ cards, with a band for holding cash.
The main body of the wallet includes a chamber that houses 6 of your most important cards, ready with RFID-blocking and NFC protection. This protects you from tech-savvy pickpockets that are prone to swiping your data off your cards in the metro or on the bus, which is great for when you’re travelling. Note, however, that if you are to store cards with embossed characters in the chamber, you might not be able to fit in 6. Ekster says that you can manage to fit in 4-5 embossed cards (or a mix of embossed/non-embossed).
As for where you will be storing the other 4 cards, the Parliament comes with a flap with two internal pockets. We were able to fit in 1 card in each pocket, bringing the current storage total to 8. Try and stuff more into each and the flap won’t fold properly when you try to close it – 2 is the limit.
On the back of the wallet is another pocket – this one intended to hold your tracker card. If you forego the tracker and opt for extra storage, realize that you will only be able to fit in 2 cards here. Any more and you’ll have trouble pulling them out when needed. That puts the total at 10 cards. If you decide to go with a tracker, you’ll have to settle for 8 cards. Throughout this review, you will notice that minimalism is a recurring theme here, and with smart wallets in general.
Storage: Trigger button and mechanism
One of the features that sets the Ekster apart from other wallets is its iconic trigger button, located at the bottom left of the product. Pressing this button triggers a surprisingly smooth mechanism that ejects your 6 cards at cascading levels, allowing you to pick and choose at ease. You don’t have to trigger it in a single forceful push, either. If you slowly increase pressure on the button, it’ll eject your cards at the same rate, which frankly feels quite good when you get to try it for yourself.
While the eject mechanism itself is of high quality, ensuring your cards don’t fall out of their chamber while also providing a quick handy way to access them, the same can’t be said for the button. It feels plasticky, and after extended use, is likely prone to malfunction or break. User reviews of previous models in the wallet series often cited this issue, and it’s unfortunate that – at first glance – the issue seems to remain. We will reserve judgment for now until we’ve sunk in a few more months with the wallet, but as a first impression, we couldn’t shake off the concern.
At first glance, it was clear the Ekster line was for a new generation of users. It is intended for the connected world, where contactless payments are king. Think Europe, or the US. This is immediately apparent when you realize that all you have for cash storage is an elastic strap – a sturdy one at that, but still, a strap. This mean you won’t be able to carry a lot of currency on you, as is the case with most modern slim wallets. This might not be for everyone, especially in the Middle East where contactless payments and such are still finding their footing. Cash still reigns in the Arab world.
Aside from the trigger button, the wallet feels good in the hand, especially when the chamber is stocked with cards. It feels small and slim, but premium and sturdy, with high-quality leather rounding off the product with a perfect finish. The chamber itself feels sturdy too – you feel safe keeping your most precious cards inside. The only concern regarding this pertains to the iffy trigger button, which should it break, would mean getting those cards out of the chamber to be quite the challenge.
While you can keep the wallet in your back pocket like you would with a standard one, we don’t recommend it – and neither does Ekster. Besides the posture hazard to your spine, the slim but sturdy wallet is likely to cause discomfort. Opt for front pocket storage with this one.
Safety and security
Much of the Ekster’s marketing revolves around its safety features. It very much delivers in that regard.
The RFID signal-blocking feature is a very welcome component of the wallet. While there haven’t been many notable reports of wireless credit card fraud in the Middle East, the feature could prove handy when travelling to international hotspots, such as when on vacation for example.
As for the tracker card that comes with the wallet (offered as an add-on that’ll cost you an extra $49), it ensures that you can find your wallet wherever it may be globally. The tracker card itself is solar-powered, requiring three hours of sunlight exposure (direct or indirect) to top up a charge that lasts for 2 months.
As for how you keep tabs on your wallet, you pair the tracker card with Chipolo, a phone app you might have heard of not long ago, known for their trackable keychains. Chipolo allows you to sync your phone with your wallet to keep tabs on it 24/7. Should it get stolen, you’d be able to find it immediately, and report it to law enforcement. You can also track your wallet by enabling voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant (limited to certain regions) access to Chipolo, making the Ekster the world’s first voice-activated smart wallet.
The Ekster line of wallets, based on our experience with the Parliament, provides an interesting look at the next generation of wallets, where smart and slim is all the buzz.
With future-oriented features like voice activation, solar-powered tracking cards, and NFC-protection, the Ekster offers some truly innovative futures fit for a more connected world. The Dutch designer certainly ticks the luxury checkboxes with its design and build quality.
While the limited card and cash capacity might not be for some users, keeping its worrisome trigger button in mind, the wallet does offer the more adventurous consumer something to sink their teeth in. If you are a cash-light person with a taste for all things tech, then the Ekster is definitely for you. Travelers should also find solace in the Ekster, knowing that their cards and cash are safe and trackable at all times.