The word “smart” can be attached to any product so long as you put a computer in it. Toasters, refrigerators, coffee makers – anything with a motherboard, nowadays, can be considered “smart” so long as it offers the necessary components. An area where there aren’t many smart alternatives is the wallet industry, and a company called Ekster set out to change that.
A little while back, Ekster sent me an email pitching what they called “the world’s first voice-activated smart wallet.” A subject like that is gonna peak my interest, so I decided to open the email. After reading about the product, I immediately asked for samples because I had to try it for myself. I’ve been test-driving the Parliament model in black leather for a majority of my review period and, while it’s not exactly the smartest wallet, it’s still cool nonetheless.
Here’s the basics of it: Ekster makes nice-looking wallets with trackers. That’s it. You can’t talk to the wallet, you can’t pull up any credit card you want on a screen, you can’t use the wallet itself to pay for something. It’s an ordinary wallet that’s compatible with a special tracker.
That being said, the wallet is still nice. I, specifically, enjoy the Parliament model which comes with a cover for keeping your money from plain sight. There’s also a slimmer version without the added flap, but because of all the junk I store in my wallet, I’ve found the bigger version to suffice.
To store your various credit/debit/loyalty cards, the wallet comes with a compartment where you can slot them into. Afterward, press in a slider at the bottom of the wallet to watch them spring to life. It’s a completely unnecessary touch, but God, does it look cool when you’re out in public.
A couple of extra compartments on the inside give you the opportunity to hide bigger bills and business cards, while the main strap compartment gives you quick access to money you need at a moment’s notice. You can store a fair amount of cash in this wallet, but I will note it can get bulky pretty quick. If you’d like to avoid this, one of the smaller wallets like the Senate will please you.
That’s the entire wallet in a nutshell. Of course, things don’t stop there as Ekster also sells special trackers that are properly sized to fit in their wallets. It uses Chipolo technology to send off a wireless signal that can be received by an app you download to your phone. This way, you can keep tabs on where your wallet is at all times.
This is exactly how something like a tile works. You just pair the tracker to your phone with the app and you can track whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be an Ekster wallet. You can throw the tracker in your backpack, purse, or even another wallet to track your belongings. Considering the tracker, by itself, costs $50, I would hope it didn’t just work with a wallet.
To find your wallet, you can ring the tracker with the app. By doing so, you’ll hear a light chime that should be easy to identify. On the flip side, if you wanna find your phone with your tracker, just press the button on the tracker a couple of times and your phone will ring. If you commonly misplace your phone, having the tracker in your pocket can be handy.
Ekster advertises its wallets as “voice-activated” because the Chipolo app you download is compatible with Siri and Google Assistant. That way, you can ask either assistant where your wallet is and it can pull up its exact location. Again, it’s like any other item tracking solution on the market, so it’s nothing special. It is fine-tuned for smaller items, though, such as your wallet since the tracker is slim and light.
For power, the tracker uses solar panels to charge. Three hours of charge can provide up to two months of power, and I can testify to this. I just left the tracker in a window one morning while I worked and it was ready to go by the time I left. Thank God it uses solar. Otherwise, I’d have to plug it in, and I have a feeling USB-C wouldn’t be the port Ekster would choose for the tracker (looking at you, microUSB).
Does the Ekster wallet work with something that has a motherboard? Yes. Does it work with your phone? Check. Can you use your voice to find your wallet? Yup. Therefore, you can technically call the Ekster wallet “smart.”
In the same breath, it isn’t “smart,” at least not out of the box. See, you have to buy the wallet and tracker separately. The tracker itself is $50, while the wallets I used cost $79 and $69, respectively. All in all, this isn’t a cheap setup. In other words, you’ll have less stuff to put in this wallet if you buy it.
But if you want the ability to find your wallet wherever you are so long as you have your phone on you, the Ekster is a solid solution. It barely makes the cut to be considered “smart,” but it’s smart enough. And that’s all you really need in a wallet anyway. Nothing too crazy, just crazy enough that you can yell from across the room at a robot and ask where you left your cash.