ekster smart wallet
Review

Hands-on review: Ekster Smart Wallet with solar-powered tracking

Image credit: ekster

Ekster’s latest Smart Wallet justifies its ‘smart’ credentials by incorporating Bluetooth tracking features with an unusual slot-loaded mechanism for cards.

The most intriguing bit of tech in the package is the credit card-sized tracker that includes a window for a solar panel and a Bluetooth-activated ringer that can be triggered through an app.

After downloading the Ekster app and going through a relatively pain-free pairing process, users can ‘call’ the tracker, which makes a beeping sound to let users determine the location of their wallet.

The app also works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so a user can just ask their smart speaker to ring the wallet if they’re in a rush.

While the ring is not incredibly loud, it’s acceptable considering how svelte the card is. It uses a high-pitched tone that is distinctive and cuts through background noise well.

The solar panel is arguably the most impressive aspect of the card, at least from an engineering perspective, but it might also be its main hindrance.

Ekster says the solar panel should be able to charge the card in a few hours, even when using dim office lights. Once charged, the battery should last for around two months before requiring another top-up.

Unfortunately, wallets are inherently dark places. Not everyone will remember to leave the card out once every couple of months to ensure that the battery stays alive. This is a problem because you may not lose your wallet until the charge has completely expired, leaving the tracking features of the wallet basically useless.

Perhaps a specially designed wallet with a clear window to let a bit of light in could have solved this issue, although this probably wouldn’t provide the chic-est possible look. The brand is clearly aimed towards a relatively high-end market, which may explain this design decision.

While the tracker is a separate item that can be used in any wallet that provides space for credit cards, Ekster also makes its own leather wallets that have a unique trick up their sleeve.

The small ‘parliament’ wallets are designed to carry up to five cards at a time, possibly forcing some to leave their expired gym memberships at home.

All the cards fit into one top-loading slot and a button at the bottom of the wallet pushes them back out in a tiered fashion. This helps users avoid the panic of digging through different cards at the front of a supermarket queue peopled solely by tired, irritable commuters.

This button-operated system works well, with a smooth sliding action and a couple of extra pockets for other cards if needed. It should also be noted that RFID-blocking tech has been incorporated to stop rogue individuals from using scanners to abuse the contactless payments system.

For its wallet, Ekster has opted to go for something small and stylish rather than super-utilitarian. Its size is perfect for a back pocket or a handbag, but lacks a coin purse ­and banknotes will need to be slid underneath a rubber band.

With cash on the way out, this may not be a problem for some. People living in Central London can mostly get away with not having to carry any cash these days, but those living in other countries or in less developed areas may find this too restrictive.­

The wallets can be purchased directly from Ekster’s web site, which is currently offering 30 per cent off list prices for Christmas.

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