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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Inside the iPhone Leather Wallet (second generation)

In 2020, Apple sold an iPhone Leather Wallet that attached via MagSafe and held three credit cards. I bought one and have used it for a year, and I like it! But this year, Apple has revised the wallet to add a new feature: Find My support.

Here’s how Apple describes the feature:

The new wallet features a secure NFC chip which enables support for Find My. It can hold up to three cards, and it’s shielded to keep them safe. To use an NFC-enabled card, such as a hotel key, you need to remove the card from the wallet.

This new wallet works with all iPhones with MagSafe, not just new models. I attached it to my iPhone 12 mini and it walked through the setup procedure. You can choose to have your iPhone notify you if the wallet has detached, and also optionally to have your wallet disclose your phone number if it’s found and attached to a different iPhone.

Best as I can guess, this is what’s happening: the NFC chip in the new wallets has a unique ID number. When you pair it with your iPhone, that ID number is associated with your iCloud account. If you choose to allow someone who finds your wallet to view your phone number, Apple’s essentially allowing their phones to look up the number associated with your iCloud account.

What I’m wondering is, why did this feature not exist in the first-generation wallet? I’m pretty sure the old wallet has an NFC chip, because it knows the color of the wallet when you attach it for the first time—a trick the new wallet also performs. Perhaps the old wallet’s NFC chip doesn’t provide a unique identifier for each wallet, or perhaps the old wallet just didn’t provide a reliable enough experience and so Apple shut down the feature until they could do a better job with it. This is not generally a feature Apple likes to talk about, so we may never know.

In any event, I think this feature is a pretty good one. No, it doesn’t make the wallet into an AirTag—if your wallet falls off your phone and then someone comes and picks it up, you can’t locate it. But it will warn you if your wallet comes detached, and it will tell you the most important thing you need to know when you need to find a lost object: where you (or your iPhone) saw it last.

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