The shady world of AirTag wallets
Want a good wallet? To pair with your AirTag? We investigated why reputable brands aren't making AirTag wallets and why the few that exist all suck.
For all their privacy-related flaws, Apple’s AirTags are objectively great for finding your stuff. The sheer spread of the Apple Find My Network paired with iPhone Ultra Wideband (iPhone 11, 12, and 13 only) radios for precise location tracking once you’re close to an AirTag makes them hard to beat.
So, for a wallet that holds many important things like our money, ID, credit/debit cards, transit cards, and office-access keys, AirTags would seem like a natural fit. That’s a lot on the line to lose.
It is also true that there is no shortage of companies rushing to sell you a new wallet. From general accessory brands like Nomad and Waterfield Designs, to dedicated wallet makers like Ridge and Bellroy, you can’t sneeze online without someone trying to get you to ditch your old bifold wallet for a cool minimalist one.
This is why I was so bewildered by the utter lack of wallets with an AirTag slot from these companies. Sure, I could buy a Tile or Chipolo tracker the size of a huskier credit card to slide into my wallet, but those only get you in the same room as your wallet if you lose it. From there, you’re relying on audible cues to find the darn thing. Chipolo sells a tracker card that works with Find My instead of its own network, but it still has the limitations of Bluetooth tracking. No! I want my phone to guide me right up to the couch cushion my wallet is hiding in. For that, AirTags are the only option for now.
Apple itself isn’t doing much to help. The MagSafe wallet the company makes does technically “work” with Find My but in a very primitive way. Your iPhone only records it’s location whenever the MagSafe wallet is detached, but there’s no radio or battery inside the wallet. If your wallet falls off or is stolen, you’ll have no luck finding it.
I’m not going to hold my breath for Apple to sell a full-sized wallet with AirTag circuitry woven within, or even a card-shaped AirTags tracker of its own, as the company is on a long-term mission to replace wallets entirely with Apple Pay, digital ID cards, and smart home and car keys. This is a worthy aspiration for the future, but one that may not bear fruit for years. Some have successfully DIY’d their own AirTag cards with the help of 3D printing as a good temporary solution.
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So much junk
When I first began this search in earnest last month, nearly eight months from the debut of AirTags, I was let down that this seemingly obvious market had yet to be addressed by any of the brands I associate with making “cool wallets for cool people.” Simply searching for “AirTag wallet” on Google yielded results from companies I’d never heard of selling what appeared to be the exact same wallets.
Nimalist and Swisst will each sell you a basic wallet for $40. They’ll also sell you the same “slide” wallet if you need more storage for your cards and cash, Nimalist for $90 and Swisst for $50. But, before you go clicking those buy buttons, it’s worth knowing that “Hawanik” a generic Amazon brand sells a similar basic wallet for $13, and several brands sell the slide wallet for less than half of Swisst.
The similarities suggest to me that many (if not all) of these wallets come from a generic OEM in Asia selling these to drop-shippers willing to try their luck at reselling them. Of all the brands, Nimalist struck me as particularly shady. According to anecdotal evidence from friends, the company has been plastering Facebook and Instagram with ads in recent weeks. Social network targeting is tough to confirm, but Nimalist’s SEO and AdSense strategy are certainly impressive as they rank at the top of Google results for both “wallet” and “airtag wallet” for me. It was both the top ad at the top of searches, took up the majority of space in Google’s “shopping” carousel, and was the first actual store to show up after various buyers guide articles. This included searches logged out of my account using a VPN.
For a company with this much money to spend on social media ads and SEO, Nimalist is surprisingly full of red flags. Its “Our Story” page copies lines word-for-word from Nomad’s “About Us” page. Input reached out to Nimalist about this blatant plagiarism but did not receive a response. Definitely not a coincidence: The company changed the page text after Input’s email. The previous page is still viewable via the Wayback Machine. We’ve included screenshots below for reference.
Despite language all over the site touting a commitment to design, Nimalist doesn’t appear to sell a single original product. In addition to the generic wallet designs for AirTags, Nimalist’s non-AirTag wallets are either resold slide wallet designs or minimalist wallets riding on the coattails of companies like Ridge. Speaking from my own experience with Nimalist as a customer, I insist you look elsewhere. The company’s markup is absurd and cheaper, identical products are available on Amazon if you don’t care about quality and all you want is a cheap, minimalist wallet.
For — ahem — research, I ordered a carbon fiber basic AirTag wallet from Nimalist, half expecting to never see the $50 wallet. After about three weeks of waiting with no update from the company, the wallet finally arrived. I instantly saw why reputable brands, companies that actually put care into designing their products, have yet to take a crack at the AirTag wallet market.
As far as I can tell, the AirTag slot on this wallet was stitched on after the fact by the OEM from scraps of extra material just to see if they could sell anything. The construction of the whole wallet is awful, but the AirTag sleeve is even worse. The “carbon fiber” fabric is cheap and stiff, and the stitching is noticeably shoddy and uneven. It also isn’t very comfortable in my pocket. Despite being thin as advertised, the wallet is quite tall. The inner pocket, meant for bill storage, is pretty deep (probably to fit international currency and not American bills) making it hard to fish out dollars assuming you can pry it open in the first place. Even if I’d done the smart thing and bought my wallet from Amazon, I wouldn’t be thrilled with this purchase. This is before even putting the AirTag in, which presents its own unique issue.
You see, the AirTag may be small but it’s quite thick relative to a credit card. It’s actually about as thick as 10 standard plastic cards stacked. Sewing a pocket onto the outside of a wallet is a cheap and easy solution, but it's not a good one. The AirTag wallet as it exists today isn’t just a cheaply made wallet, it’s a cheap wallet that feels awful in your pocket as a result of that AirTag sleeve.
This is why reputable brands have ignored stitching new wallets together just for AirTags for the time being. To actually successfully hide an AirTag in a wallet, you can’t just stitch a special pocket for it and call it a day. Nomad, for example, sells a TPU "Card for AirTag card that can house the tracker. The card is meant for traditional bifold wallets, not for minimalists, and makes sure that the AirTag puts a more comfortable and uniform curve in your wallet instead of the ugly and uncomfortable bump that comes from slotting an AirTag into a bifold by itself.
Input reached out to several wallet companies for this piece, including Nomad. "We're super excited about AirTags and what they mean for the gear tracking space,” a representative of the Nomad product team tells Input. “But, given their current form factor, we think they're just not quite ideal for wallet use. This is why we created Card for AirTag and are not focusing on a wallet designed specifically around the AirTag itself. We believe that as the Find My ecosystem evolves purpose-built trackers like the Chipolo Card Spot will be the preferred device for in-wallet use."
This left me in the cold, as my preferred daily-driver wallet is from Ridge, which only sells ultra-minimalist wallets. I prefer this style of wallet because I only carry three credit cards plus my driver’s license and work ID card. While Hawanik on Amazon will sell me a Ridge knock-off for $26 with an AirTag chamber, the presence of a money clip on that wallet means I’ll have no flat side to rest the wallet in my pocket. I also don’t like supporting knock-off products as a matter of principle.
So, am I completely at a loss for options as someone who values minimalism? Not quite.
It turns out, the best wallet for AirTags as they exist today was one I already owned. The Waterfield Finn Access Wallet is a very good wallet that I purchased in 2019 but had stopped using in favor of my Ridge wallet in a never-ending pursuit of minimalism. Amyel Oliveros, chief creative officer at Waterfield Designs, confirms this is a big driver for why the company has yet to develop an AirTag-specific wallet.
“The shape of the AirTag makes it difficult for people to sit on their wallet with an AirTag in it; it feels like there’s a stone on their chair," Amyel tells Input. “We’re still considering designing an AirTag wallet, particularly as some third parties are coming out with accessories that 'flatten' the AirTag into a card shape.”
Gary Waterfield, owner of the company added, “We like our wallets to be thin and because the AirTag is thick, it can create a pretty big lump, kind of like the snake that ate a mouse. Using one of the credit card-sized pieces of leather or plastic with a cut-out in the middle for an AirTag could work, but it would increase the overall thickness of the wallet.”
To be clear, nothing in the Finn is designed for AirTags, but its unconventional design is what made it perfect for the circular trackers in my experience. The Finn has a large center compartment intended for cash, and two inner pockets for your credit cards. Flanking the AirTag in a spacious compartment with rigid credit cards turned out to be the perfect solution as this was the only option that let me comfortably store an AirTag in a wallet without noticing it, although I did prefer to use the Nomad wallet insert card to keep everything locked inside.
For a wallet to seamlessly integrate AirTag-level accuracy in a more traditional form factor like the classic bifold, one of two things must happen. The first is a wallet manufacturer could dedicate the time and resources necessary to make a wallet with a stiff inner compartment to comfortably house an AirTag discreetly. This incurs risk as product development is costly and if the market doesn’t respond, the investment may never pay off.
Ultimately, Apple making its own AirTag card would be the best resolution for most people. While opening up the U1 chip in iPhones to allow Ultra Wideband tracking with third-party Find My devices would also go a long way to address this issue, it seems even less likely that Apple is going to even the playing field here unless forced to.
For now, I’m sticking with my Waterfield Finn and have put my Ridge to rest. If you prefer a traditional wallet form factor and can live without precise tracking, the Chipolo Card Spot seems like a great middle-ground option that won’t add bulk to traditional wallets.
I have more hope for innovation in the accessory market than I do for an Apple-made AirTag card. Apple is trying to wipe out wallets off in the face of the sluggishness of society to adapt to that dream. Making an AirTag card goes against that goal and would essentially be an admission of defeat, but it would finally fill an obvious gap Apple itself has left. So to all the cool wallet companies out there, I’m begging you, please take my money and figure out how to make AirTag wallets something more than generic trash.