Windows Phone Thoughts: Which Wallet Are You Into? CodeWallet v3.6, eWallet v3.1.0T and FlexWallet v1.7 Compared Head to Head

Be sure to register in our forums! Share your opinions, help others, and enter our contests.

Digital Home Thoughts

Loading feed...

Laptop Thoughts

Loading feed...

Android Thoughts

Loading feed...

Friday, August 29, 2003

Which Wallet Are You Into? CodeWallet v3.6, eWallet v3.1.0T and FlexWallet v1.7 Compared Head to Head

Posted by Doug Raeburn in "SOFTWARE" @ 09:30 AM

If you need to store any sensitive information on your Pocket PC, such as credit card and bank account numbers, passwords and the like, an electronic wallet program is an absolute must. In this comparison of the three leading electronic wallet products, we address an important question... not "what's in your wallet?" but "what wallet should be in your Pocket PC?"

As we all know, privacy issues and identity theft have become an enormous concern. Some steps that people commonly take include shredding documents and dealing with only well-known Web retailers. But if you're a heavy Pocket PC user, the information stored there can be yet another concern. While you can password protect your PDA, many people resist doing so because it slows down the use of a device to which they want immediate access.

So are your choices limited to password protecting your Pocket PC or leaving sensitive information off of it? No, because there's a third alternative... an electronic wallet program. From bank account information to PIN numbers to passwords to credit card information, an electronic wallet can store all kinds of sensitive information. And since it has its own password protection and data encryption, you can keep the stored information private without having to resort to a main password on your Pocket PC.

There are a number of players in this market, but the most popular include CodeWallet Pro from Developer One, eWallet from Ilium Software and FlexWallet from Two Peaks Software. So which of these big names has what it takes to rise above the rest?

The Comparison
All three of these products are available as Pocket PC versions with a companion desktop version. The desktop versions provide similar functionality with easier entry, and also allow for synchronization with the Pocket PC. With three products, however, there's a lot of information to cover, so I'm going to review the Pocket PC versions only. When a particular feature of the Pocket PC version requires the use of the desktop version, I'll make note of it.

Note that all three products use the terminology "card" when referring to an entry for a credit card, contact, etc. I'll use that terminology throughout the comparison.

The products in this comparison consist of CodeWallet Pro version 3.6, eWallet version 3.1.0T, and FlexWallet version 1.7.

When you first open any of these programs, you'll see a listing of the categories that have been set up. There are some differences between the programs in how they display these lists. All three can display data in a list or tree view format and also in an icon view format.

Figure 1: CodeWallet's list view

CodeWallet: CodeWallet's main view is the list view for all categories shown in Figure 1. Unlike eWallet and FlexWallet, CodeWallet doesn't offer an icon view in the "all categories" view. You can expand or collapse individual categories as desired. Tapping on one of the cards in a particular category will open the card in view mode. Additional options are available through a tap-and-hold menu.

Figure 2: Category dropdown

To view cards in a particular category in an icon view, use the Category dropdown at the top of the list.

Figure 3: Icon view

The "My charge cards" category is displayed in Figure 3. The currently displayed category is shown as the name on the Category dropdown. The dropdown also allows you to navigate directly to the cards in another category without having to return to the main "All Categories" screen.

Figure 4: eWallet's list view

eWallet: The list view in eWallet is very similar to that of CodeWallet. Again, you can expand and collapse categories and tapping on a card takes you to the card's view mode. A tap-and-hold menu can be accessed from the list view... this menu offers more options than the comparable menu in CodeWallet.

Figure 5: Icon view for categories

Through the View menu, you can choose either list view or icon view. Figure 5 shows the main category list in icon view.

Figure 6: Icon view for cards

The "My Cards" category is shown in icon mode in Figure 6. To return to the main category screen, tap on the "OK" button.

Figure 7: FlexWallet's list view

FlexWallet: The basic functionality of FlexWallet's list view is similar to that of the other two products, with a list view and tap-and-hold menus.

Figure 8: Icon view for categories

FlexWallet offers a slightly easier method of switching between views as compared to eWallet. Rather than using a menu, you tap on a button on the toolbar. Figure 8 shows the main category screen using the icon view.

Figure 9: Icon view for cards

The "Credit Cards" category is shown using the icon view in Figure 9. As with eWallet, you return to the main category screen by tapping on the "OK" button.

Views - conclusions: When comparing the list and icon views of the three programs, the result was a three-way tie. Each program has features that the others lack. FlexWallet offers an "all category" icon view and can switch between list and icon modes with a toolbar button, but its tap-and-hold menu has limited choices compared to eWallet. eWallet also has an icon view for all categories and has the most complete set of choices in its tap-and-hold menu, but choosing between list and icon modes is a bit less convenient than with FlexWallet. CodeWallet has the best navigation between categories in icon view with its category dropdown, but it lacks an icon view on the "all category" screen and the choices on its tap-and-hold menu are limited when compared to eWallet. In this facet of the comparison, none of the programs stood out.

Creating Categories

CodeWallet:New categories can be created in CodeWallet through a tap-and-hold menu on the wallet. You can also create a new category by tapping on the New command in the toolbar while the wallet is highlighted.

Figure 10: New category screen

Figure 10 shows the New Category screen in CodeWallet. On this screen, you can input the category name and select an icon. You can also assign a default card type for the category.

Security will be covered in more detail later in the review. However, note that CodeWallet offers an option to encrypt and password protect any cards in the category. You may not want to encrypt the entire wallet, just the sensitive categories, and that's how you specify which categories to protect. Both eWallet and FlexWallet provide a similar option.

Figure 11: Pick a category name

If you tap on the "Recommend category name..." button, CodeWallet will display a list of commonly used categories, allowing you to choose a category with an appropriate icon already connected to it.

eWallet: As with CodeWallet, you can tap and hold on the wallet name in eWallet and choose to create a new category from the menu.

Figure 12: Create a category or a card

In addition, if you tap on the New button in the toolbar from the main category view, eWallet displays a dialog allowing you to specify whether you want to create a new category or a new card.

Figure 13: New Category screen

The New Category screen is similar to that in CodeWallet. You can name your category, select a default card type and specify an icon. eWallet, however, lacks the category name recommendation feature provided in CodeWallet.

FlexWallet: FlexWallet offers the easiest method for creating a new category through its "Create a new category" link at the bottom of its main category view. You can also access the tap-and-hold menu from the wallet in list view. Another method is to tap and hold on a blank space in the main category listing while using icon view, which brings up yet another menu from which you can create a new category. Finally, if the wallet or any category is highlighted, tapping on the New button will create a new category as well.

Figure 14: New category screen

Once you get to the New Category screen, things should look familiar. FlexWallet shares the same features here as eWallet and CodeWallet, lacking only CodeWallet's category name recommendation feature.

Creating Categories - conclusions: Overall, only minor details distinguish the three products in the "category category", so it's another three-way tie here.

Creating Cards

CodeWallet: With CodeWallet, card creation is initiated by using the tap-and-hold menu for the desired category, or by tapping the New button while the desired category is highlighted. While in icon view in a selected category, tapping the New button will start the New Card process.

Figure 15: Select card type

Next, a screen appears that allows you to select the category for the card.

Figure 16: New credit card input screen

CodeWallet's default card forms include a wide variety of useful fields for data entry. All of the fields are free format, so you can enter anything you'd like in any format. While this is generally a good thing, some input masks for standard format fields such as amounts, telephone numbers and dates would be helpful. If a field entry is longer than can be displayed on the screen, it scrolls sideways. There's no provision for zooming in to see the entire contents of the field.

Additional tabs allow you to create a note and attach an image or a sound to the card. CodeWallet also offers field display options, including "Hide field names", "Show field names", "2 lines per item" and "Field names on left".

Figure 17: Card view

The finished card is shown in Figure 17. I inserted a scanned card image from one of the three or four credit card solicitations that I receive every month from a particular credit card company. (So now we have the answer to "what's in your wallet?"). If no image is inserted, the card is displayed using a plain background of a selected color. There's also a "Show PIN" button on the toolbar. A PIN isn't automatically displayed, to protect against someone looking over your shoulder to see the number. This important security feature is shared by all three programs.

eWallet: To create a new card in eWallet, tap and hold on the desired category and select the "New Card..." command. Another means is to use the "New" button while the desired category is highlighted.

Figure 18: Select card type

eWallet then displays a list of available templates for the new card.

Figure 19: New credit card input screen

eWallet's card input screen is shown in Figure 19. All of the fields are free format, with no input masks for dates or telephone numbers. Long entries wrap (as in Card Number above) so that you can see the entire entry, a very useful feature. The fields are broken down into Card Face fields, which are displayed on the card graphic when viewing, and detail fields, which are displayed underneath. Notes, settings, sounds and graphics are set using additional tabs.

Figure 20: Dropdown list for credit card type

For a few fields that have predefined values from which to select, such as Card Type in Figure 20, eWallet provides a dropdown list. And if your card isn't one of the types they provide, you can still type in your own value.

A unique feature of eWallet allows you to change a field name on the fly, while in the card editor. To do so, tap and hold on the desired field and select "Rename Field" from the menu.

This great feature is somewhat offset by the sparse set of fields in eWallet's standard templates. When I started this review, I decided to create a number of test cards that would be entered in all three products. I'm the most familiar with CodeWallet, so I created the test cards using that program. When I went to enter the test cards in eWallet, I was surprised to find that many of the fields available in CodeWallet weren't available in eWallet's standard templates.

Another issue cropped up when I was working with Contacts. eWallet's Contact template includes fields named Telephone 1, Telephone 2 and Telephone 3. Well, I want to know which number is home, which is work and which is mobile. Sure, I can change the field names or create a new template, but that's an extra step that the other programs don't require. It appears that Ilium decided to rely on their template and field name flexibility rather than trying to come up with more comprehensive standard templates. I feel that eWallet should have much more complete templates out of the box.

Figure 21: Card view

The completed card is shown in Figure 21, using the same scanned image. To show the PIN number, tap on the "Show" button next to the PIN field. Even without the scanned card image, eWallet's card displays are shown in a card format, making them more attractive than the displays in the other products. Detail fields, if any, are displayed under the card display on the Details tab.

FlexWallet: As with creating categories, FlexWallet offers the widest range of options for creating cards. Both categories and cards include a "New Card" command in their tap-and-hold menus. Another method is to highlight a card in the desired category and tapping on the "New" button. Yet another method is to tap-and-hold on another card or on the empty space when a category is displayed using the icon view. And there's still more... again when a category is displayed using the icon view, you can tap on the link at the bottom of the icon list "Create a new card in this category".

Figure 22: Select card template

After you tell FlexWallet to create a new card, it displays the Card Template screen shown in Figure 22.

Figure 23: New credit card input screen

Figure 23 shows FlexWallet's credit card input screen. The depth of available fields in the default templates in FlexWallet falls in the middle... more than eWallet, but fewer than CodeWallet. Some of the standard fields used by FlexWallet are a bit unclear, however. For example, in the Contact template, the available phone number fields are labeled as "Work", "Mobile" and "Home", rather than "Work Phone", etc. Then the first line of the Work Address is labeled as such, but the second and third lines are labeled simply as "Work", just like the Work phone number. I understand that they're going for short field labels for better display, but such labeling could be confusing for some users.

As with the other products, you can enter notes and modify the settings for the card. In addition, FlexWallet allows for attachments. You can attach an image, a sound or a document. However, unlike the other programs, the image doesn't display when viewing the card... instead, you can open it up in an editor/viewer. And you can play an attached sound, but not automatically.

Figure 24 : Zoom window

FlexWallet's fields scroll from side-to-side when they're too long to be displayed, rather than wrapping as in eWallet. However, if you wish to see or edit the complete entry, you can tap on the magnifying glass in the editor's toolbar, and the currently highlighted field will be displayed in a zoom window, where it can also be edited (Figure 24).

FlexWallet provides some minimal input masks, such as automatically placing the $ in front of dollar amounts. It doesn't have dropdown lists like eWallet, but you can pull up a date picker by tapping on the Calendar icon in the editor toolbar. This date picker not only allows you to select a date, but it also presents options for the date format.

Figure 25: Card view

The credit card view is shown in Figure 25. You have control over the text color and the background color, but that's about it from an appearance standpoint. As I mentioned earlier, attached graphics are not displayed in the view mode. FlexWallet provides the "Show/Hide Pswds." button to display passwords, PIN numbers, and the like.

Creating Cards - Conclusions: This category highlighted some of the areas in which these programs differ most. The bonuses for eWallet include the ability to rename fields on the fly, automatic word wrapping in fields, and dropdown lists on some types of fields. Minuses include the limited number of fields included in some standard templates, along with some generic field names that would require renaming right off the bat for most people.

The list of pros for FlexWallet include a wide variety of methods for creating cards, a zoom window for field editing, a date picker and some input masks. The list of cons consists of some limitations in their standard templates, along with some field names that seem unclear and ambiguous. Also, the card displays for FlexWallet are somewhat drab, since it doesn't use an attached graphic in the display.

CodeWallet's greatest strength is the rich detail in the fields included in its standard templates. And wherever possible, fields in CodeWallet have clear and explicit labels. Another strength is its field display options. As for weaknesses, the CodeWallet editor lacks word wrap, dropdowns, zoom windows and other conveniences.

But those weaknesses aside, CodeWallet's comprehensive template content results in the best "out of the box" user experience, and puts it on top in this category. FlexWallet is close behind, with a less comprehensive package, but still good standard templates, and conveniences such as a date picker and a zoom window. A bit further behind is eWallet. While it has some great features such as automatic word wrap and renaming fields on the fly, as well as the most attractive card view, its limited standard templates and overly generic field labels result in the least positive "out of the box" user experience.

Find Function

Figure 26: CodeWallet - Find screen

CodeWallet: The Find function in CodeWallet is brought up with the Find button in the toolbar. Enter the desired text, press Go, and you're presented with a list of matches. Tap on the desired card in the list and it opens in view mode. To see the next match, select "Find Next" from the Tools menu. If you want to go back to the list, close the card and tap on the Find button again. The list from the earlier find is still there.

Figure 27: eWallet - Find screen

eWallet: In eWallet, the Find command is found in the Tools menu on the main category screen. Enter the desired text, press OK, and the first match is displayed in view mode. Select "Find Again" from the Tools menu to see the next match. I prefer the lists that CodeWallet and FlexWallet present over the "browse through the matches" approach in eWallet, especially when you're dealing with lots of matches.

Figure 28: FlexWallet - Find screen

FlexWallet: The Find function in FlexWallet works much like that of CodeWallet... enter the desired text and it returns a list of matches. Tap on a listed card and the card opens in view mode. However, FlexWallet lacks a "Find Next" or "Find Again" command. Instead, you close the matching card and you're brought back to the list, to select another card.

One other thing to bring up with FlexWallet is that it displays a message box that tells you the number of matches found, a box you have to close. If they feel that this number is important, it should be displayed somewhere on the results screen, rather than as an annoying popup.

Find Function - Conclusions: eWallet's browser approach to its Find function isn't as powerful and versatile as the list approach used by the other products, so I rank eWallet last in this category.

The choice between FlexWallet and CodeWallet in this category is a matter of preference. FlexWallet doesn't let you browse the results in a view, but it makes it very easy to get from a viewed card to the results list. CodeWallet allows you to browse the results once you choose a starting point, but it's a bit more cumbersome if you want to work strictly from the list. The overall feel is close enough that I rank FlexWallet and CodeWallet as a tie for first in this category.

The three products have much in common when it comes to security features:
  • 128 bit encryption
  • Option to require password to access the wallet
  • Option to require password to access cards in a category
  • Option to automatically lock the wallet when inactive for a selected period of time
  • Numeric passwords
CodeWallet and eWallet use the common RC4 encryption algorithm, which basically makes them as safe as a Web browser. FlexWallet goes a step further... from their Web site: "Your data is encrypted using Blowfish, XOR, and the Tiny Encryption Algorithm, which together provide redundant, multi-level protection. The Tiny Encryption Algorithm is one of the fastest and most efficient cryptographic algorithms in existence."

There is no mention of any measurable benefits with the use of the multi-level protection, so it's difficult to say that this is a specific advantage.

Returning to the security feature comparison, CodeWallet and eWallet go beyond the previously mentioned features to offer some not available in FlexWallet:
  • Alphanumeric passwords for greater password security
  • Option to lock the wallet for a specified number of minutes after a specified number of failed password attempts
Finally, CodeWallet has one feature all to itself... a timer on its password entry screen and change password screen. You have 30 seconds to enter your password, and 60 seconds to change it. If the timer times out, it counts as a failed password attempt.

One other security issue that I stumbled over... since all three programs can lock automatically after a prescribed length of time, what happens if you're in the middle of entering a new card?

eWallet - Bye, bye, card... when you reopen the program, you're back at the main category screen and the card is gone.
CodeWallet - Automatically saves the card and closes the editor.
FlexWallet - Remains in the card editor when you reopen the program.

This is just an FYI... I'm not factoring this in to the ratings.

Security - Conclusions: All three products are quite secure. However, FlexWallet lacks alphanumeric passwords and protection against failed password attempts, so it gets third place in this category.

eWallet and CodeWallet have almost identical security features, with the exception of CodeWallet's timer on the password screens. Close enough to be called a tie for first place.

Custom Forms and Templates
All three products provide some capability of creating your own forms or templates. But the implementation differs greatly.

CodeWallet: The good news is that CodeWallet has very powerful capabilities in the area of custom forms. The "not so good" news is that it requires the use of a custom card form definition file. Here's a sample to create a card:

; ***************************************
; form for tracking frequent flier miles
; ***************************************
<MyForm> ; Declares the start of a new form layout
Frequent Flier ; Type of the form
1000 ; ID of the form (unique, starting at 1000)
2 ; Number of fields above header line
1 CWF_UPPERALL Airline ; Field ID, Type, Field Name
2 CWF_DEFAULT Member ID ; Field ID, Type, Field Name
3 CWF_PIN PIN ; ...
4 CWF_DEFAULT Telephone ; ...
5 CWF_URL Web site ; ...
6 CWF_EMAIL Email ; ...
7 CWF_DEFAULT Total miles ; ...
7 CWF_DEFAULT Expires ; ...
<EndForm> ; End of this form layout

Looks suspiciously like programming code. It's fortunate that CodeWallet's standard card forms are so robust, because this approach for custom cards isn't for the casual user.

Figure 29: eWallet - Tools menu

eWallet: eWallet leverages its ability to rename fields as its approach to creating templates. To create a new template, it's recommended that you create a card with a template that has content that's close to your desired new template. Modify the field names as desired and then use the "Save to Template" command in the Tools menu.

Sounds like a good approach, but it needs a little more work. I was surprised to find that you can't add or delete fields in a template, only rename them. That seems to me that this would be a fundamental capability of a template editor of this type.

Figure 30: FlexWallet - Manage Templates screen

FlexWallet: FlexWallet implements a very powerful and highly sophisticated template creation scheme, and keeps it easy to use in the bargain. To start, select "Manage Templates" from the Tools menu on the main category screen. FlexWallet displays the Manage Templates screen shown in Figure 30.

Figure 31: Template Editor

To illustrate the use of the template editor, I created a copy of the Contacts template. FlexWallet doesn't allow you to edit templates that have cards based on them, because it would damage the integrity of the cards' data.

You can add a new field, edit an existing field, and move fields up and down.

When adding a new field, you can select a field type. A field type of Password/PIN disguises its data when appropriate, while a field type of Web Address treats its entry as an URL.

Custom Forms and Templates - Conclusions: Both CodeWallet and eWallet have enough drawbacks to their template approaches to merit a tie for second place in this category. While CodeWallet's solution is powerful and flexible, the need to deal with a script file to manage your templates will probably scare off many people who aren't comfortable with code. With eWallet, the inability to add or delete fields in templates makes it less powerful than the other two products, and while its template approach is easier to use than that of CodeWallet, FlexWallet's solution is better still.

What can I say? Two Peaks hit the ball out of the park with FlexWallet's template manager. It's as powerful as CodeWallet's definition file approach, which makes it more powerful than eWallet. Yet it manages to blow away CodeWallet in ease of use, and even tops eWallet in ease of use. Very impressive work!

Odds and Ends
Here are a few remaining items that require little description:

Backups: CodeWallet and eWallet support them, FlexWallet doesn't.

Exports: CodeWallet and eWallet can export your data as plain text from either the Pocket PC or the desktop application. FlexWallet exports only from the Pocket PC, but supports both plain text and XML (a popular standard for data exchange).

Icons: CodeWallet comes with a wide standard assortment, but doesn't support adding icons. eWallet comes with a more limited collection of standard icons, but you can expand the icon collection using .ico files. FlexWallet's standard icon assortment is somewhat limited, and it doesn't support adding icons.

CodeWallet: CodeWallet is compatible with Pocket PC 2000/2002 or later, as well as Pocket PC Phone Edition. It requires approximately 600K of storage space. The desktop version of CodeWallet is compatible with Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000/XP/Tablet PC.

eWallet: eWallet is compatible with all Pocket PCs, including Windows Mobile 2003. It requires approximately 600K of storage space. The desktop version supports Windows 98/ME/2000/XP.

FlexWallet: FlexWallet is compatible with all Pocket PCs, including Windows Mobile 2003. It requires approximately 500K of storage space. I was unable to find specific support information about FlexWallet's desktop version.

Where To Buy
CodeWallet: The Pocket PC version of CodeWallet can be downloaded from Handango, and sells for $19.95. A 30-day trial version is available. The Mobile Sync Pack includes both the Pocket PC and desktop versions of CodeWallet, and can be downloaded from Handango for $29.90.

eWallet: The Pocket PC version of eWallet is available for download from Handango, and sells for $19.95. A 30-day trial version is available. eWallet Professional Edition includes the Pocket PC and desktop versions of eWallet. You can download it from Handango for $29.95.

FlexWallet: FlexWallet can be downloaded from Handango, and sells for $19.95. At the time of this review, Two Peaks is offering the desktop version of FlexWallet at no additional charge, which is a savings of $5.00 over the bundled price of $24.95.

Let me start off by saying that these three products are remarkably well matched. If you need the protection that such a product offers, you can't really go wrong with any of them. And I found nothing sufficiently compelling to recommend that owners of any of these products switch to another.

To be as fair as possible to the products, I thought it would make sense to list two sets of final rankings, based on the types of users that are likely to buy such a product. Many people will buy the product and use it pretty much "out of the box" without customizing it. Others may have many specialized templates that they wish to use, so the ability to customize takes precedence over the basic product.

For the "out of the box, little or no customization" user:

I would recommend CodeWallet for this type of use. This recommendation is based mostly on its superior standard card templates. Based on the assortment of templates included and the comprehensive field collection in each, my guess is that the majority of users would find no real need to create customized templates. CodeWallet offers strong performance in all categories, with the exception of customization. Security is particularly strong.

FlexWallet is a close second. Its standard templates are quite strong, although not quite at the level of CodeWallet, so the out of the box experience should be quite positive. The main drawbacks here are the lack of password failure lockout, and the fact that the displayed cards are rather plain, something to consider when many products are touting custom themes and skins... appearance does count.

Despite its excellent overall performance, eWallet's standard templates seem sparse and incomplete and it uses generic fields where specific fields would be more appropriate, which is not good news for those who want to use the product as is without customization. Aside from this, however, eWallet shines, with great input screens, topnotch presentation and excellent security.

For the "needs to or wants to customize" user:

FlexWallet is the overwhelming favorite for this type of use. Its template manager is both powerful and the easiest to use of any of the customization approaches offered by these products.

I would rank eWallet and CodeWallet at a tie for second place for this type of use. eWallet's new field rename and save as template features are a good start, but they fall a bit short in convenience and power as compared to FlexWallet. And it would be difficult to come up with appropriately customized templates when the ability to add or delete fields is not offered.

On the other hand, CodeWallet is plenty powerful in the customization area, but ease of use in this area is a significant drawback. The custom card definition files aren't extremely complex, and should be a breeze to use for anyone with any coding experience. But some people would look at the code and be immediately intimidated by it. So if easy template creation is your goal, there are better choices than CodeWallet.

So, to wrap up, if you're looking to get the most out of a wallet product out of the box, without the need to customize, look at CodeWallet first. If customization is a high priority for you, you should strongly consider FlexWallet. And although it wasn't my first pick, eWallet is still a strong performer and a solid choice.

eWallet, FlexWallet and CodeWallet... choose your favorite, and then don't leave home without it.


Reviews & Articles

Loading feed...


Loading feed...

Reviews & Articles

Loading feed...


Loading feed...

Reviews & Articles

Loading feed...


Loading feed...

Reviews & Articles

Loading feed...


Loading feed...

Reviews & Articles

Loading feed...


Loading feed...