A Case Against The iPad Smart Cover

Apple iPad Smart Cover

The arrival of the iPad 2 has to be the technological highlight of the year so far. And, potentially, the technological highlight of the entire year. And, with the iPad 2 came the curious, heavily marketed best buddy of the new Pad: the Smart Cover. Videos of the cover in action popped up, getting everyone hyped for both products: we all believed that the Smart Cover and the iPad were indispensable to each other. They were assumed to have this intense symbiotic relationship that–without having one or the other–you weren’t getting the real iPad 2 experience.

Bobby and I tried for a few weeks, waiting in Apple store lines, to get our hands on both of these products. We had our eyes on a black iPad and a black, leather Smart Cover. When we got it, we slapped the two together and sat in awe opening and closing the cover, locking and unlocking it with a quick flip.

After a few weeks of keeping the two together, we started to experience some annoyances. The iPad itself was amazing: better screen, a camera, more capability, thiner size. The second generation iPad was exactly what we thought it was going to be and more. But, the cover? We found ourselves using it less and less and often losing it to the bottom of our respective bags. What happened? We’re huge Apple fanboys and waited, fervently, to get our hands on both products. Why were we so quick to abandon the iPad’s codependent friend?

Well, it kind of sucks. That’s why.

First, as obvious as it sounds, the cover is only a cover. It doesn’t cover the back nor does it actually have a latch to secure it on to your iPad. Yes, magnets are used to keep one side of it safely clasped, but that doesn’t actually *do* that much. When you slide your Pad into your bag, the back of your device is 100% vulnerable. Of course, this is the sturdier, metal side but–as we all know from owning iPods, iTouches, iPhones, and the iPad’s previous generation–the back of the device needs some protection. Placing your iPad between books or within a small cavity of your book bag to protect it is a great idea–but I shouldn’t have to think, “Gee, let me slide these in between books or in a small sleeve” in order to keep it safe…especially when I purchased a cover for that reason, to give my iPad “a little extra protection.”

Secondly, the cover doesn’t stay on! If I had a nickel for every time I was in a meeting and Sword & Sworcery or Mos Speedrun decided to play their respective theme songs, I would have a lot of embarrassed nickels weighing down my pockets. As mentioned earlier, the cover works with magnets. Seems like a fantastic idea and it is executed very smoothly…but the magnets on the locking side are not that strong and frequently leads to its unlocking itself. Again, it is as if the Cover needs a physical latch to ensure the the cover is going to stay on. Now, of course, maybe I should just return to my home screen before closing the Smart Cover to lock the iPad. But, why? Isn’t the point of the Cover to close it whenever I want to lock the device? Even if I am midway through a game, YouTube video, Netflix video, or music session? There is no reason I should have to be concerned that the Cover is going to fall off while unattended.

That leads me to the Cover’s awkward use. Flipping the Cover around to the metallic back or even sliding it to the side to use the iPad or show someone something creates an unstable situation to hold it because you are juggling the device itself along with this unstable attachment. If your iPad were to fall and you go to grab your Cover to save it, say goodbye to your iPad: the Cover bails itself from that fallen ‘Pad.

Moreover, when using it as a stand, it can be a little awkward because the angles it sets your iPad at are weird. When lying the iPad down horizontally with the Cover, things work out pretty okay. Typing is easier and the device is elevated some for better game play or Internet browsing. But, when standing the device up horizontally with the Cover, nothing is really gained. Sure, okay: it may work well for FaceTime and other photo opportunities. But, I have yet to use that on my iPad and do not know anyone who has used that option on their iPad. Moreover, one would think that its standing up so straight would make great compatibility for a wireless keyboard, but it barely does: the angle at which your iPad is propped up is a little awkard and slightly unbearable to use. It makes a terrible imitation laptop. I’ve resigned to just typing on the screen itself, without the case.

Naturally, you can tell that Cover is cumbersome. Apple said it was supposed to make “your iPad still look and feel like an iPad” but, instead, it’s like you have this weird condom on top of your iPad that is terribly distracting. Sure, I know that some users out there are getting along famously with their Covers. I have just found it far too distracting in a bad way from the iPad experience. Similarly, the covers are not as nice as you would hope. I have a black leather one that I would never guess is actually leather. And, the polyurethane covers do not have subtler covers nor do they seem as durable. In effect, I got duped into a leather upsell that doesn’t really feel that special.

Apple claims the Cover is “one great idea on top of another.” I disagree. The cover instead is one very okay designed, clumsy, and cumbersome idea LITERALLY on top of–and stifling–a great idea.

In terms of solutions, let me suggest a few directions. First, a sleeve seems to be the best idea and Griffin, Incase, and even Marc Jacobs offer great options. And, still want a stand? Incase’s Convertible Magazine Jacket is a great option.

Does anyone else know of any good sleeve or jacket options for your iPad? Dissimilarly, is anyone still getting along famously with their iPad Smart Cover? Let us know what you think!


May 10, 2011