The iPad Case Dilemma

Last month we ran an intriguing poll that simply asked what type of iPad case you used, and the results got me thinking. The success of the iPad has allowed an almost laughably vast industry to grow up simply providing cases and covers of all shapes and sizes, covering every possible need while allowing you to spend up to $4,900 (for an iPad case made from the finest alligator skin) in the process.

No other item I can think of has caused such a strong bout of case-fever. Even the Nokia 3310 only had one actual type of case, albeit in an almost unwaveringly disgusting smorgasbord of colours and designs. The clearest thing that was highlighted by the poll is the surprisingly even spread of cases people owned and used, there seemed to be no clear consensus on the ‘best’ way to protect, carry, and augment the iPad.

I decided to give it some thought…

Where I Stand

I may as well begin by explaining where I stand on iPad cases, before I delve into some thoughts on the dilemma at hand. I currently have an iPad 2 with a black leather Smart Cover, but also own a simple padded zip case for putting the iPad in whilst travelling around. Here is my reasoning:

  • The Smart Cover is perfect for almost all the ways I use my iPad, it regularly resides on my desk either covered, or propped up by, said cover. It only really comes off when I’m using the iPad in my lap, the Smart Cover being the perfect solution for those of us who want to get the iPad naked as quickly as possible.
  • The zip case has a much more straight forward purpose; to protect the whole iPad when it’s being carried in a bag, or transported in a vehicle.
Attaching the Smart Cover.

Attaching the Smart Cover.

I won’t talk much more about the Smart Cover as I gave it a thorough review only a few weeks ago, suffice to say that I really do like it, despite its flaws (#1 being the cost). I have found that these two solutions cover almost every situation I have experienced with my iPad, but recently have found an annoying exception; standing the iPad in portrait (for use on a music stand).

Neither of my cases allows for this whatsoever, which got me considering another case purchase. I balked at the thought and decided that it could handle this one task without a cover, after doing a brief risk assessment.

The interesting thing here, as highlighted by the poll comments, is that people (who read AppStorm) often have at least two cases, if not three or more. It does strike me as strange that there isn’t yet a single solution for the iPad that solves almost everyone’s usage scenarios.


The fact is that the iPad offers the user a significant degree of choice when it comes to how you use it. This choice has given rise to the vast array of case options that we are now presented with. You may often lecture from your iPad, or type regularly, or read on the train, or watch films, or all of the above. A vast array of cases have arisen to fill a perceived need.

The effortlessly smart DODOcase for iPad 2.

The effortlessly smart DODOcase for iPad 2.

Unlike most other technological devices the iPad even allows you to choose the orientation you’d like, are you a portrait or a landscape person?

Even when compared to the iPhone the choices are overwhelming; iPhone cases are almost always a simple attempt to protect the back while adding some personal flair to the device.

The most commonly used case in the poll was the folio case, with the iPad skin case coming a respectable second. I can certainly understand the widespread adoption of the folio case as the standard, at least amongst the discerning AppStorm readership, it gives a good degree of protection while also providing support and acting as a stand. The only downside being that it’s potentially fiddly to get the iPad out, meaning that the case is a permanent feature.

My personal hesitation to adopt a folio case or iPad skin belies a simple issue I have with those cases. I love the design and feel of the iPad without a case too much to hide it away in normal use. Perhaps shockingly, I have never even considered a case for my iPhone – and it hasn’t backfired on me yet…

Your Thoughts

Perhaps the very nature of the iPad means that there will never be a single solution the fits everyone, maybe it’s too diverse in its scope to be tied to a single accessory. If you err on the side of protection I can see the folio solution being the way to go (and you can get some rather delicious ones), whereas if you’re a fan of having the iPad out I can see the Smart Cover being an integral part of your solution.

Interesting the were a number of people who said that they didn’t use a case whatsoever, it’s certainly interesting that the iPad is never advertised as needing one – even the Smart Cover doesn’t feature in most of the television ads.

What are your thoughts on the iPad case dilemma? Will there ever be a single unified solution (I sound like a physicist)? What is the reasoning behind your case choices?

I has to be said that some of the cases available are simply stunning, I can feel myself being tempted at the mere thought of the DODOcase (it doesn’t even fold into a stand…). We sure have come a long way from the Apple iPad skin designed for the original iPad, what would you love to see in the future?

As a final thought I’d like to leave you with a picture of a very silly iPad accessory (it exceeds the definition of a case by some distance).

Yes, this is a jacket that has an iPad pouch built into the front...

Yes, this is a jacket that has an iPad pouch built into the front...

It costs $285.

  • David Lee

    I use ONE case, the STM Skinny. It covers both sides, has the magnetic on/off function, and stands the iPad 2 up in landscape AND portrait mode! So there you go. (Oh yes, and I also have a zippered neoprene-pouch-with-handle from Solo that I put the whole thing in when on the move). Great protection and utility all-around.

  • Jason

    I have an Dodo (it’s awesome) & an Otterbox. I’ve tended to stick with the Otter recently as it’s just more durable for day to day use, & I really don’t want to damage the Dodo – it really is a work of art.
    I don’t use the integrated stand of the Otterbox, (except at the office) instead I pop it in a Built sleeve, I’ve got a Built sleeve for my MacBook too, & it’s excellent.
    My two cents…

  • mangochutney

    I’ve been faced with a similar dilemma lately.

    On the one hand I hate cases for my devices with a passion, because they usually mess up the great design of said device. Other reasons include varying degrees of protection and added bulk.

    On the other hand I’m very anal with my gadgets and try to keep them in a pristine condition. With the iPhone 4 I only put on a case (black bumper) when I’m go trekking, or when things might get hectic, at a concert or party.

    The reason I bought a case for the iPad — which arrived only yesterday — is the fact that I’m going to be using it daily in university during the next semester and I wouldn’t want to scratch it when it’s laying on one table or another.
    So I bought a Switcheasy Cover Buddy (clear, no soft touch) to go with my Smart Cover, which I really like.
    As I’ve said, I only got the case yesterday, and it has a few minor flaws, but so far I’m satisfied with the purchase.
    I also bought the Speck Smart Case alongside the Cover Buddy, but I’ve found the Switcheasy to be of a better build quality and better thought-out.

    As an added bonus, I can put stickers on the case (like this one: without having to peel them off of the iPad at some point.

  • John

    I love the comment from Jason.. who doesnt use the Doddo case too much as he doesnt want to damage it.. the itself case being an item originally designed to protect the iPad from damage.

    It just goes to show how much people care about the iPad… AND subsequently its accompanying accessories.

    Me being one them :)

  • Justin

    I still have an iPad 1 (waiting for the iPad 3) and I got the original Apple case. It’s definitely not the best, but it does what I need it to do – protect the device from scratches and small dings while transporting it.

    If I had an iPad 2, I’d probably do what my friend does and use a smart cover and a neoprene sleeve. I’d also get something for the back, like the AViiQ Smart Case (or similar) to protect the back surface while using it in the lab.

  • Omar Kamel

    Smart Cover + HyperShield. Good to go.

  • Rob

    I used to use the Smart Cover + a Zagg Shield for the screen, but a few months back I (gasp) scratched the back pretty bad. After that I purchased the Speck PixelSkin HD Wrap which is quite nice.

    They now have a sort of hybrid model of that PixelSkin that provides a textured, secure back while still allowing the Smart Cover to attach itself, so I will likely be buying that soon.

    • mangochutney

      The Pixelskin Wrap works without the Smart Cover, it provides protection for all sides of the iPad.
      What you probably mean is the Smart Case. I found it to be inferior to the Switcheasy Cover Buddy.

  • sunny kim

    incase origami sleeve FTW!

    it wins because:
    – it offers all around protection
    – it also acts as a stand
    – i can use the ipad naked without getting it out of a fiddly case

  • Tim

    I use a Smart Cover with an Invisible Shield.

    I never worry about scratches amy more.

    Now, if I could just get my hands on one of those G-Form cases, then I wouldn’t need to worry about dropping it (which, I have yet to do,,, hurrah!)

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  • Owen

    my daughter has an iPad, loaded with apps for autism. We protect it with the Zagg invisishield and have replaced the smartcover with the gecko gaming glove. sits much better in your hands, and a little safer

  • Dennis

    I’ve been using a case made by ZooGue for the past year. From my experience most ipad users I’ve run into have never seen one before. And when they check it out they say they’re going to look into getting one.

    I spent a couple of weeks on and off researching various covers, features and prices and for my needs of everyday use this product is the best. I added an Invisible Shield simply to help protect the screen from my clumsy ways but it had nothing to do with the cover, which provides very good protection. I’ve dropped my ipad accidentally couple of times off of tables onto the floor (a few off the ground) and feel that without this cover the pad could have really gotten banged up. I’ve been lucky but I think the cover had a lot to do with protecting the ipad from damage.

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  • danielle

    I use a Targus rotating stand and case for my iPad2. Overall its great, offering good protection to the iPad. Depending on how picky you are, here are the following points to be aware of:

    1. When in use, the plastic bezel that provides rotation leaves a slight indent in the case, it looks as though a cup has been sat on it.
    2 The soft suede interior is great at keeping the screen clean/free of smudges, however where the two recesses are for the stand feature, there are two corresponding areas on the screen that do not receive the same cleaning feature.

  • Phil Atkinson

    I use a bodyguards full protective film with a smartcover. The bodyguards is similar to invisishield but easier to apply and has a better fit in my opinion