Living With the Smart Cover

When the Smart Cover was announced during the iPad 2 event back in March, it made quite a stir. That Apple would integrate a cover so seamlessly with the iPad, highlighted just how vital Apple knew the cover to be, particularly in the wider uptake of their beloved tablet.

Any immediate review of the Smart Cover would have been unavoidably glowing, the simplicity and intuitive design would have made it difficult to make any observations past the obvious. With the first delightful click of the magnets ringing in your ears, each word would be another awed utterance about the ingenuity of the Smart Cover.

This is why I waited. The Smart Cover is a wholly practical addition to the iPad, you really need to live with it to truly evaluate its strengths and flaws. Read on to discover if the Smart Cover lives up to its tremendous fanfare.

Tempering First Impressions

The promotional blurb on the Apple web site goes something like this:

The Smart Cover and iPad 2 were made for each other. Literally. Built-in magnets draw the Smart Cover to iPad for a perfect fit that not only protects, but also wakes up, stands up and brightens up your iPad. That’s not just smart. It’s genius.

On first try you’d be hard pressed to disagree. Holding the Smart Cover in your hands for the first time you notice the hinge and wonder, will this really work as seamlessly as all that?

Attaching the Smart Cover.

It does. The powerful pull of the magnets aligning the cover beautifully, almost making that lightness in your wallet worth it. The immediate reaction is inevitably that of a primary school child, I’ve got to show this to someone! A smile creeping onto your face as they skeptically turn the cover over in their hands.

Magnetism.

Over Time

Once the honeymoon period wears off and you stop annoying friends and family by showing them things, you begin to understand why Apple had to design the Smart Cover. Practically, it’s the perfect complement to the iPad 2, making it just that much more effortless to use in almost every way.

The top three most notable features of the Smart Cover are:

  • Its magnetic alignment, which makes using the Smart Cover distinctly easier than using almost any other.
  • The ability to fold it into a stand. Perfect for typing in one configuration, and ideal for watching videos (or displaying information) in the other.
  • The way the cover wakes your iPad as you open it.

Folding the Smart Cover to form a stand.

Each person will have their favourite feature of the Smart Cover, but over time the most useful feature for me has been the ability to prop the iPad 2 up for typing and general use. It’s consistently surprising just how much of a difference it makes to everyday use of the iPad, it stays in this formation for most of the day – nestled next to my Macbook on my desk.

A key point I’d like to make here is how quickly you begin to take the Smart Cover for granted, after a month or so it’s hard to remember what using the iPad was like without it. Part of you feels like the Smart Cover should have been with the iPad all along, its functionality at once ingenious, and obvious; clever, but innately practical.

The alternative.

Critical Thoughts

As you can probably tell, I do really like the Smart Cover. It’s very well thought out and a supremely worthy addition to the list of iPad accessories. There are, however, some problems with it, and I have no qualms about letting loose on a self-proclaimed example of ingenuity by Apple.

Cost

This is a big one. The Smart Cover costs a preposterous amount of money for what it is. I understand that often Apple products are sold at a premium, and that the cost has to cover development as well as production and materials, but the pricing structure for the Smart Cover is bitterly disappointing.

Perhaps this is more of an issue for people outside the US (I live in the UK), but the leather cover is prohibitively expensive at £59 – a price that barely makes an effort to consider differences in currency. The iPad itself is marked out by being priced competitively in comparison to its rivals, but the Smart Cover is well over the odds – particularly for a supposedly essential accessory.

Screen Cleaning

That the Smart Cover cleans the screen of the iPad 2 is pretty clever, I’ll give it that. It’s slightly irritating however that it doesn’t do absolutely all of the screen, leaving three thin strips where the cover doesn’t touch the screen.

This is surely something that can be worked out, while I understand the need for the folds, there must be a more elegant solution.

Folding Away

I’ll admit up front that I don’t have any specific ideas for this, but thought I’d mention it anyway. When moving from having the iPad standing on my desk to holding it in my hand, there’s not an easy place to put the cover without detaching it.

It doesn’t magnetise to the back and so flaps about listlessly, when it does stay still it just doesn’t feel quite right. Perhaps taking it off is the most elegant solution, but I’m interested to see if Apple does anything about this in the next iteration of the Smart Cover.

Folding it away.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Smart Cover is brilliant. It adds so much practical functionality that it’s hard to see why Apple didn’t come up with it sooner.

What you must realise is that the Smart Cover is fundamentally necessary in the development of the iPad, and it’s something that Apple had to come up with on its own. The Smart Cover came about in reaction to what people were actually using their iPads for – Apple didn’t know exactly what they had until the iPad was in the hands of ordinary people.

It is a thoughtful, and in some ways ingenious, accessory that has been invented in reaction to the practical application of the iPad.

Having said that, there are things that can be improved – I’m personally very interested to see if, and how, Apple develops the Smart Cover.

Shiny...