iPad Cases and Keyboards

November 1, 2013

in Travel Tech

  • SumoMe

Today Apple kicked off sales of its new full-sized “iPad Air.”

They aren’t cheap. Prices run from $499 to $799.

If you bought one for yourself, or as a gift for someone, you should protect that high-tech investment with a cover, case,or a combination case and Bluetooth keyboard.

Here why you should do so, and reviews of three different types of cases I’ve tried out during the past year.

The “Naked” iPad

The iPad Air (and the earlier iPad 2 model which Apple will continue to sell) can be used without a case.

And in Apple product videos, you probably won’t see anyone using an iPad with a case.

But, I wouldn’t recommend using an iPad “naked.”

The aluminum backing on the iPad is a bit slippery. So is its glass screen. That might not be a problem if you’re sitting down and propping the iPad up in your lap, or laying it flat on a desk or table.

But as soon as you pick up your iPad and start carrying it around, or hold it out in front of yourself to shoot a photo or video, you’re risking having it fly out of your hands and crash onto the floor.

The Apple “Cover Up”

Apple sells two almost look-alike products that will cover up your iPad.

imageThe least expensive ($39) is the iPad “Smart Cover.” Magnets connect it to the edge of the iPad while its polyurethane cover protects the screen, but not the back of the iPad.

The other Apple-made option is the iPad “Smartimage Case” ($49 polyurethane, $79 in leather) which I ordered at the time I purchased my iPad (4th generation) last year.

The iPad slips into the bottom of the “Smart Case” while the folding cover protects the screen.

The iPad can quickly be quickly detached from the “Smart Cover,” while the tablet has to be “extricated” from the fairly snug-fitting “Smart Case.”

As the following video (made at the time the iPad 3 was released) shows, the “cover” part on both the “Smart Cover” and the “Smart Case” folds at a low angle for typing, and a higher angle for reading, watching movies or making video phone calls.

I found typing on the iPad in its “Smart Case” a bit awkward. The typing “platform” seemed stable enough, but I had to bend far forward over the iPad to see the screen, a recipe for neck strain if you type for extended periods of time.

And if you’re a touch-typist, you’ll produce a line of “afadroeaoireqwirfqefnqweerf” gibberish if you rest your fingers on the iPad’s virtual keyboard. Hunt-and-peck, two-finger typing works best.

As the video showed, you’ll probably find the iPad a bit wobbly if you set either the “Smart Cover” or “Smart Case” to a higher angle for reading. To prevent the iPad from falling over backwards, you may have to hold the bottom of the cover/case with one hand while tapping on the screen with the other hand.

At either angle, the iPad sits in the cover/case in horizontal (landscape) rather than vertical (portrait) orientation.

Unfortunately, many apps are designed primarily for the iPhone and do not rotate from portrait to landscape when opened on an iPad. To compensate for that lack of rotation, you’ll have to flip the iPad in a cover/case into portrait orientation.

But in that orientation you’ll probably want to fold the cover over the back of the iPad so you can lay it on a flat surface or hold it in your hands. If you fold the cover into “typing mode” the iPad will be tilted downward on one edge. And you’ll find that the iPad sits very unstably in the vertical position if the cover is folded into the “reading/viewing mode.”

If you will often be carrying the iPad around at home or at work, or between the two, and not typing on the iPad for lengthy periods of time, either the “Smart Cover” or “Smart Case” may be the least expensive way to protect your iPad from damage and make it a bit easier to use.

ZAGG Bluetooth Keyboards

Since I wanted a physical keyboard as well as a case, I checked out the Bluetooth keyboards for iPad being sold by manufacturers other than Apple.

I settled on the $129.99 ZAGGkeys PROfolio+ keyboard case, one of several such cases which the company makes for both the full-sized iPad and the iPad Mini.

This keyboard is slightly narrower, but about the same width, as the Apple wireless keyboard I use with my iMac desktop computer. Its keys and responsive, and backlit for easier use in a poorly lit environment (such as onboard an airplane whose overhead lighting has been dimmed).

The iPad slips securely into the top cover of the ZAGGKeys PROfolio+, while the bottom edge of the iPad rests in a slot on the keyboard at an ideal angle for viewing the screen when typing or reading.

The iPad “sleeps” when you close it on top of the keyboard. The keyboard covers are plastic, but seem quite solid, and have a mottled finish to keep it (and your iPad) from slipping out of your hand or moving around on a flat surface like an airplane tray table.

This video demonstrates the keyboard in operation.

The only disadvantage of using the ZAGGkeys PROfolio+ keyboard case is that it locks your iPad into horizontal (landscape) orientation. So if you open an app that doesn’t rotate from vertical (portrait) to horizontal, you have to lay the ZAGG flat or awkwardly upright, or remove the iPad from it.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover ($99.95 full retail price) is a compromise choice between Apple’s “Smart Cover” and the ZAGGKeys PROfolio+.

Like Apple’s “Smart Cover,” the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover attaches to the edge of the iPad with magnets. To hand hold the “naked” iPad, you just lift it away from its magnetic connection to the keyboard.

Like the ZAGGKeys PROtfolio+, the iPad sits into a slot in Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover at a comfortable viewing angle for typing or reading, and connects to the keyboard via Bluetooth.

If you open an app that does not rotate from horizontal to vertical, simply lift the iPad from its horizontal position in the slot in the Logitech keyboard, and then set it back down into the slot vertically.

Magnets in the slot hold the iPad fairly securely in a horizontal position, although a bit less so when the iPad is placed onto the keyboard vertically.

If you were using an iPad in Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover on an airplane tray table when the plane encountered significant in-flight turbulence, my guess is that the iPad could fly off the keyboard. That’s probably less likely to happen if the iPad were tucked into the top of the ZAGGKeys PROfolio+.

The keys on the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover are not backlit, but the overall size of the keyboard is about the same  the ZAGG keyboard, and typing on the Logitech is just as easy on the ZAGG.

Update Issues

As I mentioned in my review of the new iOS7 mobile operating system, some users of various makes and models of iPad Bluetooth keyboards, including those made by ZAGG and Logitech, have reported that some keyboard function keys (like “Search”) stopped working after their iPads were updated to iOS7. Other users have had trouble getting their Bluetooth keyboards to “pair” with their iPads. Whether these can be resolved via a firmware update from the keyboard manufacturers or an iOS& update from Apple remains to be seen.

Also, the new iPad Air is slightly thinner that the prior iPad models, so case and keyboard makers may come out with new models designed especially for the newest full-sized iPad.

Carrying Cases

If you plan on taking your iPad with you when you travel, I  highly recommend purchasing a neoprene sleeve for it, even if you have a Bluetooth keyboard case.

The one I bought for my old PC notebook fits my iPad regardless of which keyboard case I use.

Neoprene cases are widely available, and you can buy one from Apple, Amazon.com, or  retail stores.

iPad Mini Cases

The latest version of Apple’s smaller iPad, the “Mini,” will be released later this month.

Apple sells a “Smart Cover” and “Smart Case” for the iPad Mini as well as the iPad Air and iPad 2.

ZAGG and Logitech make keyboard cases for the Mini, too.

And you can purchase a neoprene sleeve for the smallest iPad.

(Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan, bought the Apple “Smart Case,” ZAGGKeys PROfolio+, and Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover mentioned in this story. Purchases made from Amazon.com through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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