iPad 2 : It’s all about the case

April 25th, 2011 § 0 comments

How my iPad spends most of it's life

Faster processor, more memory, blah blah blah. Nobody outside of the technorati actually care about such stats. Real people care about how a product feels and how usable it is. In this regard a naked iPad is very similar to an iPad 2 and I’ve even seen naive people try to argue that an out of case iPad was in fact an iPad 2. Once you put them both in cases, however, it’s a totally new ballgame.

It felt a little silly at the time but one of my primary reasons for not purchasing an original iPad was the case1. I’ve never been a fan of cases and still carry my iPhone (screen always facing my leg!) with nothing more than a screen protector. Not only are they bulky and ugly but they often make buttons harder to operate and accessories like the square credit card swiper unusable. Even the Apple Bumper case makes older “pinch to unplug2 Apple Dock Connector cables obsolete which is a non-starter for me as I have a ton of them tucked away in various bags and charging locations around my house. There was no way, however, that I was going to buy a $500+ device and leave that big beautiful screen unprotected. Seeing as it would spend most of it’s (short) life on a vulnerable coffee table within reach of my 2-year old I knew that I would have to wrap up a beautifully designed piece of hardware in some odious vinyl/leather/felt/plastic combo.

Odious doesn’t even begin to describe most of the cases that were available for the first iPad at launch. The official Apple iPad Case is the perfect example of everything that was wrong with the lineup. Not only did it cover up the smooth design lines with some bulky felt-ish case but it also rendered some of the accessories useless (most notably the keyboard dock). A pain to take on & off nobody is going to use both the case and the dock rendering one of them a waste of money. Add to all this the fact that handling the case for 30 seconds caused the felt to be flattened in some areas making the case instantly look dirty and old.

I’m guessing that Mr. Steve P. Jobs prefers to leave his iOS devices unencumbered as well but I’m sure he saw enough iPads covered in the Apple equivalent of black kangaroo fur floating around Infinity Loop that it left a sour taste in his mouth. Perhaps he satiated himself by lighting a bonfire under a design team and that is why we have the case to end all cases. Ok, they call it a Smart Cover because it doesn’t encase the entire device but I’m going to call it a case because that’s what we are comparing  against. Though it’s really not a very fair comparison.

Whenever I show off my new iPad, whether it’s to an iPad novice or to an Apple fanboy, there is one aspect that tends to dominate the conversation. The case. Even my mother who asked “so what is this thing? … Oh, so this is an iPad.” asked about it. After showing her the feature set that is little changed from the original (email, safari, apps) she pointed at the folded orange case I was using to prop it up and said “so what is that?” in a voice of piqued interest. I was showing a fanboy friend who hadn’t put his hands on the new iPad yet the cool AirPlay features when he said in an almost dismissive voice “so that’s the new cover”. I then quickly flipped it over and rolled it down to lock the iPad and his tone shifted completely as he conceded “oh … that’s pretty cool”. After showing people how easy it is to prop up, unlock and tuck behind the iPad the coup de grâce is removing the smart cover. Without fail their eyes go wide as a slight tug removes the case. This is followed by the sound of slight awe as I casually snap it back on by merely bringing the edges within rough proximity.

Who among us has not suffered through the ordeal that is putting a precious electronic device in a protective case. Sometimes even the very effort can damage the thing we are trying to protect. I believe it’s this common burden that makes the case almost universally appreciated. Some part of our brain flashes back to a moment where we were exerting way to much force on a $500 product in an attempt to squeeze it into a $30 case.

  1. My other, and admittedly stronger, motive is the fact that despite my love of new and shiny things I’m not a big fan of being a first adopter. It has burned me many times in the past; especially when a new version comes out that solves my laundry list of grievances but is not improved enough to justify throwing out my original investment []
  2. Oh how I love these old school cables. Not only do they last longer but they are easier to take on and off! Beyond the fact that the adapter is slightly more elegant because of it’s smaller size I will never understand why they changed it. []

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