iPad Extras: Cases, docks and keyboards

Posted on by Mike Evans

Buying a new iPhone or iPad is only the start of investment in the system. Applications, of course, can add hundreds to the original cost. Accessories, too, are constantly tempting - and I find cases especially hard to resist. With my iPhone I've been very happy with the excellent Piel Frama leather flip case with magnetic fastening; so much so, in fact, that I was quick to spend over £100 on the larger version for the iPad. 

After using the case for the past three weeks I have become aware how much it adds to the thickness and weight of the naked iPad. It provides superb protection and a real quality feel, but it is more akin to a carrying case than a protective cover. It's ideal if you want to carry the case in your hand, but when it is placed in a bag the added bulk is worrying. 

MC361So now I am trying Apple's standard £30 case made from a sort of neoprene, similar to the fabric of a wetsuit. It's a minimalist design but holds the iPad snugly (a little too snugly because inserting the tablet is a bit like putting on a wetsuit. You wouldn't want to keep taking the iPad out). The cover is hinged (similar to that of the Piel Frama case) but has a fixing catch to create a serviceable stand. It's intended to be used in landscape mode, but even in portrait mode the device stands upright.

All in all, this case adds very little to the bulk or weight of the iPad and, surprisingly, I now feel I am holding a smaller tablet. I will try it for size over the next few weeks and then be in a position to make a direct comparison between minimalist and maximalist. If I do like it, mainly for its lack of bulk, I could be looking for a similar case for the new iPhone 4G when it comes out.

The use of a case - any case - has a bearing on what other accessories you might want to buy. Even Apple's own offering doesn't allow docking without pulling the iPad out of the cover. And believe me, you don't want to do that every day. So the iPad dock and the docking keyboard are really ruled out if you prefer to keep your device in a case. The standard Apple wireless keyboard, while lacking one or two dedicated keys, is a much more sensible option. It is also lighter and less bulky than the new keyboard dock. 

Stands of various types are becoming available and, again, most are designed to hold a naked iPad. So, again, these attractive aluminium stands are of little use.

There should be a demand for smaller messenger bags and backpacks designed specifically for the iPad. My current Crumpler 13in is fine for my MacBook Pro and, of course, more than accommodates the iPad in its carrying case - but there is no dedicated compartment for the iPad and it does rattle around a bit. Within the next few months I expect to see a wide range of specially designed shoulder bags, messenger bags and backpacks with secure compartments to fit the iPad. A separate compartment for the Apple Bluetooth keyboard would also be a big selling point.

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