Review: Incase Origami workstation for iPad/keyboard

by Mike Evans
Apple’s iPad doesn’t stand up on its own, but there are hundreds of props, crutches and stands for the world-beating tablet. Many include custom-made bluetooth keyboards to turn the pad into a very bulky package. Yet these expensive combination devices are becoming popular, according to my subjective straw poll in cafes and airport lounges. Personally, though, I prefer the familiarity and heft of Apple’s wonderful Wireless Keyboard to any third-party solution.

In June I wrote about the iPad in conjunction with Apple’s keyboard as a laptop substitute. I even paired the keyboard with Twelve South’s Compass Stand, declaring it a near-ideal arrangement if you want to travel with your iPad but miss the feel of a laptop keyboard. 

Since then I’ve had some second thoughts. For starters, the excellent Twelve South Compass has become a magnet for over-zealous airport security, especially in Zürich where the haphazard requirements can be super frustrating. Woebetide anyone with body piercings, better to take the train to Munich and board the plane there. 

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been taken off to a little room in Zürich airport, patted down and had my shoes picked apart. Yet all this was as nothing when I transited with the Twelve South stand. Sitting in its little velvet case, the innocuous device was secreted in an inner compartment of my bag.

The security guys wouldn’t say what they were looking for. Had they told me it it could look like a knife I might have thought about the stand. Instead they pulled everything out and sent the bag through the scanner no fewer than three times. Eventually the poor old blameless Twelve South stand was dragged from its pocket and publicly pilloried. I even had to open it and prop up the iPad so they could see that it wasn’t really a cunningly disguised carving knife. Second time this happened, I realised I had better pack the stand in hold luggage in future. Rather defeats the objective when starting a nine-hour flight, doesn’t it?

My second beef with the modular approach is that the wireless keyboard does need some form of protection if it is to be stuffed inside an over-full carry-on bag. So I turned to Tom Bihn and bought one of his new Keyboard Cache cosies. This impeccably crafted accessory arrived in short shrift and was well up to standards you expect from Seattle’s answer to Louis Vuitton. Your wireless keyboard is as snug as a bug in a rug inside the Cache.

Wait, though: The mobile office now consists of iPad, highly dangerous Compass stand, wireless keyboard and Tom Bihn Cache. It smacks of overkill and, frankly, takes up more space than I like. You also have to ferret around in your bag when setting up your superior in-flight workstation.

 

 

Then, while mooching around the accessory shelves of my local Apple Store, I came across a cheap little device called the “Origami Workstation for iPad and Wireless Keyboard from Incase”. It had a much shorter price tag, a mere £19.99. Can’t be any good, I thought, as I mentally checked off my expensive Tom Bihn Cache and my ever-so-trendy Compass Stand sitting back home and ready for the off. Only £19.99 for a paper or cardboard joke stand. Not for me, so I retreated for a cappuccino at Caffe Concerto.

The following week I re-entered the Apple Store and found one of the OWiP&WK boxes invitingly ajar. I felt no guilt in pulling out the case for inspection. Suprisingly, it isn’t made from stiff paper or card as I imagined, it uses what appears to be the same rubbery plastic as the original Apple iPad slim case. It is a very simple folio to hold the wireless keyboard but has hidden talents.

The base contains two metal spring clips which fit perfectly over the battery bulge of the keyboard. Once clamped in, the keyboard is firmly fixed and won’t move or fall out. The top cover completely covers the business side of the keyboard and can be closed with  a couple of Velcro tabs. Although the edges of the keyboard are protected, the sides of the case remain open and susceptible to entry of foreign bodies such as the odd paperclip. That’s not a big criticism, I feel.

Despite the bargain-basement price, I immediately sensed ultimate common sense in this arrangement, especially when I folded back the cover and turned it, origami-style, into a solid angled stand for the tablet. Sold, to the man with the luxury Tom Bihn Cache and Twelve stand combination.

As a keyboard case, the Origami Etcetera Etcetera offers good protection and very little bulk. In this aspect it is preferable to Tom Bihn’s padded and rather bulky pouch. Fold back the top cover of the case, stick the two halves together with the Velcro pads and the Etcetera becomes a very effective stand. The iPad can sit at the back of the keyboard at an ideal angle for typing. Almost any type of case, certainly the Smart Cover, can be left attached since there are no fixing brackets; the iPad simply sits there. What’s more, this low-tech solution leaves the 30-pin dock connector available, even when the iPad is placed vertically (just invert the tablet so the home button and connector are at the top).

All in all, this is a simple, light and thin solution to the problem of setting up the iPad as a laptop replacement. It’s as cheap as chips and knocks spots off more expensive solutions. Sorry Tom, sorry Twelve South. And sorry Zurich airport staff, this rubberised etcetera etcetera will spoil your fun.