Choosing a Case for the iPad mini


I picked up my Retina iPad Mini this weekend. I'm sure I'll have more to say about the iPad itself later, but that's not the purpose of this blog post. Today, I'd like to talk about something I struggled with even more than which model iPad to purchase, that was which case I would purchase to go along with my iPad.

The primary reason I choose an iPad mini was because I wanted an iPad I would (hopefully) take with me everywhere. I found my full size iPad would spend most of its life on my bedside or coffee table. It was a consumption device, although it was still my primary computing device at the home. I wanted my iPad mini to become my "carry computer".

As such, I had a few requirements for my iPad mini case. First, it had to be thin. I wanted a case that would add as little bulk as possible to the iPad. Second, the case had to offer "full body" coverage for the iPad. Throwing the iPad in my purse with my keys and other accessories I was concerned about the back and chamfered edges becoming scratched. Third, it had to be professional. Given my day job I wanted a case that would fit in appropriately in a courtroom or client meetings without drawing attention. Finally, it had to be functional and act as a stand and keyboard tray for the iPad.

My previous case for the iPad was the Marware CEO Hybrid. I came across this case after trying an Apple smart cover and an invisible shield for my 3rd Generation iPad. This was an extremely functional case with a hand-strap for single handed use, an adjustable stand for multiple viewing angles and good overall protection. Marware makes a version of the CEO for the Mini but I decided against it because the case added quite a bit of bulk to the iPad. If you prioritize function and protection over size, this is a strong case to consider, but ultimately I decided against it.

When I ordered my iPad mini I initially ordered an Apple Smart Cover along with a Belkin Snap Shield to add protection to the back. My mom uses a Snap Shield and Smart Cover for her third generation iPad and it's a great combination. Ultimately I returned these cases. While the Snap Shield for the first generation mini likely would fit the retina mini, the one I received (the old stock) didn't have the small cut-out on the back to accommodate the new microphone on the back of the retina mini. Additionally, I wasn't sure the frosted case would look as good on a space gray iPad as a silver.

Although I initially discounted the Apple Smart Case due to its cost, it was a review, more particularly the stunning photography, by Andrew Kim that caught my interest. The leather case really looked high quality, professional and minimalist. A real upgrade from last year's clunky case and the first generation sleeve.

It's only been a few days, but I've been very satisfied with the Smart Case. At $70, it was more than I wanted or intended to spend on a case, but it feels right. The last thing I would want to do is cheapen my iPad with a gimmicky case. The Smart case offers full-body protection with precision cut openings for the lightning port, camera, microphones and rotation lock/mute switch. There are no rough edges and it has a nice feel. The Apple logo on the back adds a nice touch that is only available on Apple cases.

The case is thin and adds minimal bulk to the iPad. It easily fits in my small purse. While the wrap around nature of the case is going to offer protection from scrapes, dings and minor bumps, it's probably not going to do much in the event of a major drop. Thankfully, I have never lost an iPhone or iPad to accidental damage, but I do carry AppleCare+ on my iPhone and am for the first time considering it seriously for the iPad.

The cover will sleep and wake the iPad and will fold away to a stand or to prop up the iPad for better typing. However, as many have complained, the tri-fold design to not be as sturdy as the previous generation four-fold smart covers. I find myself needing to double-check the Smart case to confirm it is secure as it is easy to come undone. I'm also a bit disappointed the back of the case doesn't have any magnets built in. It would be nice if the Smart Cover would secure to the back of the iPad when flipped open rather than just dangle.

I have no idea how the case will wear over time. Apple warns the colors could fade. The case is made from leather so scuffs and wear is expected, but I'm hopeful it will wear gracefully. If I do opt for AppleCare+ I'm unsure whether it would cover the SmartCase similar to how AppleCare for the Mac will cover some accessories bought at the same time.

The Smart Case is expensive, but it also feels like a premium product. There's still room for improvement, but this is a big step up from the previous generation Smart Case and it complements my mini well.