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Hands on: Smart Case, Smart Cover for iPad Air

updated 07:12 am EST, Tue November 5, 2013

Apple updates Smart Case, Smart Cover for iPad Air

The new narrow and thin dimensions of the Apple iPad Air have necessitated the creation of a new range of matching Apple covers. The updated Smart Cover ($39) and the new Smart Case ($79) have been tailor made by Apple in multiple color options to match its next-generation tablet. The Smart Cover and the Smart Case are each multifunctional, offering both protection and the ability to be used in two different positions, while also automatically putting your device to sleep or waking it. So which one do you choose?

The Smart Cover is made with polyurethane and provides protection for the display of your iPad Air, but leaves the back exposed. Given that the design of the new iPad Air is both stunning and robust, if you take care with your iPad Air, this is the better option if you want to minimize additional weight. As it attaches magnetically, it is also quickly and easily removable allowing you to take full advantage of the incredible lightness of the iPad Air. If you take this option, you run the risk of picking up marks on your brand new iPad Air, but you can have your cake and eat it too.

There are plenty of third-party sleeves that you can keep your iPad Air in when on the move to protect the rear of the device in transit, or you could opt to apply one of the many different skins products that are just stating to come to market now in iPad Air dimensions. This will give additional protection to your iPad Air on the rear, while minimizing the scratches and marks from light knocks. In the meantime, your Apple Smart Case will take care of the front. However, if you drop you iPad Air, a skin is not going to give you the best protection if it lands on the rear or corner. There are also some Smart Cover-compatible rear plastic cases that can offer a mid-way compromise between the Smart Cover and the Smart Case. When combined with the Smart Cover, this option offers maximum protection, with the additional weight offset somewhat by the ability to remove the Smart Cover at will.

Though for many people, choosing the Smart Cover remains the best option, as for them, they are prepared to trade off additional protection for complete portability. One notable change to the new Smart Cover is that adopts the dual-fold mechanism from the iPad mini Smart Cover, instead of the triple fold found on the iPad 2 Smart Cover. This is probably resulted from the narrower width of the iPad Air, but is also a little easier to fold into position for typing or as a stand. Unfortunately, it compromises stability to some extent when positioned on your lap for onscreen typing, though its still works well on stable surfaces.

The new Smart Case is made with leather and adopts the same dual-fold front cover of the Smart Cover, but this is seamlessly connected to a protective case. Like the aniline-dyed leather case that Apple developed for the iPhone 5s, the new Smart Case provides a very snug fit for the iPad Air, protecting its chamfered edges while preventing it from easily popping out if dropped. Thankfully, compared to previous versions of the Smart Case for older iPads, which were designed to protect iPads from edge impacts, the edges on the new Smart Case for the iPad Air are rounded and very comfortable in the hand. The Smart Case is very robust and should do an excellent job of keeping your iPad Air looking like new for as long as you own it - the color-matched microfiber lining will also help see to that too.

While the Smart Case offers maximum protection for your iPad Air, it comes at a significant weight penalty of 5.1oz (145g), which is actually slightly more than the total weight Apple lopped off the iPad Air over the previous generation. The upside is that you get a totally protected iPad Air at a very similar weight to a completely unprotected iPad 4, but it is more than might have been expected. The iPhone 5s case, for example, is exceptionally light while offering excellent overall protection. However, the Smart Case looks and feels great, while its leather finish offers a very professional appearance and will give you complete confidence in the safety and protection of your iPad Air. Again, as with the iPhone 5s official leather cases, the darker colored options seem likely to offer better longevity when it comes to concealing discoloration that might build up from repeated use over time. It also offers greater stability for typing than the Smart Cover when positioned on your lap.

Your decision to pick the Smart Cover or the Smart Case for the iPad Air will ultimately boil down to the compromises you are prepared to make. Alternatively, the aftermarket accessories for the iPad Air will be rolling out thick and fast over the coming weeks giving you even many more options to consider if you feel that either the Smart Cover or the Smart Case is not for you. However, there is definitely something nice about picking up accessories tailor made by Apple. Ultimately the decision is yours to make, although for me, I opted for the Smart Cover and a protective sleeve for use in transit, as taking full advantage of the dramatic weight reduction in the iPad Air is paramount.

By Sanjiv Sathiah

by MacNN Staff



  1. machobbes

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-13-09

    Wow - an absolute breakthrough: "you can have your cake and eat it too"

  1. efithian

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-21-04

    I originally purchased the Maroo cover, which I had used with my iPad 3. Unfortunately, the reviews I read said that it had the magnetic function of putting the iPad Air to sleep, when in fact this is not true. I like the Maroo design and materials more than the Apple case, but the non-magnets was a deal breaker. I am sending the Maroo back and using the Apple case. Maroo had problems before with the magnets on the iPad 3 case, and finally gave up.

  1. pairof9s

    Senior User

    Joined: 01-03-08

    I chose the Smart Cover, too, so as to enjoy the slim, narrow, light feel of the iPad Air...quite substantial to my previous 3rd Gen. That stated, the Smart Cover I had for the 3rd Gen was much more stable both in folded position as well as closed...the new closed cover will slide up & down easily when holding in your hand.

    Still, I see it as a good investment for its simplicity and the magnetic sleep function. I too use it as the daily cover and use a transporting carry case for travel.

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