Along with the release of the iPad 2 Apple is also selling their new protective cover for the iPad. Dubbed the Smart Cover, it is a thin flexible cover that attaches to the side of the iPad 2 through the use of magnets. The Smart Cover and the iPad 2 were literally made for each other, but is this cover for you? Read on for my full review.
Let's get this out of the way first: The Smart Cover is a pricey item for what it is. It is offered in ten colors and two materials. Five colors are available with plastic cover material and another five colors are available with leather material. The plastic cover sells for $39 while the leather variety will set you back a steep $69. It also appears that Apple purposely put all of the most desirable colors (such as black and red) in the leather category. The cheaper plastic category is filled with bright pastel colors with a light gray being the only somewhat subtle color offered.
So let's say you go ahead and take the plunge because you want the official Apple supplied cover for your iPad 2. The Smart Cover comes in a thin plastic box. Inside is just the Smart Cover itself, protected by a thin piece of plastic. The very basic and almost unnecessary instructions are printed on the inside of the packaging.
When you take the Smart Cover out of the box you'll see that it is a silver metal hinged bar on one side and the flexible four-section cover on the other side. The top of the cover is the material and color of your choice, while the underside is a gray microfiber material that Apple claims will both protect the screen and work to remove fingerprints.
Attaching the Smart Cover to the iPad 2 is incredibly easy. Simply get the metal bar anywhere near the left side of the iPad 2 and it will magically snap into the exact place it needs to go thanks to the power of hidden magnets. The alignment is spot on every time. To completely remove the cover just pull it away from the side of the iPad 2 and it will detach.
To protect the front screen of your iPad 2 simply flip the Smart Cover closed like a book. The cover will lay completely flat across the screen and will lock into place with a magnet on the right side of the screen. This right side magnet also serves double duty and functions as a trigger for the screen lock and unlock function on the iPad 2. When the cover is in place the device's screen turns off. Pulling the cover away from the screen turns the iPad 2 on automatically. A nice little bonus feature indeed.
One of the other big features of the Smart Cover is its ability to be folded into a triangular shape that can then be used either as a low angle typing stand or a high angle viewing stand, depending on how you orient the iPad 2.
In my testing I found the smart cover to work quite well for what it's designed to do. It adds virtually no size to the iPad 2 and locks into place against the screen pretty securely. Folded into the triangular shape it works well for typing and also allows you to prop the iPad 2 up for viewing videos. The video viewing angle is fairly steep and I was slightly concerned about the unit falling over when in that mode, but it seemed to be okay. The case is designed to be folded so the microfiber surface is on the outside when in the triangular shape. To me this doesn't seem ideal because then the microfiber can pick up dust and other elements which could easily be transferred to, or even scratch, the screen once you close the cover again. You can fold the cover so that the microfiber surface is on the inside, but then the triangle can easily collapse due to the way the hinges and folds are designed.
One question that I had prior to seeing the Smart Cover in person involved hand holding the iPad 2. Where does the Smart Cover go if you don't want to fold it into the triangular shape? As it turns out you can fold the cover in half and then flip it around against the back of the iPad 2. Sadly the cover will not magnetically attach to the back of the iPad 2 so you will just have to hold it in place with your left hand. Since the cover is folded in half it leaves the rear camera exposed and available for use which may come in handy. Alternatively, I have found that you can use the triangular mode of the Smart Cover as a sort of grip when hand holding the iPad 2. The magnetic attachment seems strong enough to support the unit this way, although I wouldn't recommend holding it like that while standing (I held it that way when it was just above my lap, so if the magnet did lose its hold the iPad 2 wouldn't have had far to fall).
The usefulness of the microfiber lining in cleaning off the screen is trivial. From what I've seen it may remove the very top layer of marks but it will still leave fingerprints beneath it. Also, since the cover is divided into four sections there is a space between each section that does not come into contact with the screen. These spaces result in vertical lines of smudges being left on the screen after the cover has wiped away smudges in the areas where it does touch the screen.
Whether this is the cover for you will really come down to what you need your cover to do. If you are looking for a basic screen protector that can also double as stand without adding much weight or size to the iPad 2 then it will be hard to beat the Smart Cover. However, if you're like me you will be paranoid about the metal back of your iPad 2 being left unprotected. To me a cover really needs to protect the back of the unit since the back is the part that tends to come in contact with other surfaces whenever you sit your iPad 2 down. If you have faith in the durability of the metal portion of the device, or simply don't mind a few scratches then this is a great cover. I have some doubts about the cover staying attached to the screen if you were to throw your iPad 2 into a backpack or bag with other items brushing up against it, but as long as you're careful about how you place it in the bag you should be okay. The automatic screen locking function is a neat trick, but pushing the screen lock button isn't a big hassle to begin with so I don't recommend basing your purchase decision on this feature. Essentially your decision will come down to a trade-off: Trade any protection for the back of the iPad 2 in exchange for a very simplistic and lightweight cover that matches the iPad 2 design perfectly.
SUMMARY: IPAD 2 SMART COVER
- Very easy to attach and remove
- Adds virtually no weight or size to the iPad 2
- Doubles as a typing or viewing stand
- Provides no protection for the back of your iPad 2
- Expensive, especially when compared to other cases that offer full protection
- Most desirable colors are only available in the more expensive leather version
BOTTOM LINE: NOT RECOMMENDED