Apple’s Smart Cover case for the iPad 2 is unlike any case we’ve ever seen. Rather than gripping around the iPad 2’s svelte figure to keep the tablet device safe from scuffs and falls, there are magnets that fasten the case to the iPad’s chassis, which makes it feel like you’re carrying a soft-cover book. The true harmony between the tablet device and its multifunction outfitting is a definite step in a new direction for cases. It’s no longer about a piece of material keeping your product protected, but rather how it can interact with the device to perform more than one simple task. And if more case manufacturers follow in the way of the iPad 2, a simple folio may no longer cut it.
Vertical magnets contained inside of the iPad 2 and the Smart Case work together to form a hinge for the tablet device.
In case you didn’t know, the Smart Cover attaches to the iPad 2 via rows of magnets embedded inside the case’s plastic sheath. On the left side of the case, there are two sets of long magnets that attach to two shorter magnets contained inside the iPad 2. These act as hinges and contour to the rounded exterior of the iPad’s aluminum chassis, which allows for an awesome connection between to two and keeps the Smart Cover sturdily in place, while also providing a smooth opening and closing mechanic. The Smart Cover also folds into a triangular stand with the help of two metal and two all-plastic plates — the metal provides stability and the plastic aids with the structure. Without these essential innards, the Smart Cover would be useless as anything but a refrigerator magnet.
Yet arguably the best feature of the Smart Cover case, is that it triggers the sleep sensor located inside the iPad 2. When you close the case, the iPad goes to sleep, preventing any incidences where the battery might run out because the LCD screen was left on. But, despite the innovation, it could present an issue for third-party case manufacturers.
Once you tear down the Smart Cover, it’s not much more than flimsy plastic.
“Apple has not given third-party developers any real stance on what their position is as far as allowing us to use [the magnets],” says Andrew Ackloo, president and founder of of iSkin
. “It’s been completely mute. They’re neither saying ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’.” However, that doesn’t mean Ackloo’s company isn’t considering other options that could rival the Apple-branded case. “One of the things iSkin prides itself in is we’re a design company first,” he says. “What we’re doing this time is we’re really thinking about how to create a product that works seamlessly with the Smart Cover.”
Companies like Scosche, Incipio and Targus immediately churned out cases tailor-made for the iPad 2, but none of them work in conjunction with the Apple Smart Cover, or utilize the magnets contained within. “Some cases are already on the market that do use the magnets, but they’re not available through the authorize Apple channel,” says Spencer Pangborn, Account Manager at Moshi, in an email. “We prefer to stick to the official specs coming out of Cupertino to make sure our products are perfectly tailored to each Apple device.”
Jaime Smith of Handstand, a company that makes iPad cases with a literal hand-holder for ergonomic purposes, says that his company is actually working on developing a case that pairs well with the iPad 2’s internal magnets. “We’re looking at two different options, ” says Smith. One of the designs that Smith’s company is looking into is altering the molded polyurethane cover that conforms to the iPad 2’s shape by notching out the material on the left side of the cover, but this would still leave the iPad 2’s chassis vulnerable. The other idea is to mold in a row of alternate polarity magnets into the actual cover, which would allow for a strong connection between the tablet device and the case.
The red square indicates the sensor inside the iPad 2 that turns the tablet’s screen on and off.
Handstand is also looking into creating their own design entirely for the Handstand 2 and ditching the Smart Cover aesthetic. “The design of this screen protector shield also incorporates a small round magnet molded into the right side of the shield in the same location as the alternative magnet in behind the iPad 2 screen,” Smith says in an email. This would enable the magnet-activated sleep sensor when the shield is in place or removed, making it a worthy contender for Apple’s own Smart Cover.
Case manufacturers are also factoring in the fact that the Smart Cover doesn’t cover the iPad 2’s entire body, which leaves it vulnerable to falls, spills and scratches. “I wish that Apple had done something that was a little more user friendly,” says Smith.
Fortunately for his company and others, this means there’s plenty of business for those that create a product designed for protection, not design.