Something that I have spent an inordinate amount of time on is reviewing iPad cases. I have come up with four criteria in which to review cases for use with students.
Protection means no screen breaks. Or less screen breaks. Screen breaks equal money to refix the screen and potential time lost for students using their iPads in the classroom. Fortunately the trend of late for cases is protection as the top priority, so there are plenty of cases to choose from that meet this criteria.
For us a stand is essential. We decided to get a case without a stand for our latest rollout for kindergarten through second grade students. The teachers and students have been asking for something to prop them up on since they received them.
Stands can come in many types. Based on experience though, the stand must be able to stay attached to the iPad. If the stand is not permanently attached there is a good chance that it could be lost or to be broken easily. Portfolio cases with the covers actually have good stands, but a lot of them fail in the area of protection. Some stands like UZBL’s stand on their Shockwave case can actually be replaced if it’s broken.
Three: Asset Tag Access
This is one of those features that unless you are working directly with schools, a designer would never think of including in a case. You could tell the ones that have because they all make some accommodation to be able to view the asset tags for staff that need access to them with having to take the case of the iPad. Some of these protective cases are really hard to take off, which is probably a bonus feature of it. However when you need to be able to get access to a tag in the back, cases that need to be taken off to get to the asset tag are less desirable.
Four: Front Cover
For our first go around of choosing the case in the Fall of 2011 we found that we were more attracted to the cases that had a cover over the front. This we assumed would be the best protection for the iPad. We found out quickly that while the front cover is helpful, if it does not have strong side and corner protection the screens will break at a higher rate than we expected. The trend right now is strong protection around the corners at the expense of a front cover that is attached to the case. Otter Box makes a case that is protective, but the front cover is a separate piece and the price is well over what we’re willing to spend. If I have to sacrifice one of the four criteria this is the one that would be last priority.
A Word on Screen Protection Plastic
I’m seeing a lot more iPads with the screen protection plastic on it. The iPad screen is a pretty amazing innovation and having a layer of plastic over it defeats the purpose of having and the precision of it touch features. After three years of heavy student use our screens are still in very good condition. That alone makes me avoid plastic protection on the screen. Our students also do more than just touch the iPad. They spent a lot of time drawing on the screen. My experience trying out the plastic screens has not allowed me to do it as smoothly and I have even had the line I was drawing broken up because there was not enough contact between my finger and the touch screen..
What is the lifecycle of an iPad case?
Don’t assume that your covers will last as long as your iPads. That should be an additional criteria that you put into your evaluation. I think we assumed that iPad covers would just naturally last the life of iPads. But after the first year we already had cases that needed to be replaced. We also went with a manufacturer whose case was in the first version and there were some issues with a few parts of it. The company helped resolve part of it which a good vendor will do, but we knew that we have only so much time with these particular cases. It seems a rubber case will probably last much longer than the vinyl material that we had on our original cases.
I find it important to get feedback from those that will be using the cases, the students. On our first go around I went into dozens of classrooms to show them different cases we were looking at and had them vote on which ones they preferred. As you can imagine the votes were all over the place and not one case came out head and shoulders above any other case. In the end came it down to pricing and customization. We worked with the vendor we chose to modify some of the parts of the case that we thought needed improvement.
I recommend that if you are interested in a case that you get a sample from the company. This way you could really look at instead of just the picture on the website and compare against others.