July 04, 2011, 2:00 PM — With every new Apple device comes an avalanche of new accessories. Just as cases were the must-have accessory for the original iPad, it's not surprising that there's a deluge of new (and newly updated) cases for the iPad 2. I've had a chance to try a few dozen folio-style cases for the iPad 2, and there are definitely some strong products among them. Here's a brief look at nearly a dozen. (I'll be covering another dozen or so in an upcoming roundup.)
Do you need a case?
The original iPad needed a case—it was actually difficult to hold on to it without one. But I'm not convinced that the same is true of the iPad 2. The iPad 2's lighter weight and thinner profile are perhaps its best features, and just about any case is bound to cancel them out. Apple's response was the iPad 2 Smart Cover ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), a thin, light cover that protects the iPad 2's screen, but not its back.
I like the Smart Cover a lot, mostly because it protects the screen while adding almost nothing to the weight and thinness of the iPad 2. But every time I want to set my iPad down on its back on a rough surface, I wince. And since the iPad 2's silvery back, with that big black Apple logo, is still fully exposed with the Smart Cover attached, I feel kind of conspicuous when I'm out in public with the iPad 2. So for reasons of protection or anonymity—or both—there are definitely reasons to opt for a more comprehensive case for the iPad 2.
The Smart Cover's killer feature, of course, is magnets. When you close the Smart Cover, magnets embedded in the cover put the iPad 2 to sleep; when you lift the cover, the iPad 2 wakes up. In my mind, this is such a compelling feature that the maker of every iPad 2 case or cover should include similar magnets. For whatever reason—I'm guessing the rush to get products out the door, or a hasty conversion of iPad 1 stock for compatibility with the iPad 2—several of the covers I tried don't support this feature.
Now, a few of the vendors whose iPad 2 covers lack support for this Sleep/Wake feature claim that the omission is itself a feature. The way the story goes, a cover can fall open and turn the iPad on, draining the battery. I'm not entirely convinced of the strength of that argument—after all, the iPad has an auto-sleep feature, and if you're carrying your iPad by hand or inside another bag, the cover won't be able to just "fall open." But more importantly, you can turn off the auto-wake/sleep feature if you don't like it. If a case has the necessary embedded magnets, the user gets to decide if they want to take advantage of this clever feature.