If Apple's world-famous tablets are anything, they're expensive. Compared to similar Android or Windows-based products, the Apple devices can be several times more money. Are they worth it? Millions of people think so and have voted with their wallets.

The original iPad was launched back on April 3rd, 2010. This was over a decade ago. It changed the idea of what a portable computing device could be. Despite being developed first, the myth is that Steve Jobs saw more value in a hand-held "smart" phone than a hand-held tablet computer. So the touch screen technology and packaging of Apple's tablet design was ported over to what became the first iPhone.

With prices for new models climbing ever higher, protecting your new, somewhat fragile Apple tablet is more important than ever. With the plethora of iPad accessories available, we'd thought we'd have a look at some of the different protection options offered.

One of the unseen dilemmas of iPad ownership is the "accessory revolving door" many users get sucked in. This post is designed to keep you from becoming trapped. What is the accessory revolving door exactly? It's the endless cycle of purchasing a low-cost iPad accessory like a rear cover or folio case only to have it break or fall part shortly after you start using it.

Once this occurs, you're right back looking for the next low quality, low-cost option to  keep your expensive Apple tablet protected. Then that one falls apart and you're right back where you started, except you're out the money and more importantly, the time, you spent to find and purchase these inferior quality items. Sound familiar?

Even if you haven't been trapped in the "revolving door" and just want to find out what's out there to help keep your iPad safe, this blog will offer some solid suggestions. Read on to explore the different options so you can make sure that your device stays protected for many years to come. 

Why High-Quality Accessories? 

On the day it was launched, 300,000 iPads were sold. Once again, Steve Jobs was offering a product to the world it didn't know it wanted. This expanded the Apple portable accessories market from just items for Powerbook and MacBook Pros to this new, lighter, more fragile device that needed even more protection.

With the expansion of the market came the explosion of low quality, low cost, disposable accessories. Products designed to start falling apart as soon as you started using them. Born from a culture that only cared about selling you more and more low-quality stuff, iPad users grew fatigued.

Luckily, for these users, the revolving door wasn't the only option. In the beginning, there seemed to be just as many companies producing high-quality accessories as there were producing junk. Unfortunately, as the years have passed the companies putting quality accessories into the world have become few and far between. But they are still out there.

So what is the benefit of purchasing a high-quality accessory vs. a low-quality disposable one? High-quality iPad accessories might cost more initially, but in the long run, they'll cost less. These products are built to last which means that you won't have to worry about continually replacing them.

Moreover, you have to ask yourself how much is your time worth? The time you spend searching for yet another iPad accessory to replace the one that just broke (again) could be spent doing things that are of a much greater value to you. So let's look at the options.

1. Folio Cases

The top group of iPad accessories is cases. The most popular style cases are folios.

Folio cases for iPads are typically covers that protect both the front screen and the rear aluminum panel with material along the binding edge that connects the two like a book. They can be made from cheap plastic, more expensive high-impact plastic, or wonderfully smelling leathers. This style tends to be the most popular.

One of the reasons for its popularity is that the tablet remains in the case whether you're using it or not. Once installed, your iPad tends to stay in the case (until the case breaks, if you purchased a cheap one). Some designs feature padding between the interior and exterior materials. This offers greater protection than folios with no padding at all. 

It's all too common to buy a lower-priced case because you want to save money. The key fact to remember about low-priced folio cases or any iPad accessory is that you've already purchased the most expensive tablet on earth. Do you really want to put it in the lowest-priced case you can find to protect it?

iPad Folio cases built to the same standards as your Apple tablet itself will offer years of protection and be a joy to use. There are Folios out there created by companies who are as passionate about creating a wonderful piece of product design as Apple was in creating the iPad.

If you're someone who appreciates quality (and you would not have bought an iPad if you didn't) it's worth the time and effort to search out a high-quality folio-style case. Support the company that's making them as many have gone away. You'll be much happier in the long run knowing you are not wasting endless hours and money stuck in the accessory revolving door.

2. iPad Sleeves

iPad sleeves are very much like their laptop sleeve cousins. They tend to have a front and rear panel sewn to a single seam like an oven mitt. Many feature some form of closure like a zipper or a flap that seals an open end. Like folios, some designs are padded while others are not.

More advanced, high-quality designs will have a place to store and transport the Apple pencil integrated into the sleeve. If you are a user of Apple's popular iPad accessory and are interested in a sleeve, look for one that offers integrated protection for the Pencil as well.

The biggest difference between a sleeve and a folio is that the sleeve is used when transporting or storing your iPad but not when you're using it. With a folio, you can fold the case out and prop up the screen to watch a movie. With a sleeve, when you take the iPad out, it's as naked as it was when you first took it out of the box.

Higher quality sleeves tend to offer better protection than most folios do. This is because many folio designs do not protect three of the side edges. Moreover, some sleeves are designed to work with other iPad accessories such as Apple Smart Keyboard. 

If you are using something like the Smart Keyboard and a high-quality, protective sleeve, now you have the best of both worlds. You'll have the superior protection of an iPad Sleeve with the functionality of a folio-style case when you take the tablet out to use it.

Clear iPad back cover

3. iPad Back Covers

One of the most cost-effective accessories to protect your iPad is a back cover. But even here you have to know what you're buying. These covers, as the name implies, protect the rear aluminum panel only. They come in three basic types of materials, hard plastic, silicone, and what feels like a hybrid of the two, a pliable polymer material.

Silicone yellows over time (if it's clear) and attracts dirt like a 3-year old child. No matter how hard you work to keep it clean, eventually, it will look disgusting. Not the best solution for a $1500 piece of hardware.

The same can be said for the hard plastic versions. They're great when you first clip them on but there's a dirty little secret to hard plastic cases. They're designed in a static environment, not under load. When you clip them to your Apple tablet, they go under tension and compression.

Over time the material, which is not designed to be under this type of duress, gives way and starts to crack. Eventually, the corners will break off and it will be time to donate it to your local landfill. Oh, and time to buy another cover.

This brings us to the polymer version. As stated, this material has the elasticity of silicone without attracting dirt. It has the impact absorbancy of hard plastic without the week-long shelf life. In essence, when it comes to rear covers, a polymer cover is the best of both worlds. It's minimalist protection that is well worth the typical $20 asking price for a cover of this material.

4. Shoulder Bags

Maybe you've chosen a Folio. Maybe you've chosen a sleeve. Maybe you have chosen something else like a keyboard cover. No matter which accessory you've chosen to protect and store your Apple tablet in, at some point you're going to want to take it somewhere. For that, you'll need a shoulder bag.

By shoulder bag, we're talking about styles like cross body bags, messenger bags, backpacks, and briefcases. For the most part, any of these styles should keep your tablet  safe from the elements like rain and snow. They will also allow you to travel with your tablet along with a host of other personal items. Think about how much stuff you'll be needing to transport with your tablet when it comes time to choose the best size and style of bag.

The best style of bag for you will be the one that best meets your needs and fits with the environment you plan on moving through. A lawyer is going to have different needs for their shoulder bag than a filmmaker headed on location. Both need to take their iPad with them but which bag style will work best for them is a question only then can answer.

Again, it's good to know that such a wide variety of designs, colors, materials, and prices exist so everyone can find the best bag to meet their needs. Again, think about the environment you'll be moving through, what and how much you need to carry, the overall style, and what materials will work best for you.

Once you have a clear picture in your mind's eye about how you need the bag to perform, choosing one from the many styles available will be much easier.

Custom iPad case made for Opus One Vineyards

5. Custom Cases

The ultimate expression of iPad accessorizing is to commission a custom iPad case.  While children and teenagers are fond of customizing their portable devices with stickers and vinyl wraps, what we're talking about here is a handmade, bespoke case made to order.

Customization options mean that you can choose from a folio, sleeve, or shoulder bag as a base for your creation. Typically, leathers in a variety of colors and finishes are available. These can be mixed and matched with thread and interior color options to create the iPad accessory of your dreams.

All these options can sometimes come with a price. Often a bespoke case will be more expensive than the production version the case is based on. Given the time and expertise needed to create your one-of-a-kind piece, those who can appreciate this level of craftsmanship will feel the additional cost is well worth it.

Someone who invests in a custom iPad case can expect that product to last as least as long as they own the tablet itself and then some.

Find the iPad Accessories That'll Keep Your Device Safe

While many of the things that you will add to your Apple tablet will be ethereal in nature such as apps to expand its functionality, many will be as solid as the tablet. We hope this short trip through the protection options available has proved valuable.

The iPad accessory market has been blessed with a broad range of products to meet anyone's budget and needs. From stylists to keyboards, from stickers to full-on, custom-made cases, there is something for everyone to make their Apple tablet more personal and endearing.


Jody K. Deane
by Jody K. Deane July 26, 2021

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