I really like the Apple Smart cover and have so far resisted the temptation to get a luxurious extravaganza from Piel Frama or similar leathersmith. Not that there’s anything wrong with Piel Frama, quite the opposite. If you want a substantial and weighty leather case you can’t do better.
Apple Smart Cover
But the Smart Cover is just so right. It works faultlessly, adds very little bulk and appears to offer adequate protection to the screen. The only downside, really, is that the folds in the cover create uncleaned stripes down the screen (vide Ben Brooks). This just proves, though, that where the Smart Cover has contact with the screen, it does manage to keep it clean.
Despite the obvious attractions of the Smart Cover, it does leave the back of the iPad (and the edges) just as vulnerable as when the tablet is naked. To solve this I’ve had my eyes on the Speck SmartShell Slim Case, primarily because it has a cut-out to allow the magnets to stick to the back of the iPad when the Smart Cover is folded back. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to lay hands on the Speck, which hasn’t been seen in Apple Stores and was out of stock at Amazon when I last looked.
Never miss a bargain
Then I saw the Belkin Snap Shield for iPad 2, which is similar to the Speck but without the magnet cutout. When folded back, the Smart Cover doesn’t stick to the back of the case, but it’s not a big deal. At under £17 in the duty-free area of London’s Terminal 1, it was a bargain. Made from a soft, rubbery-feel polycarbonate, the case clips securely to the back of the iPad, with holes for the Smart Cover hinges and (most) other vital functions. It adds almost nothing to the weight or feel of the iPad yet offers full protection for the aluminium case, including the vulnerable corners and edges. Mine is in clear plastic and the Apple logo and text on the back of the tablet are just as visible. In fact you would hardly know there is a case there.
A flawed bargain
Unfortunately, within two hours of buying the Belkin I discovered it has a serious problem. I clipped it to the iPad before flying off. Two hours later, in Zurich airport, I decided to insert my Swisscom SIM card. Disaster. There is no opening in the plastic cover for the card tray. Maybe the designers decided this is low priority, but they forget the wider international market. Perhaps it was designed in the USA where SIM-swapping seems to be an infrequent occurrence.
After ten minutes of fruitless wrestling with the Belkin case, I retired bruised and frustrated and with several finger nails missing. Later in the day, on arrival in Greece, I spent a further twenty minutes attempting to prise off the case so I could insert the local Vodafone card. Removing these clip-on plastic jackets, as with the Speck cases for MacBooks, is a right old pig of a job. There’s no knack, it’s simply a case of strong thumbnails and and a dollop of brute force which, ideally, stops just short of splitting the plastic. Suddenly it sprang off, none the worse for wear.
So, Mr Belkin, we need a hole for the card slot. I don’t relish a major surgical operation every time I cross a border. I shall try cutting out an opening, even if I ruin your carefully crafted, but flawed, piece of polycarbonate. At least it was a bargain.