Innovation: Education

What you should know about iPad cases

Getting mobile devices into the hands of educators and students is the name of the game, but what happens after to keep those iPads up and running? In no small part, iPad longetivity comes down to the case.

Over the past three years, we’ve operated a lending library of 10-20 iPads for educators, which has so grown in popularity that this past year hardly a day went by when the devices were actually back at home base. They went to Danby, they went to Cabot. They went to Morrisville, and the Echo Lake Aquarium. They went to AMLE, VT Fest and the Middle Grades Institute. And all of them came back without a scratch. But this hasn’t always been the case, ha ha.

It’s a hard-knock life / for iOS

Over the combined lifetime of our library and staff iPad fleet (30 total), we’ve had a 6.7% breakage rate — translating to two fully cracked screens requiring replacement*. In both instances, the devices belonged to and were cracked by, in-house staff. Make of that what you will. But having listened to various horror stories about catastrophic case failure leading to iPad damage — and, fun fact, if the non-screen body of an iPad is dented when the screen is broken, it voids Apple’s warranty (go on, ask me how I know this) — I thought I’d share my review of the cases we’ve used. *And one screen with the beginnings of a teeeeeeny crack in one corner. I have my eye on you, teeny crack.

The Good, the Bad and the Broken

What you should know about iPad cases * The numbers in the Cost column reflect how much you can get each case from on Amazon currently, and that’s largely where we purchased all the cases ourselves over the three year period. No cases were received by us in exchange for this review. 

**The Acase Easy-Carry basically exploded when I went to install it on our iPads.***

***Twice.

Overall, as you can see from both the chart and the handy video, the big winner was the Fintie Casebot Kiddie. It’s molded foam, basically, but it’s light, it stands up on it’s own, it has a handle, and I, one of the biggest klutzes ever, have one on my own personal iPad because I keep knocking it off furniture. If I had to name a downside, it would be that these cases take up more room than their more streamlined cousins, which can be a concern if your district invested in an off-the-shelf charging cart, as the slots on those are generally geared towards skinny little iPads with barely a covering. My solution was to build my own iPad charging cart out of office supplies for $60, but ymmv.

The other big winner was the original Trident Kraken, which for a long time, was my go-to case. It’s durable, people, that’s what it does. The only big downside to it is that at 18 ounces it is the heaviest case of the bunch, and you definitely notice that when you pick it up. On the other hand: durable. The lack of a screen protector on a lot of these cases might be an issue for day-to-day in-school use.

We have the luxury of getting our iPads back every few weeks (or days, depending on the checkout) to check them over for damage, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well they’ve held up, even in some of the lower-performing cases. I think the bottom line is that educators and students all tend to take tremendously good care of devices both in class and out. Final case rankings, in order of awesomeness:

Our metrics

These are actual case studies of using the products over an extended period of time. The final overall rating for each case, while largely dictated by the other categories is entirely subjective; I chose it. But I’m the one who’s been managing this library, so I’ve had the most interaction with the devices and cases, many times having to figure out exciting and exotic new ways to fit 10 iPads and their chargers into a backpack. (It can be done). All cases are for the original, full-size iPad 2/3/4, with the exception of the Finties, because once I had tried those, I went hog-wild and ordered them for our new Mini’s as well. We’re currently looking at iPad Air cases, but that’s another entry.

The cases that didn’t make the cut

We reviewed eight different iPad cases out of the 10 cases we purchased for use with our devices. The two cases that didn’t make the cut were the Sumdex Passage Netbook Case and the Apple Smart Cover . The Sumdex is more of a bag than a case; they happened to be in the office and an iPad does fit neatly inside, with a separate pouch for accessories. But they’re really an outlier in terms of functional protection: the iPad has to be removed from the bag for use, greatly increasing the chances of breakage. The same is true for the Apple Smart Cover: it’s another outlier, in being the only item that didn’t provide any coverage for the back of the device. It’s held over the screen by magnets, for easy removal, and after about a year, it leaves strange shadows across the glass corresponding to the ridges running along the inside of the cover. Neither seemed like they’d be the most durable or appropriate carrier for an iPad in schools. We also tried out Otterboxes on our iPad 1’s, but since the design radically changed between iPad 1 and the rest due to the addition of the camera, I didn’t include those either.

What do you use?

Now you’ve heard all about what we use on our iPads, we want to hear from all of you out there about your iPads. What case do you use? What case do you recommend?

Author

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs.

Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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