A Case for Your iPad

A question I hear a lot, especially at iPad workshops, is "what case should I buy for my iPad?" My answer, unsurprisingly, is "it depends."

Do you just need something to make your iPad grippable and/or protect the screen? Do you need it HULK SMASH-proof? Do you want to attach to the back of car seats so kids can watch videos in the car? Do you want it to convert to a stand in both landscape and portrait mode? Do you want it to be gorgeous, and go incognito as a book? Do you want a built-in keyboard? Do you want a soft, pillow-like stand? Here are some of the cases we and our friends use, but your comments and suggestions are welcome.


Leo has two cases for his iPad 2. Our favorite is the ZooGue* ($49.99). Leo doesn't need a super-protective case, he needs one that makes the iPad easy to hold and use, so this works for us. The leather case is nice for gripping, it has a fold-over cover to protect the screen, and it uses velcro for stand positioning -- which means that no matter how hard Leo taps the screen, it won't fall over or dislodge. When I took Leo's iPad into a local Apple store, one of the Geniuses declared the ZooGue "the best iPad case I've ever seen!"

Watching Lina Lamont & Don Lockwood
It also has a velcro strap that can be used as a carrying handle, to secure the cover -- and to attach the iPad to the back of a car seat for multiple viewings of favorite videos. We've been watching a lot of Singin' in the Rain, Mali now works "...more than Calvin Coolidge -- put together!" into conversations whenever she can, and Leo loves singing Good Morning.

Caveats: The ZooGue doesn't stand up in portrait mode for reading books or other documents. It also leaves the corners of the iPad exposed, and when Leo accidentally dropped his iPad on its corner on some concrete pavers, the screen shattered. But now that I've regained my composure, I suspect the issue was more the pavers than the cover.

For three months after the iPad shattering incident, I was leery of the ZooGue, so we switched to a Targus 360 ($60 - $65) instead. Also leather, also nice for gripping. With an elastic strap for keeping the cover shut, and which covers the iPad's corners.
It also swivels stand position between portrait and landscape, which is excellent for those of us who like to read documents while our hands are busy. And the Apple logo peephole generally gets a comment or two -- it's a clean, stylish design. It's a good, solid case, one that a speech therapist friend uses with the kids who are her clients.
Caveats: See that pretty blue fuzzy interior padding? I have three kids. Which means that padding got grubby, really quickly -- after a while, I was too embarrassed to take this case to iPad workshops or even out in public. And the leather on the screen frame started peeling off unattractively. And while the stand does switch from landscape to portrait, it rests in a groove rather than being anchored like the ZooGue -- Leo's enthusiastic screen tapping often knocked it over.


But what if you need a substantial case, one that lets its tablet keep up with (and not become a casualty of) the enthusiasm of its owners? There are many options. Bay Area parent Laurel Miranda's daughter has worked her way through several case models, and now uses the Gumdrop Military Edition ($69.95). Laurel says,
"This case rocks, highly recommend it. The buttons are easy to push even though everything (even the screen) is encased in plastic or silicon. It's well designed. The only draw back is that the iPad is now really heavy and doesn't have a stand, but I can live with that!"
The fallback you-can-almost-drive-a-truck-over-it case is the OtterBox Defender ($89), and I know many folks who use it (including Leo's class staff). It's a bit of a PITA to put on and take off, but it does the job, and it is very popular.

Caveats: Can be hard to get on and off, can make iPads clunky or heavy.


DodoCase, closed
San Francisco-based DODOCase ($59.95) makes iPad cases using traditional bookmaking techniques. These cases are gorgeous and widely coveted. When closed, you are toting 'round a lovely, handcrafted, hardbound notebook. When open, folks either oooh and aaah at the clever, hand tooled case, or quietly moan. From the DodoCase site:
"The DODOcase cradles your iPad in a strong, yet eco-friendly bamboo tray.   The multifunctional design allows you to use the case as a stand for typing or watching videos.   The DODOcase's magnetic insert activates the iPad's auto wake/sleep feature to wake and sleep your iPad instantly."
Leo does not have a DODOcase (this particular, artist edition case belongs to his father).

Caveats: Not for kids (kids like mine, anyhow). And even your best friends will try to steal your DODOcase when you're not looking.


The CushPad* ($34.95) is a good match for kids who like to use tablets on unstable surfaces like couches, bed, or floors -- though of course my kids are trend-buckers and use it on the counter. It can be used in portrait or landscape mode. It is nice and soft for resting in one's lap. It has a handle for hauling around. And ... it can be used with non-iPad tablets (You're looking at a Motorola Xoom. Blasphemy! The pictures was taken with an iPad, though.) It's nice for using when multiple children are using videos, as the kids are less inclined to be grabby.

Caveats: Your tablet nestles in your CushPad rather than being securely fastened, so if the setup gets knocked about the tablet will fall out. It's big and bulky, so if storage is an issue then storage is an issue. And right now, they're selling so briskly that they're backordered -- so if you want one, I'd get on it.


My cousin and my father-in-law both have iPad cases with built-in keyboards like the one available from Brookstone ($74.99). I hate typing on an iPad itself, so if I was using the iPad for productivity or for teaching the kids to type, I'd consider this route before an accessory and therefore easily misplaced keyboard. I was pleasantly surprised by the slimness of these cases -- the keyboard adds almost no thickness.

Caveats: The keyboard needs to be charged separately, which is One More Thing. And these cases generally do not allow portrait mode, which is a bummer for some document modes.


What iPad/Tablet cases do you uses? If you use any of these, do you have a different opinion?

*The ZooGue and CushPad cases were gifted to Leo by their creators, but that has no bearing on our opinion here.


  1. I was somewhat dissatisfied with my Otterbox for my iPhone, and after consulting with the school about the iPad case they use (an Otterbox) found they were dissatisfied with it. Because, although it's very protective (very important for Lily, who mashes and "flings") it also has a soft rubber edge that Lily likes to explore and pull away, so I find myself constantly readjusting the fit. The teachers at Lily's school reported they suffer the same with the Otterbox iPad case.

    We got the Griffin Survivor, which has the same sort of hard shell covered by soft shell protective philosophy, but uses heavier rubber, and has tabs that lock it into play, making the seams harder for little fingers to pull away.

    I've been very happy with the Griffin Survivor with the one exception. . . the speaker is covered by a rubber tab. So the sound comes out muffled most of the time. You can pull the tab away, but there's no way to "stick" the tab to the case to KEEP it pulled away, so to maintain the sound, you have to keep holding the tab away from the iPad speaker.

    The Survivor is supposedly built to "military spec" so it's dust proof, splash proof, and drop proof from 6 feet. . . though it offers no guarantees regardless, so I'm not testing it.

  2. Thanks for that useful summary. I'm wondering more about keyboards... have you used other ones than the Brookstone one you mentioned? Is the Brookstone one easy to type on/ does it feel like a decent keyboard? Thanks!

  3. We also have the Griffin Survivor. I think the case makes the ipad easier to grip, and I like that it adds a little bit of weight.

    I find the cover over the speaker to be an added bonus. My daughter likes the volume loud so I’ve been hoping for some muffling.

    The protective screen does impact the “touchability” a little bit. I think my daughter might have found it discouraging in the beginning, sometimes you have to tap extra times. But now it helps to teach her patience. :)

    It is very sturdy, we haven’t had any drops but liquid wipes right off.

    She also can’t remove it, which is a bonus and for some reason does not try to like with the other case.

  4. I got an otterbox for Max's ipad not long ago and I have to agree that it is pretty clunky and hard to take off and on, but it's solid and I like that. My main complaint would be the rubber edge mention by Jim. Max keeps digging at it and I have to keep readjusting it, otherwise I'd love it. I can't really compare it to other cases though. The one we had before was basically meant for adults and offered very little protection.

    I also only paid twenty dollars for it on amazon. I assume it was cheaper because Max still has ipad 1.

  5. We're really happy with our gripcase http://www.gripcase-usa.com/.

    Also works well with our neurotypical toddler.

  6. We also got the Griffin Survivor (in pink!), and our daughter doesn't seem to have any trouble with it. The silicone (not rubber) is very grip-able, yet flexible enough for pushing buttons or opening flaps to access the various ports. Yes it does make the iPad a little heavier, yes it's expensive, but when it's wind-rain-shock-vibration proof, it's a small investment to protect an expensive device.

  7. We have had our son's iPad 2 since April and are now on our 4th case. Our son will be 4 at the end of February so is not as careful as some older kids might be and as a result I have been on a constant search for a really rugged case. Because of it's reputation with their iPad 1 case, we started with the Otterbox Defender. I would NEVER recommend it to anyone. It was broken within 2 weeks, I was always having to re-set the silicone and it just felt weak. Otterbox did replace the broken case without question, but the replacement went on my wife's iPad, not our son's. Even with it being in adult hands it has still broken and the silicone won't stay in place anymore and will be replaced very soon. Also, over the summer, our son's speech therapist saw his and immediately got her office to start looking for something different for several new iPad 2's they had just gotten. They were just going to order the Otterboxs because they had been happy with the one for the iPad 1's they had.

    The next one we tried was the Griffin Survivor. I was really very happy with it and this is the case that has spent the most time protecting our son's iPad, but I had a couple of things that I would have liked different. One, the case was not really meant to be taken apart very often and so as I needed to take it apart to clean things over time some of the tabs that snap it together broke, but it still did a good job of protecting the iPad. The next thing was that over time, as my son would drop it from short heights, the plastic inner shell broke in a corner. It did take a fair beating before that happened though. I actually think that with a couple of small changes the Griffin would be the perfect case. I would like to see the inner shell made out of metal, so that it could take a real beating continuously. Either that or a way to get individual replacement parts. The other thing that would be nice to see would be some sort of snap closure that could be opened and closed without breaking over time.

    The next case we tried was the Trident Kraken II. The reason I tried it was because it appeared that it had latches to open and close it. Well it did have a couple of latches on the top side, it still used the standard snap closure around the rest of the case. It is also different then other cases because the iPad is put into the silicone and the plastic shell goes on the outside. The silicone is thicker in the corners and protrudes through the plastic to help absorb shock from falls. However my son dropped it just right once a couple of weeks ago and I was off to the Apple Store with a shattered screen and I started shopping for a new case again.

    What I have gone with this time is the Gumdrop Drop Tech. It has only been on for 2 days but so far I am pretty happy with it. When it came, it wasn't exactly what I thought it would be though. I expected a full plastic shell, like the others, but their newest version only has plastic for the front. The silicone, however is very thick and feels very protective. Time will tell.

    I am always looking at cases so have really appreciated this post. Thanks!

  8. We bought the Targus case. It is hard for Alex to turn from landscape to portrait. Another person has to do that for him for the apps that only work in Portrait Other than that (and the interior surface which creeps me out) it is working okay. I might like to try another one but not for a lot of money.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.