iPad Air Smart Case review

iPad Air Smart Case review

Apple typically releases two types of cases for the iPad, the Smart Cover and the Smart Case. While the Smart Cover only protects the screen and attaches magnetically, the Smart Case provides full body protection in a variety of different colors. The last generation Apple Smart Case left us disappointed to say the least. Let's see if the new version is any better...

The first thing I noticed about the new Smart Case was how easy it snapped into place. I didn't have to force my iPad Air in any way. This is something I typically look for in a good case. I don't want to feel like I'm damaging the device in the process of protecting it.

Getting the iPad Air out of the Smart Case isn't hard either but it does stay firmly in place. I found the easiest way to remove it from the case is to pop out a bottom corner and then pop out the other bottom corner. From there, you can just lift it out. Easy enough.

Our biggest complaint about the last generation iPad Smart Case were the seams around the edges and how holes weren't cut with very much precision. It just looked and felt sloppy for a case that wasn't exactly on the cheap side. Luckily, this generation seems to improve upon the last generation. I feel as if it actually lines up quite nicely with the iPad and the holes are cut to fit. If anything, I think the lip over the top of the screen could be a little more pronounced instead of being flush. In my opinion, a slightly larger lip over the screen edges would create a little more protection if it were dropped.

Folding the Smart Case over you can use it as a stand as well. It works as advertised and in the same fashion the Smart Covers do. You can incline at a higher degree for movie watching or a lower degree that's good for typing. I don't find that the iPad slides around while typing but it isn't the most ideal case for typing either. This is probably due to my preference for having an actual keyboard when typing for long periods of time. For short periods, the Smart Case does just fine.

My only real gripe with the Smart Case is that when the lid is closed, I feel it sags a small amount in the middle. Since the back cover runs around the edges of the screen and the top cover has folds in it, it does indeed bend inwards slightly when closed. This probably could have been solved by making the top cover a little more rigid. Since it sags in the middle, there's a noticeable gap on the left bottom side, which you can see pictured above.

The good

  • Much improved over the last iteration
  • More protection than the Smart Cover, which only protects the screen
  • Doesn't add a terrible amount of bulk and weight
  • Comes in an array of both bright and neutral colors; brown, beige, black, yellow, blue, and red

The bad

  • Sags a little in the middle when the lid is closed, annoying but not a deal breaker
  • Since it sags in the middle, there's a noticeable gap in the bottom left top corner
  • Material is a little slippery, hopefully that gets better over time

The bottom line

I personally prefer Smart Covers on my iPad because they're minimal, still give me a stand option, and don't add much bulk. The down side is that they do little to protect the back of the iPad Air from getting scuffed up. If you either aren't particularly careful or you worry about scuffs on the back, the Smart Case is a moderately decent option. I still think Apple could have put a little more care and effort into a case they charge almost $100 for.

Are there destined to be better options out there for full body protection on the iPad Air? Absolutely. If you can wait for something better to come along, I'm convinced you'll not only have tons to choose from, some of those options will even cost you less.

- $79.00 - Buy Now

See also:

More images:

Allyson Kazmucha

Help and how to editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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There are 22 comments. Add yours.

DRAppleGuy1593 says:

Amazing case. I just don't feel the price is justifiable though. Wish they still had the cheaper material Smart Case for iPad Air, polyurethane I think it was, in addition to the leather. Since the polyurethane was only $49 which is much more reasonably priced and still a good case to keep it secure and protected.

j_benj says:

I have the black one and I'm really not happy with it. Not a fan of the sharp feeling edges around the screen that dig into my hands while I'm holding the Air. Plus the screen cover part and "hinge" feel flimsy, not to mention it doent sit flush against the screen (which can be seen in the photos here). Definitely should be a better product for $79!

I'm heading to the Apple store in a bit to exchange it for a Smart Cover and I'll pick up a plastic back somewhere to go with it.

Tony Moody says:

Believe it or not the sharp edges around the edge are waaaaaaaay better in this version than in the prior version. So much so that I'm surprised Ally didn't mention it. But yes they still aren't exactly what I'd call "comfortable."

GolfnCPA says:

For $20 more, you get better protection and an excellent keyboard from Zagg. That was my choice after fighting with the old Smart Case. It does add some weight and bulk though.

Irelandjnr says:

Those products are not comparable.

GolfnCPA says:

Understood. I suppose I was primarily arguing the price point.

JeremieJones12 says:

Picked up the blue iPad mini smart case and haven't tried it out yet since I don't have the mini 2. I wish it was more "blue" in color as the outside appears more of a sea foam color.

Irelandjnr says:

If you picked it up perhaps you shouldn't have gone with a colour you weren't fond of. And I agree, very "Coney Island" looking.

Senator48 says:

The Apple cases are extremely overpriced when you consider quality and materials. For $20 more you can get an all-natural bamboo and maple wood "smart case" from Grove. The materials used are renewable, environmentally friendly and best of all the entire operation is based in the USA (Portland, Oregon). Handmade in the USA? Yes, please.

Irelandjnr says:

Seeing as leather is made from animals which will be eating anyway the Smart Case is pretty friendly to the environment. And my issue with wood cases has always been bulk and weight.

ZeroLeonheart says:

@Senator48 I looked at the cases at Grove and MY GOD. They're amazing! I love the fact that they're made in Oregon, and its bamboo and maple. Thanks for the recommendation! I wish iMore would do a review on that case, even if it's 3rd party.

peter wolf says:

the article forgets the most important: the weight!
the case weighs 5.1 oz (144 g). it makes no sense to rejoice over a lighter ipad air, to then make it heavy again.

Senator48 says:

I guess my biggest complaint about the official iPad smart cases is that the fit and finish still doesn't seem to measure up to the high quality of the iPad itself. The gap between the front cover and iPad screen is clearly shown in images above. Even if the weight of the case is absolutely critical for you, I can't understand living with that. Everybody wants something little different; that's why we have so many options out there from 3rd parties. Good luck in your individual case quest.

Jude34 says:

Sentator48, well from my experience with this "new" case the product itself is of high quality and compliments the iPad Air. I've never owned a smart case in the past but I have been impressed in both the design, build, and functionality of this one..

ZeroLeonheart says:

Guys. Guys. Guys.
Remember the case for the iPad 1? Remember that? Remember how it would ATTRACT lint and dust? Remember how dirty it would get? I remember. I'll never forget. I think Incipio makes some decent cases and shells.

erikerik1 says:

One thing nobody touched on yet is the functionality of the case as a stand. I played with it yesterday and noticed that in both horizontal and stand up orientation it's horrible. It offers very little support and it's uneven. I don't think I could stand even writing a few tweets on the on screen keyboard when it's supposted by the smart cover.

I like that it's light but for $80 it's a terrible product and the colors look awful on the leather. The interiors are clearly a different shade on the inside than on the outside. I know it's critical but Apple supposed to offer premium well designed products for the premium price and this is not it.

Jude34 says:

Well, here's my take: I love it. I actually have the smart case in blue pictured in this review. It looked good on Apple's website when I picked it out, and it looks even better in person. Functionality: Using it since this past weekend I've noticed that it's very comfortable yet sturdy; if I dropped it I figure it'd offer fairly decent protection. I have to agree with Allyson about the 'sag in the middle' aspect of the case and probably making it sturdier on the screen cover would take care of that. At any rate look no case is perfection, but I'd rather have this official Apple case then the other option of a smart cover (back will become a mess of scratches, possibly) and anything bulkier.

ptkenney says:

I'm sorry but this case is awful. I find that the cover, as a stand in either the typing or upright video position is extremely unstable. Magnets are supposed to hold it in place but they are so weak that the smallest vibration or lightest touch causes it to fail and collapse. If you buy this I am sure you will be disappointed.

jbiemans says:

If you want the ipad air with cover without keyboard and have the minimum on weight, take a look at this comparison: www.jeroenbiemans.nl/ipad/ipad-air-case-weight-comparison/

It will save you some time surfing for it.

ynzer71 says:

Another excellent review! I really relied heavily on iMore reviews this time around trying to decide on Air vs. mini retina and now for which case to get.

I really wanted to like the New Smart Case, but I had to draw the line somewhere when it came to finances. Having said that if the Smart Case was hands down great I would've gone with it.

But let me tell you the two biggest reasons why I didn't…

1) the new three panel cover. As a user of a Smart Cover on my iPad 2 a couple years ago I liked that I could fold it in half in such a way that my hands didn't touch the microfiber lining. Keeping it clean meant my screen stayed cleaner

2) now for my absolute biggest reason for avoiding the Smart Case/Cover. Why in all their design genius did Apple decide that it was wise to have these cases open and rest on surfaces in a manner than exposes the microfiber lining?!? After all isn't that meant to protect the glass screen? Do they think that every surface at home, office or coffee shop is clean? My fear has always been that if the microfiber material picked up something hard or jagged it could scratch the screen. As awesome as Gorilla glass is it ain't infallible…unlike my grammar)

Still partly out of desperation I tried a Smart Cover. I wanted SOMETHING to give my screen a little extra protection. I ended up returning it two days later. While holding it in portrait mode with the case folded back the corner of the cover dug into my hand. And the corner of that material is quite sharp.

I ended up ordering a third party case that is modeled after the Smart Case. The big difference is that it's cover still has four panels. So I'm going to give it a try. Hopefully it'll fold in half like the original Smart Covers.

Sent from the iMore App

ynzer71 says:

Another excellent review! I really relied heavily on iMore reviews this time around trying to decide on Air vs. mini retina and now for which case to get.

I really wanted to like the New Smart Case, but I had to draw the line somewhere when it came to finances. Having said that if the Smart Case was hands down great I would've gone with it.

But let me tell you the two biggest reasons why I didn't…

1) the new three panel cover. As a user of a Smart Cover on my iPad 2 a couple years ago I liked that I could fold it in half in such a way that my hands didn't touch the microfiber lining. Keeping it clean meant my screen stayed cleaner

2) now for my absolute biggest reason for avoiding the Smart Case/Cover. Why in all their design genius did Apple decide that it was wise to have these cases open and rest on surfaces in a manner than exposes the microfiber lining?!? After all isn't that meant to protect the glass screen? Do they think that every surface at home, office or coffee shop is clean? My fear has always been that if the microfiber material picked up something hard or jagged it could scratch the screen. As awesome as Gorilla glass is it ain't infallible…unlike my grammar)

Still partly out of desperation I tried a Smart Cover. I wanted SOMETHING to give my screen a little extra protection. I ended up returning it two days later. While holding it in portrait mode with the case folded back the corner of the cover dug into my hand. And the corner of that material is quite sharp.

I ended up ordering a third party case that is modeled after the Smart Case. The big difference is that it's cover still has four panels. So I'm going to give it a try. Hopefully it'll fold in half like the original Smart Covers.

Sent from the iMore App