Smart Case for iPad review

The Apple Smart Case for iPad is one of the most un-Apple-like products I've ever seen

Immediately following the keynote at WWDC, Apple silently announced a new case for the iPad called the Smart Case that offers customers a way to protect the back of their iPad while still utilizing the functionality of a Smart Cover -- well, in theory.

Just like the Smart Cover, the Apple Smart Case is made out of polyurethane and is available in the same six colors: light gray, dark gray, blue, green, pink, and red. The inside of both the cover and main body of the case is made of a nice soft suede so that you can trust that your precious iPad will not be scratched when placed inside.

To put the iPad in the Smart Case, you have to push it into the main casing and it isn't exactly very easy to do. It's even more difficult to get off. This would be an acceptable trade-off if the case fit snuggly and perfectly -- but it doesn't. Although the iPad doesn't slide around inside the case, you can see a space between the iPad and the Smart Case. It also has a strange lip around the outside of the entire case, making the body larger than the Smart Cover. This not only makes the iPad larger without added functionality or protection, but also makes it a bit awkward to open the cover since you must get your fingernail underneath it in order to lift it. Well, that's not entirely true -- you could also just turn the iPad upside down.

That's right. The magnetic feature of the Smart Cover that snaps the cover onto the iPad does not work with the Smart Case because the magnetic force is too weak. Let me say that again: the cover on the Smart Case will not keep a magnetic hold to the front of your iPad -- and it's all because that darn lip around the edge of the body of the case doesn't allow the cover to physically touch the front of the iPad, thus reducing the effect of the magnets.

The Smart Case allows easy access to all the ports on the iPad and covers the power button and volume keys while still making it easy to use them. However, all the cutouts don't matchup perfectly. This is particularly annoying with the mute switch because the cutout is just enough too high to make it difficult to flip up the switch. The back of the case features a white Apple logo in the center, right where it would be on your iPad.

Apple claims that you can easily fold back the cover to use as a stand, but I wouldn't trust it when standing tall. Because of the way the cover sits with the case, the iPad stands almost completely vertically and doesn't seem to be very stable. I'm terrified it's going to come crashing face down at any given moment. Maybe that's why Apple include the lip around the edge -- so when your iPad experiences a face plant, the screen won't actually hit the surface that your iPad is standing on.

The good

  • Offers protection to both the front and back of the iPad
  • The automatic ON/OFF feature of Smart Cover works on the Smart Case

The bad

  • Lid does not stay magnetically closed
  • Doesn't have a perfect fit
  • "Features" an annoying lip all around the edges
  • Is not very stable as a stand
  • Cutouts do not perfectly match up
  • Cover is hard to lift (if not flipping upside-down)

The bottom line

I was excited when Apple announced the Smart Case for the iPad but was disappointed almost immediately after taking it out of its box. Honestly, I think Apple should be ashamed of letting something so sloppily made hit the shelves. If you're looking for a case that works well with Apple's Smart Cover, you're better off picking up an Incipio Smart feather Ultralight Hard Shell Case.

$49.99 - Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Leanna Lofte

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.

  • It looked good in all the pictures, bummer it didn't turn out. I would have thought more detail would have went into it seeing since they did such an awesome job with the original smart cover.
  • Mine works fine. It's lightly magnetic - not as strongly so as the previous cover (but then it doesn't need to be given it's a case, not a cover). The holes align with the ports, including the headphone. agree it's ever so slightly loose, and I miss not being able to tuck the lid into a flap and have it sit on my lap as with the first case. but it's a blend of the first case and the first cover to create both. i'm happy with it (up until now I'd been using the original case on my ipad 3 as I preferred it. this is better than the cover and at least the holes line up).
  • Agreed: I'm using the Project Red Smart Case, and it works perfectly well.
    There IS magnetic closure with that magnetic "snap" in place. As Alan said, it is not as strong a magnet, but certainly stays closed even held upside down by the body edges (not touching the top lid).
    I was thinking to just return this case (see my first post below) after reading this review, but I'm glad I went ahead and tried the case out.
    I'm quite happy with this case: every hole aligns well, even the hole-for-hole speaker area.
  • What garbage.
    I suggest the PixelSkin HD Wrap by Speck. I have the black version, it's awesome.
  • I looked at it in the Apple Store today. it is the original iPad case with an extra fold. It's junk.
  • I really appreciate these honest reviews. They are incredibly helpful!
  • The new case looks really ugly.
  • Thanks Leanna! Now I know not to bother.
  • Did you try it the iPad 2? Maybe it fits that better?
  • I actually did not. I don't have an iPad 2 in SF with me while at WWDC. I'm sure the iPad 2 does fit much better. Apple shouldn't have designed a "one size fits all" case, though. They have two different iPads and should should've made two different cases.
  • Wouldn't an iPad 2 be even more loose since it's thinner than the new iPad, or are you using a 1st generation iPad?
  • Oh yeah... good point. It's the iPad 3 that should've had a nice snug fit. Don't know what I was thinking.
  • Here is a review I did on the case. I find my case works when closing, it stays closed, but I agree on the rest. After using it for two days, the cover and stand are not that bad. I agree about the fit, loose but somewhat stable. Check out my review!
  • I agree with the initial comments, btw great and comprehensive review Matt, I actually really only like that it has good materials and the apple logo is nice. But the lip on the front and the way you have to pry it open a bit to start using the iPad is the deal breaker for me. I would have to say that the original smart cover plus a nice rear shell such as a powersupport air jacket is my ideal combo for pro protection. I'll be posting a review on the new air jacket on as well. Great review Leanna, at least the review pictures came out nice which I know is your area of expertise. Go check out Matts review on this so you can really see this thing in action before plunking down $50 at apple.
  • Great review by Matt, super detailed and concise. I love that it is made from nice materials and has an apple logo on it. But the deal breaker for me is the lip and how poorly it seems to fit. I didn't like the fact that you have to pry it open to start using it and it reminds me a bit of the terrible case that came out for the 1st gen iPad. For me the original smart cover is a major design win and coupled with something like a powersupport air jacket(which I am reviewing the new one for the ipad3 on YouTube soon) is an ideal combo for protection. Awesome review and pics Leanna, and if you guys want to see this thing in action go check Matt's review on YouTube, it's really well done and may help you decide if you should go to apple and plunk $50 or not.
  • I got the case in dark grey and I really really like it. It adds very little bulk, fits nicely, easy to insert the iPad. The bezel provides a nice aesthetic, the lid closes very nicely and it's is slightly narrower than the bezel with is actually very helpful in keeping it closed. The texture is soft and comfortable to hold. I am so happy with it after trying speck, ifrogz summit and incase. Really great offering.
  • Welcome to the new world of Apple.. Steve is gone.. Tim is in charge ?..
    just normal corporate America ethics...
    Screw the consumer..
  • What's with all the drama? I would really suggest people check it out for themselves. These reviews are not remotely reflective of the case. It's sleek functional and minimalist. Really cool and Apple is still Awesome!
  • no drama intended...
    just a reality check.. the magic is over...
  • You wish!
  • hard to discuss reality with a fanboy
  • lol. yeah, ok. The Apple case for the iPad 1 also sucked and that was under the rein of Steve Jobs.
  • Rein? Wtf????
  • I wouldn't consider "reign" a loaded word in this instance. Please relax a bit, folks.
  • Seriously? It's a typo. I'm really busy at WWDC and squeezed in some time to reply to comments. You know what I meant. Mistakes happen.
  • How is this screw the consumer? Is this the ONLY case available? Are you FORCED to purchase this case when you buy your ipad? Will this case please everyone?
    No. If you don't like it move on.
    I personally loved the first gen iPad case and wished Apple had come out with one for gen 2 and gen 3. I'm happy I made this new purchase.
  • Oh oh, is this product the first signs of Apple's future without Jobs?
  • Sadly,,, I feel you are also one of us FEW who see the major difference in product will continue..
    Apple will end up just another SLEAZY corporation selling CRAP to consumers,, based on Steve's good name...
    I guess the dollars justify it when then explain it to their kids...
    selling off all my apple stuff, ( stocks , etc ) before the sheep catch on
  • Oh my god, people are so ridiculous. Apple released duds worse than this during Steve's time. Remember the first phone with iTunes? The one with the interface so bad Jobs could barely figure it out while on stage presenting it? Apple will release plenty of amazing products in years to come, just as they have in years past, and sure, they'll occasionally miss with a few. Ping, anyone? If anything, this case is just a reminder that Apple is amazing but not perfect. No person or company is perfect.
  • Haha Moto ROKR ... Now THAT was painful. 100 songs max. We have come a long way people!
  • There's a much better smart case and it's real leather if you like that kind of a thing.
  • Ive wondered when they were going to come up with this! When I purchased my iPad I wanted more of a protective case that covered both the back and front which is the reason why I opted out on the smart cover. I love my incase book jacket though it is great and has the magnetic on/off function as well!
  • Me too. It is protective, functional and fits well.
  • How can Apple allow such crap to be released?
    The Smart Cover may be stupid for not covering the back, at least it works as advertised and it's stylish.
    The new so called Smart Case is awful both aesthetically and functionally. And heaven forbid they even bumped up the price for another $10. Major fail.
    The "No"-man of Apple is gone - well , we know that.
  • "Let me say that again: the cover on the Smart Case will not magnetically stick to the front of your iPad"
    Leanna, you are mistaken. It does magnetically close, but it seems like the magnets are fairly weak. But it IS indeed magnetic.
  • That was the point. It's weak so it won't guarantee a "stick".
    The Smart Cover will keep the iPad closed even when flipped face down while the Smart Case doesn't.
  • Well, after using mine for two days, I can't say I've had any problems with the front cover staying closed. I find it more annoying that it doesn't magnetically stick to the back of the case. I'm not saying the new case is perfect, but I sincerely don't feel it's even close to being as bad as Leanna makes it seem.
  • I like the Mole Skin from DodoCase. Does the job and well I can use my DodoCase or my smart cover.
  • I find the smart cover getting in the way when I am surfing the net or playing games. What is nice is that I can easily take it off and reattach it. There are thin hard plastic covers that protect the back of the iPad which are smart cover compatible. I find the combination of the two works best.
  • Not one of your better reviews. Contrary to your emphasised assertion, the magnetic cover does work, albeit not as strongly as on the Smart Cover. The 'lip' is obviously there to absorb knocks, not unlike the original iPad case which had a similar rim. In fact most of the basic design, fit, cover opening, stand stability, etc., although not identical, very much mirrors the original case. They seem to have largely used the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' rationale. Basically if you liked the original case, you'll probably be comfortable with this version. If you didn't, look elsewhere.
  • That's my point, the magnet sucks and doesn't perform as well as a the Smart Cover magnet. I could compare it to those crappy refrigerator magnets that technically have a magnetic force that allows them to stick to the refrigerator, but are so weak that they slide down refrigerator -- and god forbid you try to use them to put something underneath them that you want to have on the refrigerator (like a photo or business card).
    These types of refrigerator magnets are worthless to me. So is the Smart Case. If it's going to have a magnetic closure, I'm not going to pay $50 for one that only sort of works.
    I also hated the Apple case for the iPad 1. For the same price, there were a countless number of better cases.
  • Wow... so maybe you weren't the best choice to review the case then if you hated the first. Not that you have to love a product to review, but since this was an update to something you hated.... the outcome of the review was probably pre-determined.
  • That's a stretch.
    She could've been a great choice specifically because of that critical eye. All that really matters is that she gave the product a fair testing. Since she gave plenty of grounded reasons for her dissatisfaction, the criticism seems unfounded.
  • I read reviews like this specifically because I want a critical eye. If a product doesn't meet expectations, I want to know - even if it's an Apple product. The idea that Apple can do no wrong is foolish. Apple creates amazing products, but that doesn't mean they always get it right. I can't help thinking this smart case will be improved in a future design tweak, or maybe it's just not going to be one of their better products. Either way, this review told me exactly what I needed to know.
  • My review of this one had nothing to do with preconceived ideas of the first one. In fact, like I said in my conclusion, I was extremely excited about this case and was expecting it to be awesome. I made about 4 trips to the Apple Store in one day waiting for it to be in stock because I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. However, I did not allow my expectations and hopes for the case to cloud my judgement and give it a glowing review because I wanted it to be an awesome case.
  • Why don't you give her a break? The case she got didn't fit well, was hard to open for her and has magnets that are so weak they are basically useless.
    You can take than info and use it, ignore it, or write it off for whatever reason. It's up to you.
  • I purchased the Incipio back cover for the ipad2 (iPad 3 compatible). Simply LOVE this case! Ports and buttons easily accessible. One side completely covering one edge, while the other allows for firm attachment of the smart cover. Even has magnetic strips built into the back to grab and hold the smart cover while the smart cover lays against the back.
  • Thank God I read this post. Seriously.'It really helps on Making the Decision.
    Thank you for writing this review!
  • I picked one up yesterday, you must of got a bad one, magnets work perfect, stays close again magnets keep cover closed, its not bulky, an is just fine.
  • my god the lady cant even give a review she shows photos and she obviously enjoys apple products and if she is biased its in apples favor so i give credence to her opinion i was looking to get and and know not to but heaven forbid she dare go against apple she loses all credibility that is so funny... The apple over the toppers come running in to prove her wrong and say she must have a bad one or her pad must be different than all others.. It is a conspiracy has to be
  • I like it much better than Leanna, although I agree with her opinion about using the vertical stand. Mine fits nicely and the smart cover closes and stays closed with no issues. (I never liked the smart cover with no backing because it would constantly come off at the connectors.) It's overpriced, but honestly, so is just about everything with an Apple on it.
    As for it being Tim Cook's "junk" and a sign of things to come? Please people. The original iPad case/cover released by Apple was absolute, overpriced garbage and if you'll recall, Saint Steve was still around then. So enough of that nonsense.
  • And lets not forget the "Bumper", a $30 rubberband. This sells for $49.99 and that bumper was $30?? Starting to see where that $100 billion Apple is sitting on came from.
  • the smart case is perfect. quit complaining.
  • perfect. lol.
  • In my quest for the perfect case, I've tried a dozen of for iPad2/New iPad.
    What I like is a case that is easy to snap on/off, let nearly the full bezel of the iPad visible (for easy swipe), add little bulk to the iPad, but protect it well enough.
    I've not tried yet the new Smart Case from Apple.
    But for now, the best two cases I found are:
    -iOn Carbon Cover for iPad 2 (this has IMHO the best typing/viewing angles, different that the angles offerd by the SmartCover like).
    - INVELLOP Leatherette Cover Case (very good price for the quality).
  • Sounds like the case in this review could be defective. There is no way apple would release a product that the cutouts don't line up and the magnets don't work properly.. Especially after seeing other reviews on YouTube where everything lines up nicely and the magnets work fine. Check out reviews on YouTube before making a decision.
    imore should purchase another case and do a follow up review. I think you got a lemon that slipped through quality control.
  • We bought two. Both performed the same.
  • Oh come now, you use a negative
    "Is not stable as a stand"
    The original cover is not stable as a stand why should this one be any different.
    As for things like the mute switch access not being right, this is a sign that things are getting sloppy at Apple with Steve Jobs there, things are getting approved too easily in the rush to get products out and keep the shareholders happy.
  • Compared to the Smart Case, the Smart Cover works as a very stable stand.
  • Thanks for the objectivity, Leanna.
  • i picked up my Project Red iPad Smart Case last night, it's still in the packaging as I'm iKlear-ing my iPad 3rd gen first... Then I read this post... considering: take it back as it's still packed... or try...
    I figure I've 15 days... hope it is not too horrid...
  • Ok, just tried the case out: I'm using the Project Red Smart Case, and it works perfectly well!
    There IS magnetic closure with that magnetic "snap" in place. As Alan said, it is not as strong a magnet, but certainly stays closed even held upside down by the body edges (not touching the top lid).
    I'm quite happy with this case: every hole aligns well, even the hole-for-hole speaker area.
  • Heya,
    I just installed my Product Red version.. unfortunately this review is correct.. the case almost feels a tiny bit "too big" for the ipad... I can see light through the top of it and when I hold it with one hand the side seems to nearly "pop out" the ipad.. If it was a tiny bit more snug it would be perfect.. oh well :-(
    As a work around for mine, I just used some cardboard strips to stuff in the bottom and the side of the ipad.. now its a tight fit and works like it should... but I shouldn't have had to do that :-(
  • My experience is a total opposite. mine (same project red) fits snug and does have magnetic closure. i did not test trying to see if i can see light through it, but it closes, and stay closed.... could it be a batch issue? (some made slightly different than others?)
  • Anyone seen these cases?:
    Not exactly for the budget minded!
  • I tried one out. It sucks.
  • Wow, this was disappointing.
    I have some cheap cover with a Bluetooth keyboard. Its fast and efficient, owing to the Bluetooth 3.0, but it sucky for protecting the edges of the iPad.
  • The Incipio is great. I especially like the fact that I can easily remove the smart cover entirely if I want.
  • New to the site, and came along to read this reviewer. As a reviewer myself, anyone who starts a review with the words "silently announced" is, to my mind, not to be trusted. I mean - how the hell can you "silently announce" something? Was there a bit at WWDC where they kind of just mouthed the words "hey - we made a new case for the iPad"?
    Great site, fantastic articles - but this review? I will go into an apple store tomorrow and test one of these cases.
  • Lotta hostility around here over a simple review.
    There are things at Apple loudly boasts about, briefly mention, and silently release. This was the last of the three.
    That's it. No conspiracy. No apparent bias.
    I know what it's like to be so fond of a thing that negative reactions toward it can be almost threatening but that's something we need to keep in-check to avoid justifying our fanboy reputations. Here's a good place to start.
    And this is coming from someone who has heaped play of criticism toward modern journalism and this site, in-particular. (Not that you asked, but my current peeve is the ineffective anchoring when site is visited from ios devices, I click th comment thingee and it just opens the blog post. It doesn't take me to the comments section. I get tired of swiping like mad.)
  • It's silent because Apple didn't actually SAY anything. You know -- the definition of silence... no sound. It just appeared on the Apple website. I don't know how it gets any more silent than that.
  • I take it you didn't watch the Keynote??? It was pretty darn silent if you ask me.
  • Hah i bought Spider case from for 15$ and it even looks better that the original u have reviewed, and this one is on the market for six months :) try it i have tha same cons about this crappy chinese crap too
  • I probably would be more interested in these "smart cases" if I didn't have an Otterbox case for m iPad 2. It's not pink, nor is it "cute" but it does protect much better than this "cute" pink smart case.
  • The review is an excellent one. Like all products, some will like it, others will not. Leanna is not giving her personal thoughts only. She is stating the pros, and cons from a user standpoint. I totally agree, one size does not fit all. The new iPad, and iPad 2 are different enough, that there should be a different design for the back case. Some of the reviews coming in from YouTube are stating two common things. The case feels loose, and it is hard to open the smart cover.
    When you are spending $50.00, reviews are important. I trust the iMore team to give me honest reviews. I do not always agree with them, but totally respect the job they are doing.
  • I can say with confidence that is by far the best ICase I have had
  • I tried one on my new ipad at the Apple Store with the same thoughts as Leanne. Difficult to put on, take off, and open. It also felt loose on the ipad. Instead, I bought a Smart Cover and a Belkin Snap Shield Secure at Walmart. Together they work great and the Snap Shield Secure is really thin and also has a small magnetic strip on the back that holds the Smart Cover flat against it when it's open.
  • I always appreciate unbiased reviews but this was a terrible review and should be redacted. I'm going to pick apart some of the final points discussed in the "Bad" section:
    Lid does not magnetically can this statement be made? This reviewer loses all credibility simply by this statement because it does close magnetically. I don't care of it's weak/"refrigerate" like magnetism but it simply does close. As a math teacher, one should understand that the statement made above is an absolute statement (think of it as binary or true/false) and therefore, she is absolutely WRONG!!!!! Lol
    Doesn't have a perfect fit...this is a terrible opinion, as most things are this review. People should simply know that if this case was shaken by the flap, the iPad 2 our 3 will not fall out unlike the smart cover.
    "Features" an annoying lip all around the edges...another terrible/uneducated opinion. Who cares as this was similiar to the case for the original iPad.
    Is not very stable as a fine.
    Cutouts do not perfectly match up...mine fits perfectly.
    Cover is hard to lift (if not flipping upside-down)....maybe because it IS magnetically closed requiring a little more force to open. OMG. Lol.
    What an imperfect review. I'm never going to read this blog again because of this "unbiased" review. Are you guys sure you are not being paid by Incipio? I quote, "you're better off picking up an Incipio Smart feather Ultralight Hard Shell Case."
  • I should back off a little in that people are entitled to their opinions. The thing that irked me in this review is that the cold hard facts are completely wrong and thus, my harsh reply. I too am far from perfect (ie typos and grammar errors), but if you can't get the facts correct, what's the point?
  • That's fair, so I updated the wording.
    Having a perfect fit is something I care about. If I'm going to spend $50 on a case, it better look good. Does Apple allow edges on devices not to be flush because it would still "work"? No. and they shouldn't with their cases either. Design is important to me. Other case makers do it just fine.
    The lip is ugly. This is my opinion. As the reviewer, I'm entitled to my opinion. No everyone will agree. That's ok. It's pretty clear that this bullet is opinion based.
    No it doesn't. It's wobbly as hell and if I try to stand my iPad on anything but a perfectly hard surface. It falls. Including on carpet. I can use my Smart Cover as a stand on carpet.
    Mine don't. I have pictures to prove it. Neither did the ones on the other case we picked up. Many other reviews out there experienced the same thing.
    The Smart Cover has a stronger magnetic force and is not difficult to lift. The Smart Case is hard to lift because the main case is bigger than the lid. If the lid was the same width, it'd be easy to open. This is poor design.
    I wish I was paid by Incipio. I recommend another case because people read reviews when looking to buy a new case. Instead of just saying not to buy this one, I offer an alternative. I genuinely think that Incipio case is awesome. My mom has it and I will be purchasing one for myself soon.
  • I bought one for my wife's iPad2, tried it and took it back the very next day. Very disappointing fit. Bought the Smart Cover and will rely on the HyperShield backcover I ordered earlier. Much nicer fit and good feel and only $8.95 on sale currently
  • Thanks for the honest review!
  • Jeez Leanna, how dare you voice your opinion and point out flaws in a product in an attempt to help others make an informed decision. What were you thinking?! /sarcasm
    She reviewed the case she bought, on the iPad she has, and gave her thoughts on it. Those of you saying she's WRONG, well maybe the case you bought fits your iPad better, or the magnets are stronger, or whatever. That doesn't mean that what she said about the case she has is not correct. No need to be rude to a writer that put in the time and effort to review something for you just because you may not agree with her opinion.
  • I bought one, and it has it's good points, and bad points. The lip is designed wrong. It should be rounded, and closer to the iPad. The strong points are the four coners. The rest is loose, and can pull down, or off with ease. The cutouts on mine line up. The magnets on mine are strong. There is visible dried glue near the top, and bottom left where the smart cover is glued to the case. I am sorry, thet is just poor workmanship. There should be no visible glue at all. With slight redesign, this could be a great case, cover. One problem not looked at, when you wipe your screen off before putting up, due to the design of the case, dust, and dirt will gather in the corners. This will mean taking the case off to clean out properly off, and on. Another poor design. I have no problem opening the top, but being a guitar player, I have fingernails to grab it. If you have very short, it may be hard to open. I would give it three out of five stars.
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  • the concerns in this review are a bit overblown. i bought a smart case and think it's pretty slick. don't have any of the problems described in this review. Does iMore perhaps get a kickback on Incipio Cases sold?
  • INCASE has a magnetic shell for the back of iPad that works well with smart cover to get a few diff angles, and access to all items is good. Magnets in case hold the smart cover on the back, and cover hold on front is the same as without the case on the back (well no worse than Apple engineered). Bad is same as any case using the smart over - vertical position is compromised because of thickness.. INCASE has no protective lip but that is of marginal funtion anyway - no help if the screen crashes on a sharp edged object
  • I like the New iPad 2 iPad 3 Smart Cover Case - it's iPad Protector. Slim and durable, is truly a natural fit with new ipad 2/ipad 3. iPad can automatically wake or put it into hibernation.
    I got it from
  • Apple's iPad Case is brilliant.
    All the moaning about prising it open - if you were to just watch Apples demo you would see that the way to open it is to drag the cover across the screen, that is why the inside has a microfibres lining. As you open it , so it cleans the screen for you. Also I have no problems with any of the cut outs, they are all exactly where they should be.