Company: Hard Candy Cases
Compatible: iPad Air
Hard Candy Cases ShockDrop for iPad Air
Although Gumdrop Cases and Hard Candy Cases are technically two different companies for distribution purposes, their cases clearly come from the same designers, and off the same factory lines. That’s why we’re including four different iPad Air cases in this review. Under the Gumdrop name, there’s Bounce ($35), Drop Tech Series ($60), and Hideaway ($70), while Hard Candy offers ShockDrop ($50). Each case comes in a handful of colors, including black, and has textured rubber as the primary material. Three of them included plastic-bordered screen protectors, while one has a built-in stand, and the other is a simple skin.
Bounce is the most straightforward case of the bunch. It’s a single piece of thicker rubber, designed with a tire tread pattern on the back. Wrap it around the body of the iPad Air and it provides a pretty thorough level of protection, but leaves the screen exposed. This includes coverage for all the tablet’s buttons, which remain very clicky through the material. Each port is exposed through a dedicated opening, including the rear microphone. A total of six holes expose the speakers, with three on either side.
Moving up the next level of protection, there’s Drop Tech Series and ShockDrop, which despite their $10 price differences, are essentially the same case, with slightly different body shapes. Each incorporates a a screen protector and extra port protection. From the back, Drop Tech Series looks a lot like Bounce, as it features the same pattern. Each of the ports, as well as the side switch, is covered with a flap that lifts away as necessary. The big addition though, is the plastic frame and screen protector. Before you insert the iPad Air into the rubber layer, you first snap it into place into this piece. Although the film doesn’t effect the touch controls, it does create a prismatic effect on the display. Almost everything works as expected, although we did find one issue with our Drop Tech review unit: the Sleep/Wake button protecter is just slightly misshapen, enough that it stays depressed. This ends up being a big problem, as you can’t turn the tablet on and off. ShockDrop shares all the same features, except it’s boxier, with a different kind of tire pattern, and all of its button protectors work properly.
Lastly, there’s Hideaway, which is the most complex of the bunch. yes, it has rubber, and yes, it has a plastic frame. But it also incorporates a stand into the back. Sitting flush during normal use, the stand pops out as you need it, and holds its shape with embedded magnets. It’s impressively sturdy in both portrait and landscape orientations. The other difference with this one is how the Home Button is covered. Instead of rubber, which allows for a full tactile experience, the clear plastic screen film extends to cover it. This significantly decreases your ability to feel when the button is being pressed, although it doesn’t stop its functionality. Notably, Gumdrop’s website shows rubber over the button, suggesting a revision is coming.
All four of these cases are quite clearly early models, shipped as a gamble, before the iPad Air was actually in customers’ hands. For the most part, though, they’re good options. Because of the issues with the Sleep/Wake button, we’re going to hold our rating of Drop Tech Series right now. Normally we would rate the case as-is, but because it came out so early, and Gumdrop promises that it will be replacing any troubled case free of charge, we’ll wait to see what an updated model offers. Bounce earns our general recommendation. It’s a good enough case, but rather simple for the price. Hideaway also comes in at this level. We really like the integrated stand, but the design of the Home button coverage is an issue. Finally, ShockDrop warrants a B+. It offers thorough protection with no real issues, and is a smart choice for early iPad Air adopters who want a high level of coverage, though without the stand Hideaway includes.