Review: Apple iPad Air Smart Cover
First introduced alongside the iPad 2, Apple's full-sized iPad Smart Cover hasn't seen any updates since its launch, although there was a version released for the iPad mini. Now, the iPad Air has a new body design, and to go along with it, there's the iPad Air Smart Cover ($39). This one’s been heavily influenced by the 7.9” model in many ways, and at this point, resembles the smaller version as much as the iPad Air resembles the iPad mini itself. Black, pink, yellow, blue, green, and PRODUCT (RED) versions are available.
Just like every Smart Cover, the iPad Air Smart Cover is a lid that keeps the display of the tablet protected, but leaves the rest of the body exposed. Right off the bat, this has been our biggest problem with the design, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Gone is the leather option, leaving only polyurethane models around. We don’t find this to be a big problem, because the original leather versions didn’t look or feel significantly better than the polyurethane, and commanded higher prices. It’s worth noting that four of the colors match those of the iPhone 5c, while the black provides a nice, neutral option. The material feels the same as always, which is to say somewhat rubbery. Inside, the lid is lined with microfiber, which can clean the tablet’s screen.
One of the biggest differences with this Smart Cover, in comparison to the original, is the magnetic spine that connects to the iPad’s edge. Gone is the exposed metal; it’s been replaced by a polyurethane-covered design that closely mimics that of the iPad mini Smart Cover. Some may miss the look of the metallic accent, but as it could scratch and scuff the iPad, we’re fine with seeing it go, and the new spine still looks pretty nice.
The lid is divided into three columns, much like the iPad mini’s, and one fewer than the original Smart Cover. Lift it away from the iPad Air’s screen, and embedded magnets will automatically turn the tablet on. Place it back down, and it’ll lock. When it comes time to use the device, the iPad Air Smart Cover can be positioned in a few different ways. It can rest flat against the metal back, with its magnets holding it in place, or it can be folded into a stand. To do this, one simply moves the segments into a triangle, which will hold its own shape thanks to magnets. For both viewing and typing, it’s a perfectly suitable solution.
As we’ve continued to use the iPad and iPad mini Smart Covers over the years, we’ve grown fonder of their design and functionality—it’s simply been the pricing and lack of protection that’s been a problem. Leaving the metal back of a tablet exposed is not suitable, especially when it’s so prone to scratches, or dents if dropped. Very good to great solutions exist that work in conjunction with the lid to provide full protection — SwitchEasy’s CoverBuddy comes to mind, but a case solution shouldn’t need another piece to complete it, especially since the extra cost pushes the total above the price of complete protective solutions. As a lid, the iPad Air Smart Cover does about all we can ask from it, but for $39, it’s severely lacking, and that’s why it earns a C+ rating.