Review: iHome Vertical Origami Smart Book for iPad mini
iHome has partnered with a company called LifeWorks to expand past its well-established audio accessory lineup, with a number of new OEM-quality cases and peripherals that are outside of iHome's wheelhouse. Among them is the Vertical Origami Smart Book for iPad mini ($30). We've seen this origami-style folding lid before, but usually it's mounted in the horizontal orientation rather than vertical relative to the iPad's face. Combined with a hard plastic shell, it provides reasonable coverage but isn't without issues.
Right out of the packaging, it’s clear that iHome and LifeWorks chose to use lower quality materials and skimped a little bit on manufacturing quality, too. Both the polyurethane exterior of the lid and the soft, faux leather sticker on the back of the shell feel cheap and show cosmetic issues. The latter immediately picks up scuffs and other marks, and is literally rough around the edges.
Vertical Origami Smart Book’s lid isn’t actually set up like a book, as most folios are. Instead, it opens along the bottom edge, with the cover folding down and unlocking the iPad mini as it goes. When not in use, or when folded behind, it can be held in place thanks to an elastic band that wraps around a post at the top of the case. The origami-style cover can both be folded in on itself, and rolled into a triangle like more traditional Smart Cover-esque lids; both positions are held together by embedded magnets. It supports horizontal viewing angles, but also less traditional portrait modes. Standing at about 80 degrees, we could see this case as particularly useful for writers who want to see a whole page at once.
As for the shell, it’s good for the low price, but not great by any absolute standard. We’re thankful that there are individual openings along the top edge for the headphone port, microphone, and Sleep/Wake button, but wish that the rest of the plastic went all the way to the edge instead of stopping just short. There’s no button coverage, and the bottom edge is pretty much totally open, although the two straps connecting the lid to the case help protect from the edge of the speakers to the corners.
Given iHome’s very good track record with speakers, we expected more from a product with the company’s name on it, regardless of who actually made it. Vertical Origami Smart Book isn’t bad, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a premium accessory, and the core concept is derivative. The only appealing factors are its low price, and its potential appeal to writers. Budget-conscious users who value functionality over look and feel will like it; it’s just good enough for $30 to be worthy of a general recommendation.