We weren’t quite sure what to make of OtterBox’s Utility Series Latch ($50) when it first arrived: it’s an odd little collection of accessories for both generations of the iPad, resembling a backpack. While the company lists a number of different uses on its packaging, it’s hard to come to the conclusion that any of them are worth the money.
The main component of Utility Series Latch is a square harness with four elastic loops that fit around the corners of the tablet, either bare or in one of OtterBox’s Defender Series or Commuter Series cases. It’s made out of nylon and the quality is nice, but there are so many straps and loops that it looks messy, and it doesn’t do much to protect the iPad inside. At the base of each of the cover’s loops is a plastic ring for attaching some of the other included pieces, such as a small bag or strap. A nylon cover is also packed in, and is used to cover the face of the tablet, adding a very weird, shower cap-like protector that you probably won’t want to actually use. On top is a carabiner-style clip that can be used to hang your iPad from something. The product’s packaging suggests that the set has a variety of uses: hand strap, lanyard, shoulder strap, head rest attachment, leg strap, or angled stand.
When used on an unadorned iPad 2, the top right elastic band covers the Sleep/Wake button, the side switch, the camera, and the volume buttons. While it can be repositioned, this is definitely an issue for usability. On more than one occasion, the strap pressed down on the Sleep/Wake button long enough to trigger the “Slide to Power Off ” option on the tablet.
Frankly, we find many of the supposed uses for Utility Series Latch rather silly—while a shoulder strap isn’t crazy, it’s not worth adding to an iPad or iPad 2 at a cost of $50, and moreover, did someone at OtterBox seriously think that Apple’s tablets needed to be attached to a leg strap? The “throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks” approach is a surprise because OtterBox generally makes products that are pretty nice and accomplish an obvious purpose, even when they are over-engineered. Utility Series Latch feels like an engineering flight of fancy—a solution in search of problems. We don’t see the practicality in using this accessory for pretty much anything; rather than trying to excel in one use, it missed on many. The fact that it actually inhibits proper use of the device is a downside as well. Although we have recommended many of the company’s products in the past, this one is pretty bad; it falls well short of the standards that would merit a recommendation.
Company and Price
Model: Utility Series Latch
Compatible: iPad, iPad 2