An Honest In-Depth Review of the Smart Cover (With Pics) - Also, Why I'm Returning It

Discussion in 'iPad Accessories' started by jbg232, Mar 13, 2011.

  1. jbg232, Mar 13, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2011

    jbg232 macrumors 65816


    Oct 15, 2007
    I thought I would give an honest in-depth review of the new smart cover after using it for 2 days. I have some interesting observations which I have not seen in the multiple other reviews I've read and thought I would include them here. For reference sake I have a black leather cover and use my iPad on my lap while on my couch mostly when my wife is watching TV or reading. My review is mostly based off of this kind of usage which I'm going to assume is the way many people use the iPad (but obviously not all) so is geared for that kind of user/experience. You can scroll down to bottom of post for my summary.


    The new smart cover from apple is one of the most talked about accessories I have seen. Reviewers have made entire reviews based off of just this accessory as seen here. While reviews have been mostly positive and the need for a cover does exist for most users (if not only for travel), I have been using the smart cover for two days now and wanted to share my experiences and thoughts on this accessory to future iPad smart cover buyers/owners. Of note, while many people have mentioned the black leather bleeding issue (black leather comes out on clothing in use) that is mentioned by apple here at the bottom of the screen, I have not experienced this issue but may not have used the device long enough to notice it.

    The smart cover is inexplicably thin and adds minimal depth to an already thin device. This is important because one of the new iPad's selling points is its thinness and the smart cover when rolled back and held in place does not add much girth to that experience. However, if you are buying an iPad 2 for thinness then this does add a modest amount of bulk to the front and back.


    The magnets work well and as mentioned in multiple other reviews, auto-align perfectly. There is obviously a balance between how strong apple wanted to make the smart cover magnets in terms of how adhesive they are to the case and how easy they are to remove and I believe they have chosen a good balance. They are easy enough to remove but that comes at the expense of their strength. In day-day usage I find myself wanting to remove the smart cover when I use it (likely because of the problems with it as mentioned below) and it provides that ability easily. However, because of this, the smart cover is NOT strong enough to hold in portrait orientation using only the smart cover as the grip (which can sometimes briefly happen when holding the iPad on the couch in portrait orientation for long periods of time). From my observations it will hold, but holds at the limits of the smart cover's magnetic strength - ie, jostling it around may detach the iPad and have it fall off - not a desirable thing if it falls off on the hardwood floor.

    This iPad is at high risk for detaching from the cover and falling to the ground:


    Another nice highly-reviewed feature of the smart cover is the auto-wake functionality. I like this feature a lot and will miss it but as I have chosen to go coverless I think to myself, "What takes more time - flipping the cover back or sliding the bar to unlock the iPad?" I believe it takes less time to slide the bar so if you don't need the cover (which in the house you likely don't for reasons below) this is actually not a huge loss as the amount of time to remove the smart cover or fold it back into correct orientation is likely more time than just unlocking the screen. Another thing about the auto-wake functionality is that it is highly sensitive. I have found that when taking off the cover and putting it next to me the magnets will sometimes get a little too close to the top right corner and the iPad will turn off and on very quickly. Not terrible, but a little annoying and something that I have to watch out for. Also, I have made the mistake more than once to try and reattach the smart cover to the wrong side which will not only not work but will freak out the iPad (which in turn freaks me out until I realize what I have done). Lastly, the magnets do seem like they could easily scratch the screen if allowed to get in contact with it. I mention this because I almost did this once when removing my cover and putting it next to me a little carelessly. These problems are likely unavoidable given the design but still a little annoying.

    In day-day usage on the couch is where most of my experiences have been and thus where most of this review will focus on. The most advertised feature is the ability to fold up and use the cover in landscape orientation at an angle. When using the smart cover on a flat surface, like a desk, I find the angle to be perfect for both visualization of the screen and comfort of typing. However, if not using the iPad on a desk, and using it on a couch for instance, there are many problems.

    First, I have found that the triangle slips very easily when adjusting my position on the couch. It can move to move to the front, but more often, it just falls back entirely.

    The way it should be when sitting on my lap on the couch:


    What usually winds up happening on my lap when sitting on the couch:


    This tends to happen with minimal movement as the latching mechanism seems be very mobile (obviously this was a design limitation). I find myself having to constantly re-adjust the triangle to the proper location just to use the iPad smart cover in the "correct orientation." This happens so often that I now choose to use the iPad coverless which goes against the main reason why I bought the smart cover in the first place - ie, to add some amount of angle to the iPad to use it comfortably on the couch. However, I have found that the smart cover really does not make the
    "using-an-iPad-at-an-angle-while-sitting-on-a-couch " experience necessary. One, when sitting on a couch it is very easy (for me) to adjust the iPad to the proper angle using just my legs/body. Two, because I like to use my iPad in both portrait and landscape orientation depending on the application, the design of the smart cover makes it very difficult to freely switch orientations. As described above, holding the smart cover in portrait orientation is not very supportive of the iPad given the magnet strength, but more importantly, it is not comfortable ergonomically.

    This is NOT ergonomic:


    In this position I feel as if my hand is being contorted out of shape and that my grip is not strong enough. After a few minutes of this I usually wind up removing the smart cover entirely when I want to use the iPad in portrait orientation. This is a big limitation as once the cover is removed I don't normally feel like putting it back on, I just want to use the device, not interrupt my flow. In summary, when these two issues are combined I have found that in landscape orientation the triangle slips very often causing me to readjust quite often and that when I want to use portrait orientation I wind up removing the cover all together.

    Of note, choosing to fold over the display so that it rests flush with the back of the iPad also leaves much to be desired. What winds up happening in portrait orientation is that the cover moves about a half inch mostly uncontrollably leading to a haphazard and, in my opinion, uncomfortable experience. This also happens in landscape orientation (but less often) but more importantly, in landscape orientation the mute/volume buttons become buried in the recess of the cover and front of the glass making them very difficult to press. Thus, I do not recommend using the cover folded over in either orientation.

    The cover slips very easily and haphazardly between these two orientations:


    There is one other issue when using the smart cover in landscape display with the smart cover triangle. Namely, because of the angle of the iPad when in landscape display, the buttons become very difficult to access. This is compounded when on a lap as it seems the buttons are buried into your thighs and it takes conscious effort to find and press them (see closeup of how close the buttons are to the desk when in landscape orientation). As mentioned above, this is also present (and worse) when folding the cover over.


    Second, there are many issues regarding the use of the iPad as a stand for use as a display. As advertised, I find the iPad to be at an optimal angle when sitting up in landscape orientation, but one of my intended uses was to have it sit up and display photos while charging, thus saving me the price of a dock. This does not work well as the plug looks pretty darn ugly (to my eyes) when sitting in a very visible part of the living room charging in landscape orientation. First, it is a black display (which goes with the base and TV that it is next to) with a white plug. This can obviously be avoided by buying in white. However, more importantly, the plug just looks ugly coming out of the back and is not visually appealing at all. I will not be charging my iPad like this and will now have to buy a black dock (non-apple) to charge the iPad in the living room.

    What I would like:


    What it actually looks like:


    In addition, holding the iPad up in portrait orientation using the smart cover is NOT recommended and also likely not what apple had in mind. It holds the display up at 90 degrees and is completely unstable (ie it will fall forward with the slightest touch to the back). I don't think apple ever intended this use for the cover but want to make sure I mention it in case anyone was thinking about doing this.

    Third, I bought the smart cover to use as a general cover for my iPad when walking around and going places. This is not going to be happening anytime soon as the magnet on the upper right hand corner of the display (the one that prevents the cover from slipping off) is not very strong at the least. I have done some unofficial testing at home and can say that if next to a another item in a bag there is a definite possibility that the cover will slip and expose the glass to the contents of my bag (I would not want a windbreaker jacket zipper to get anywhere near that screen). Thus, I will now have to buy a dedicated cover for use with transportation of the iPad.

    In summary, while the smart cover is definitely sleek and has an excellent design for holding up the iPad in landscape orientation on a flat surface, in day-day usage it disappoints. I can't use it on the couch (95% of my time using the device), for charging, or on the go. Obviously my experience was highly subjective and your experience in day-day usage could be dramatically different. However, for me, given the price ($39 minimum) I find the price-performance unsatisfactory and will definitely be returning it. I will now need to buy both a separate dock and case for travel. While these two items will be more expensive than a smart cover, they will perform well at their jobs and do what the smart cover has failed to do. In summary, I cannot recommend the smart cover for these reasons as summarized below.


    The Good:
    -Provides good front glass protection when not traveling around that is both sleek and of true apple quality
    -Usage in landscape orientation on a flat surface is excellent and well designed (aside from button access issue)
    -Awake on opening works well as advertised and is a nice feature

    The Bad:
    -Smart cover slips easily when using iPad in landscape orientation on lap
    -Magnets are not strong enough to support iPad in portrait orientation using only the smart cover triangle as a grip - ie, your iPad could detach and fall/break
    -Holding iPad in portrait orientation with smart cover folded back is not comfortable as the cover slips easily and is not ergonomic when held with triangle configuration
    -When using iPad in landscape orientation (on desk or lap) or when cover is wrapped around device it is very difficult to access mute/volume buttons
    -Smart cover will not hold display up in portrait orientation well
    -Reports of leather bleeding out (I have not experienced this though)
    -Looks silly when charging in landscape orientation (a concern if this is what your intention was for where to keep your iPad when charged)
    -Magnets seems like they can scratch the front glass accidentally
    -Will NOT hold well if traveling in a bag and being jostled around - ie, will likely be "pushed off" and expose screen to damage
  2. icecrystal23 macrumors 6502

    Jul 18, 2010
    Very nice review and photos.

    I returned mine, too. I didn't even like the angle for typing...
  3. dmaul1114 macrumors 6502

    Mar 12, 2011
    Good review.

    I'm hoping I'll like it more since I don't do much typing anyway. I just want something thin and light to cover the screen and something that's easy to remove (was a pain to get the iPad in and out of the first gen Apple case) as I like using it naked more than in a case.

    Also, if I wanted to do more on screen typing on the couch I'd probably set it on my Belikin laptop lap wedge, and it probably wouldn't slip as much on that.

    Oh well, I'll find out in a few days! Cover should be delivered tomorrow, iPad on Thursday.
  4. JoeG4 macrumors 68030


    Jan 11, 2002
    Bay Area, Ca.
    I think my biggest hang up about the smart cover is it appears to be for people that have this strong belief that it should look like a book and act like a book lol.
  5. melterx12 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 22, 2010
    does the apple store have ipad 2s with smart covers on display? Im thinking of buying one but want to try it out first.
  6. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    Excellent review. I agree with everything that you said. I'll be keeping mine for a week or two to see if any third parties come up with a nice kindle-style case for it. Reasonable for the meantime.
  7. anthonymoody macrumors 68020


    Aug 8, 2002
    Thanks for this. Awesome. I've decided to hold off on upgrading to the 2 for now, but if I did pull the trigger I'd probably get another Portenzo, or maybe try a dodo this time around.
  8. Rafterman macrumors 68020

    Apr 23, 2010
    Thanks, great review. For me personally, no back protection, no sale. I actually liked the original Apple iPad case. It protected both sides, could turn into a stand and was still amazingly thin. I am disappointed that Apple isn't making one for the iPad 2.

    I just ordered from eBay the Macally Bookstand2B from eBay (should get here Tuesday). It basically looks like the same kind of folding cover as the Apple one (though I don't think it has any magnets in it), but offers back protection too. I'll see how that works. Few have any cases actually shipping yet.
  9. DIMEZ macrumors 6502a


    Mar 5, 2009
  10. asleep macrumors 68040


    Sep 26, 2007
  11. Knowimagination macrumors 68000


    Apr 6, 2010
    Nice review. I don't experience many of these issues except the limited access to the buttons during use.

    I am a little confused on one part though what about using it in portrait mode did you find difficult? Did you fold the cover back on itself or try to have it cover the whole back of the iPad?

    I just let the case magnetize to itself and cover half of the back in portrait mode and hold it with my left hand and it works great.
  12. Maclver macrumors 68020


    Nov 23, 2008
    36°07′53″N 95°56′14″W
    Thanks for this review.. Hopefully I don't experience buyers remorse when it comes the smart cover...
  13. entatlrg macrumors 68040


    Mar 2, 2009
    Waterloo & Georgian Bay, Canada
    Thanks you saved me $69 and my drawer being even more full of used Apple accessories :)
  14. Maaz macrumors 6502a

    Mar 13, 2010
    Yeah. I'm actually really surprised at the people who are buying. It. It's a horrible case. I just bought a incase neoprene sleeve plus case.
  15. 3N16MA, Mar 13, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011

    3N16MA macrumors 65816


    Jul 23, 2009
    Nice review. However I'm not sure what the Smart Cover has to do with the way the iPad 2 looks when charging in landscape. The pin connector is at the bottom of the device which means you're only going to get that clean look in portrait. Pretty much all cases are going to look like that because of where the pin connector is located. This is something you should have known long ago and has nothing to do with the case.
  16. jsbaugh macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2009
    I like the smart cover. All I need is a skin to protect the back.
  17. glen e macrumors 68030

    Jun 19, 2010
    Ft Lauderdale
    Thanks...just cancelled the leather do a great job of showing how it fails on the fold back.....moving to a portenza.....
  18. KittyKatta macrumors 6502a


    Feb 24, 2011
    It adds thickness so will a skin interfere with the smart cover latch?
  19. blen macrumors regular


    Sep 13, 2008
    Honestly, this review is jacked up.

    More than half the points are "you probably wouldn't do this, but this is what happens when you do." I.e. you can scratch the screen with the magnets! Uh, yeah, you can scratch the screen with anything you drag across it. Don't drag stuff across your iPad screen.

    It was designed to be used in specific scenarios. If it doesn't work for all yours, don't buy it :)


    Also, you're holding it wrong.
  20. Romanesq macrumors 6502a


    Jun 16, 2003

    +1. Not having these issues. Portrait. WHO USES THAT LOL?

    A bestskinsever on the back and done! This smart cover is genius. Just got one and was dying to get it as no accessories at Target.

    Was no fan of the Apple case last round. Went with Incase.

    Not seeing this movement problem on smart cover. At least not yet. Just love the use for landscape. Prefer a little more angle propping a tad under the smart cover.

    Eve with just gray, happy. Was nothing left at Best Buy.
  21. Knowimagination macrumors 68000


    Apr 6, 2010
    This is the best method for portrait assuming left handed holding.

    Also I cannot get it to fall back as you have shown while using it on my lap. As for the front magnet how strong do you need it to be? The original apple case had no method for holding it closed at least this smart cover has some method to hold it closed.

    I think this is a big problem for people they want the smart cover to be a case when it obviously isn't. To me it is a great cover and works well in the ways it was advertised.
  22. iserian macrumors 6502

    Apr 30, 2010
    Palo Alto Apple Store
    It's not a case.

  23. falconeight Guest


    Apr 6, 2010
    Nothing is perfect buy this case is one of the best inventions ever.
  24. iRabbit macrumors 6502

    Jul 10, 2007
    Great review and I'm in agreement with you. It makes you wonder what prototypes and testers were like and how some of these things ended up being acceptable. Lap tilt while on a couch or laying in bed is so important to some of us... I'm not sure how the Smart Cover passed this test.

    I'm going to keep mine for now, but look forward to third party cases becoming available. I really love my BoxWave case and hope they come out with a new iPad 2 one soon...
  25. makefunnyfaces macrumors 6502a

    Jun 12, 2010
    West Virginia
    I actually like the smart cover because the pink gives it a feminine touch! I wish I had something more protective, though.
    I ordered a ColcaSac to go with it.

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