Preface : there’s a TL;DR at the end.

Long version : I’ve been working with over 30 iPads for about a month now in the corporate world, and I’ve got to say, it has been an interesting experience.

The number one problem I have with the iPad right out the box is that you just can’t hold the darn thing for prolonged periods since it has a smooth aluminum-like back and a glass-like front. I think the iPad just isn’t ergonomic at all.

Ipad 01


While I think “pressing” a simple recessed finger / palm space on the back of every iPad would solve the problem (or even “dimpling” the back of every iPad in a very tight “U” pattern), I know Apple never trades design for functionality.

Ipad 02


Since I didn’t want any of the iPads saying “howdy” to terra firma, I decided to buy three iPad cases for myself and a three iPad cases for each corporate location to see which one was the best. I bought Apple’s iPad case, Incase’s Convertible Book Jacket iPad case, and Belkin’s Grip Swell iPad case. Here’s what I found….


*** APPLE’S IPAD CASE ***

The first case I put on the iPad was the one from Apple.

Right up front, the case feels like some very high-tech industrialized rubber/hard-plastic hybrid. I honestly think this is what the “Dark Knight” Batman suit is made of.

Getting the iPad into the Apple case was a bit snug, but once it was in, there was no “wiggle” space and the iPad felt like it wasn’t going anywhere once it got in there.

Apple iPad insert 01


Tucking the long flap under the iPad seals the case…

Apple iPad insert 02


…and the iPad is ready to go.

Apple iPad insert 03


Looking on the outside of the iPad, the case allows full open access to the docking port on the bottom of the iPad…

Apple iPad Case Exterior 03


… the headphone and sleep button on top…

Apple iPad Case Exterior 01


…and the volume and rotation-lock buttons on the side.

Apple iPad Case Exterior 02


The cover flap is slightly smaller than the edge of the case, but it still fully covers the iPad screen and is actually a brilliant design (I’ll explain why when I get to the InCase review).

The Apple iPad case also has a small flap on the back that allows you to swing the cover back around and tuck the cover flap securely into it.

Apple iPad Back Catch


You can use this flap to stand the iPad up for reading or passive activities…

Apple iPad Standing


…or lay it down like a raised keyboard for gaming and more input-intense activities.

Apple iPad Laying Down


Depending on what you’re doing on the iPad, this is a very useful feature, and most of the corporate locations said it came in very handy.

Also worth mentioning is that in the time I’ve been using the Apple iPad case and tucking and un-tucking the cover into the back, the back flap hasn’t lost any of its’ strength. I am worried eventually it might start to move away from the back, but so far, even in the heavy-use corporate environments I had it in, they have been a resounding success.

Now for the “bad” things…

First, the main problem all of the corporate locations had with the Apple iPad case is that it doesn’t offer a lot of “bumper” protection along the sides and edges of the iPad. Yes, it feels like Batman’s suit, but no one thought that Apple’s iPad case would prevent any damage from a drop of about two feet or more. Every corporate location preferred the “secure” feel of the InCase Convertible Book Jacket for their daily use. (more on the InCase next)

The other problem I have with the Apple iPad case is simply aesthetic… it’s a major dirt magnet.

Apple iPad Case Exterior Dirt 02


These photos show what the Apple iPad case looks like after a week’s worth of use in an industrial environment with no cleaning.

Apple iPad Case Exterior Dirt 01


The good news is that dirt and spills almost always clean off. The bad news is that if you want your Apple iPad case to keep looking new, you’re going to be cleaning this case constantly.

The Apple iPad case is very pretty, sports a very modern design, adds almost zero heft and girth to the iPad, and offers some decent elemental protection. It’s a great buy, and I think it is perfect for individuals, high-end “sheltered” corporate use and activities that don’t involve warehouses and industrial environments.

I rate the Apple iPad Case case 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Apple? If you treat the outer cover with something more stain resistant, I’ll change it to a five star rating.


*** INCASE’S CONVERTIBLE BOOK JACKET IPAD CASE ***

This case is like watching a heartbreaking game from your favorite team on opening day. Everything is absolutely perfect for the first half, but then…. they completely blow it at the very end. The whole game is ruined because they screwed up so badly, and in a way you just can’t believe.

First off, let me talk about getting the iPad into the Incase Convertible Book Jacket case. This case is a rigid design that doesn’t feel like you’re forcing the iPad into a rubber suit. This case is cut so perfectly that the iPad fits inside of it like a machined part. Absolutely perfect!

Once you slide in the iPad, you just close the large velcro flap on the side…

Incase iPad case Insert 01


…and the iPad is ready to go!

Incase iPad case Insert 02


The exterior of the convertible book jacket’s case is remarkable. It resisted weeks of heavy industrial use at all of the same locations the Apple iPad case was at and it still looks brand new.

Incase iPad case Exterior 01


There’s a elastic band that stretches around from the back to keep the case closed when the iPad is not in use…

Incase iPad case Exterior 02


… and the case has more “open” access to the docking port on the bottom of the iPad…

Incase iPad case Exterior 03


…the volume and rotation lock buttons on the side of the iPad…

Incase iPad case Exterior 04


…and the headphone and sleep button on the top of the iPad.

Incase iPad case Exterior 05


Once again, the strength of this case is remarkable. The inside of the case allows for post-it notes and attachments for reference, and the “pleather” feel is quite pleasant to the touch. The back, sides, and cover are reinforced with heavy material that doesn’t give at all when pressed. The iPad also feels rock-solid secure in this case, and the “book” feel gives the iPad some good heft and stability.

The addition of this much bulk to the iPad may be a bit much for personal use, but for heavy high-traffic use and for industrial/corporate environments, this case gets my recommendation!

Incase iPad case Exterior 07


Well… almost.

There’s one critical error that I can’t believe Incase let slip by quality control. It involves the elastic band and the cover flap.

Incase iPad case Bend 00


Incase made the cover flap flush-even with the perimeter of the case that covers the iPad (see the above photo). This would have been fine if not for the elastic strap.

After just two weeks of using the elastic strap, every single Incase Convertible Book Jacket….

Incase iPad case Bend 03


…warps. Permanently.

Even when you remove the elastic band, the warp will remain. Putting the elastic band back on doesn’t help at all.

Incase iPad case Bend 04


If you leave the iPad on, you can clearly see how bad the warp is, even with the elastic band on…

Incase iPad case Bend 05


You can always press down on the warped cover to press it back down flush with the screen and case…

Incase iPad case Bend 01


… but as soon as you let go, it will pop back up again.

Incase iPad case Bend 02


I simply can’t believe no one in Incase quality control caught this before it shipped. This bulge defeats the whole purpose of the screen cover, and makes the Incase look pretty ugly when compared to any other case.

The Incase Convertible Book Jacket a wonderful, thick, heavy case, and it feels like the iPad would be able to survive just about anything when it is tucked inside. Even though I rate this case lower than the official Apple iPad case, I would prefer this case for use in heavy-duty high-traffic high-use corporate environments. (Plus, every single store manager I work with has chosen the InCase Convertible Book Jacket for the iPads that are working in their industrial environments. They just don’t use the elastic band!)

I rate the Incase Convertible Book Jacket 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Incase? Just trim a little bit of the screen cover away from the perimeter just like Apple does with their case. That will keep the exterior flap from reaching flush with the bottom edge of the case and will also keep the cover from getting warped by the elastic band. I’ll happily give you five stars with this one major modification.


*** Belkin’s Grip Swell iPad case ***

This case is a solid bronze winner. There’s nothing wrong with this case at all! There’s just a Gold and Silver medalist in the competition.

To start with, the Grip Swell is a drop-in easy border for the iPad. There’s no cover protection at all. Just put the iPad in the center…

Belkin iPad case Insert 01


…and slide the Grip Swell along the perimeter.

Belkin iPad case Insert 02


Done!

Belkin iPad case Insert 03


The exterior of the Grip Swell allows full access to the docking port on the bottom…

Belkin iPad case Exterior 01


…the rotation control on the side is exposed, but the volume control is covered by the rubber sheath.

Belkin iPad case Exterior 02


The headphone jack on top is exposed, but the sleep button on top is also covered by the rubber sheath.

Belkin iPad case Exterior 03


The back for this color variety is very easy to hold on to with one hand. I could probably use this case all day if I had to.

Belkin iPad case Exterior 04


The only problem with this case is that if you grab the iPad too close to the edge, the sheath will sometimes slide back with your fingers, giving you that very expensive WHOOOP CATCH THE IPAD!! feeling for a brief moment, even though it’s not really going anywhere.

Belkin iPad case Issue


Unfortunately, no corporate location wanted these cases, mainly because the rubber perimeter seemed a bit too “giving” and there was no screen cover. I would recommend the Grip Swell for kids at home, light personal use, and some short-distance travels. The lack of a screen cover isn’t a deal breaker, but if the iPad is going to be next to or packed along with anything else, I would choose the Apple iPad case or Incase iPad case over this one.

I rate the Belkin Grip Swell iPad case 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Finally, a side-by-side comparison of the three cases…

From top to bottom, here’s the Belkin, the Apple and the Incase iPad cases.

iPad cases Side By Side 01


And from left to right, here’s the Incase, the Apple and the Belkin.

iPad cases Side By Side 02



TL:DR….

APPLE’S IPAD CASE : 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS : USE FOR PERSONAL OR LOW-IMPACT ENVIRONMENTS. MOST ATTRACTIVE CASE OF THE BUNCH.

INCASE’S CONVERTIBLE BOOK JACKET IPAD CASE : 3.75 OUT OF 5 STARS : BEST FOR INDUSTRIAL ENVIRONMENTS. THE COVER FLAP WILL WARP UPWARDS.

BELKIN’S GRIP SWELL IPAD CASE : 3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS : USE FOR KIDS AT HOME AND LIGHT PERSONAL USE. MIGHT BEND BACK IF GRIPPED TOO CLOSE TO THE IPAD’S EDGE.