When I finally bought an iPad 2, I decided to go with the Smart Cover — I definitely wanted something to cover the screen, and I liked the idea of having the device power on and off by opening and closing the cover. I figured eventually I’d get a more protective case of some sort but that could wait.
I recently got to try out the modulR case, which consists of a hard shell that snaps onto the back of the iPad and then supports various accessories. It’s a neat concept that has some things going for it, but also falls short in a few areas.
The case I tried is the one designed for the iPad 2, which accommodates the Smart Cover and has a hole for the camera on the back. There is also a version for the first-generation iPad which is a slightly different configuration with a cover (and only comes in graphite). The iPad 2 version comes in white, black, or clear. (The clear one is shown in the photos.)
The case snaps onto the back of the iPad, pretty securely. It can be a bit tough to remove, actually, but I don’t worry about it falling off. the case has various notches and slots around it so that you can still plug in your headphones and charger and access all the buttons on the edges. Also, there’s a grill for the speaker so it doesn’t cover that up entirely.
I didn’t try dropping the case to see how sturdy it is, but I’d guess it’s somewhere between nothing at all and a case that actually encloses the entire iPad. The key feature of the case, though, is the four little knobby buttons on the corners. These allow you to attach various accessories to the case.
The Smart Cover does fit with the modulR case attached, and you can still use it as a stand. However, when I was carrying the iPad I usually folded the case flat against the back of the device, and the little buttons prevent it from sitting flat. This problem is compounded when there are accessories attached to the back, like the hand strap. In those cases, when I used the device I typically just removed the cover entirely.
The accessories are pretty handy, though. The case comes with a hand strap, which attaches easily to two of the knobs (horizontally or vertically) and adjusts with a Velcro closure. When I first saw cases with hand straps for the iPad I thought they were kind of funny … until I started trying to hold the iPad with one hand for an extended period of time. Because of the weight and the slim profile of the device, it really wears out your wrist and hand, and the strap makes a big difference.
There’s also a shoulder strap (pictured at the top of this post) which lets you carry the iPad like a shoulder bag. It has a hand strap incorporated into it and also comes with a chunky stylus. Now, you may feel a little weird carrying an iPad around on a strap, and I’m sure it looks a little funny. But I did try it out some and it’s pretty comfortable — but unless I’m just carrying my iPad I’d probably keep it in a bag instead. The strap can be somewhat cumbersome when you’re actually using the iPad.
The stylus, though, is probably my favorite piece of the whole package. It’s an metal stick with a rubbery tip, hex-shaped like a pencil but a little thicker. I’d been using the Pogo Sketch Stylus and it works all right, but modulR’s stylus is more comfortable in the hand, maybe something between the Pogo stylus and the
Giant Pencil Touchscreen Stylus. Whether I’m using the shoulder strap or not, I’m keeping this stylus handy. It’s also great because when my kids use the iPad I can have them use the stylus and keep my screen a little cleaner. The shoulder strap has a pocket for the stylus built into it.
There are two more accessories available that I haven’t tried out myself: a wall mount and a headrest strap. The wall mount was kind of an odd idea to me — why would I want to hang my iPad on the wall? — but then it occurred to me that maybe it would be nice to have one in the kitchen, when I’m using my iPad to look up recipes and don’t want to set it down on a wet/messy counter. (But this theory will have to wait, since I’m in the middle of a move.) The wall mount is designed so that you can hang the iPad horizontally or vertically. There’s also a heavy-duty utility mount if you want something really secure.
The headrest strap is about what you’d expect: it attaches to all four knobs so that you can hang the iPad on the back of your car’s headrest, allowing your kids to watch shows while you drive. I haven’t tried this one out yet, either — my minivan has a built-in DVD player which only gets occasional use, but if you use the iPad as an entertainment center it could be a good thing. On the other hand, it’s mostly useful if you’re using it to show movies and the kids aren’t actually playing on it.
The modulR case (with handstrap) is $39.99 for the iPad 2 version, $29.99 for the iPad 1 version. The accessories run about twenty bucks each, though you can also get a big bundle package for $69.99.
Overall, I think the modulR case system is good if you’ve got an iPad and are frequently using it in different settings: in your car for your kids, in the kitchen hanging on the wall, carrying it while you’re on your way somewhere. For me, as a stay-at-home dad who doesn’t spend a lot of time in a vehicle, I’d mostly use the hand strap and the stylus (and, potentially, the wall mount), which makes it a bit pricey for a case. I don’t know that there’s a good way to incorporate the Smart Cover into a hard shell, but the knobs and accessories on the modulR just aren’t the best combination with the cover. Still, I imagine that there will be more accessories designed to work with the modulR case and the versatility will only become more valuable with additional options.
Wired: Lots of easily-interchangeable accessories; comfortable stylus; versatile functions.
Tired: Works with Smart Cover … when closed; shoulder strap looks a little dorky.
Disclosure: GeekDad received the “Anywhere Pack” for review purposes.