Smart Covers (cont'd)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This post was migrated from a former home. Its contents are all but forgotten, but are kept for posterity's sake. 

Marco Arment makes a great case that Smart Covers are the killer feature of the iPad 2. I agree completely, and I’d take the reasoning even further than the improved form-factor and essential protection that it affords.

When the iPad was announced one year ago, my biggest concern was the ergonomics of using a device that took input on the same surface as the display. It’d require a slant for two handed typing and most other uses, and sure enough, back then many of Apple’s promotional images included a user holding the iPad on their thighs, while their legs rested high on a table. Though it did a great job of conveying the personal nature of the iPad, it looked ridiculously uncomfortable for any extended period of time. Today I can’t find any examples of such use in Apple’s promotional materials for the iPad 2.1

Much has been said about where the iPad belongs on the mobile-to-pc continuum, and it’s quickly becoming evident that it belongs in a category of its own. However, there are varied use-cases for the iPad that exist all over that continuum, and everyone wants to do something slightly different with it. Left bare, the original iPad was most easily used while being held in at least one hand, reducing the utility and pushing it closer to the mobile side of the continuum. Apple’s and most third-party cases offered greater versatility, but as Marco points out, at great cost to portability, aesthetics, and general comfort – not to mention that each case worked slightly differently.

Enter the Smart Cover, which was designed alongside the iPad 2, and now we’ve got a built-in feature that extends the versatility of the device. Where previously it seemed like a hack to prop the iPad in a case or stand and use a bluetooth keyboard for serious productivity, now it feels built in. Where previously it was a struggle to yank the iPad out of Apple’s case for maximum portability and aesthetics, now it’s a snap. Despite the additional cost and detachability, the built-in nature of the Smart Covers give’s the iPad 2 a greater native range of use, making it more appealing to more people, and that’s why it’s the killer feature. 

As Apple works to compress the mobile-to-pc continuum further, as evidenced by the integration of iOS features into Mac OS X Lion, the iPad’s software capabilities will eventually become more powerful, and the hardware will need to accommodate as many uses as people can come up with for it. Smart Covers are a step in that direction.

  1. The only example of someone with their legs up that I can find is in the iPad 2 video, and they appear to be resting level on a coffee table. Most other “in-use” imagery includes people holding the device while sitting normally, using a smart cover, or at a table.