The iPad is in a bit of a weird spot at the moment. With the increased size of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and now the thinner-than-ever MacBook redesign just announced at Apple’s March 2015 event, some are wondering: Does owning an iPad make sense anymore?
We think so. The iPad’s unique combination of portability, the one-app-at-a-time focus provided by iOS, and the feeling of personal interaction that only a multitouch screen can offer, all add up to a device that fills a vital role in both work and play.
The iPad’s screen and body are glued together physically and conceptually. […] As a computer it truly disappears in your hands, feeling like a display that you grab and touch and swipe and throw away when you’re done.
As great as the iPad is, it can still be improved with a little outside help. If you’ve ever thought of the iPad as a limited device, this list of accessories may change your mind about what it’s capable of.
Twelve South Compass Stand »
Not everyone will require a keyboard attached to their iPad at all times. For them, we recommend Twelve South’sCompass Stand. As we described in our review:
The Compass Stand’s legs extend outward to form an easel. Near the bottom of the two legs, there are two holsters that extend out and hold your iPad in place. While the Compass Stand can fit in just about any bag without being noticed, it also has a small footprint if you want to use it at a small table or desk.
This stand is ideal for watching movies and such, though it does work nicely for pairing an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard together when necessary. Thanks to its small stature, the Compass Stand is especially nice to have on flights.
Lightning to SD Card Adapter »
Many cameras — such the Olympus E-M10 — have the ability to import photos directly to an iOS device using wi-fi. While it’s nice for editing and sharing on the go, it can also be slow and clunky.
With Apple’s Lightning to SD Card adapter, photographers with iPads can somewhat streamline this process by importing many photos at once. We just wish it worked for iPhone, too.
Mamba Lightning Cable »
Apple’s own Lightning cable is fine and all for what it does, but why not spring for something better? Something longer and more durable? That’s the Mamba Lightning cable in a nutshell. It’s ten feet long and made with tangle-resistant fabric and aerospace aluminum shells around both connectors. This is a cable designed to last.
Anker 5-Port USB Charger »
This little hub is great to have if you’ve got multiple iPads (or other devices), especially while traveling. It gets everything right:
- It lets you charge up to five gadgets at once — iPads, iPhones, Kindles, cameras, you name it — and intelligently adjusts the output of each port based on whatever’s connected (or disconnected, for that matter). Awesome for families with a lot of stuff to charge.
- It draws very little power while idle, and it has built-in protection against overvoltage, overcurrent, overheating and short circuits. You don’t have to stress about leaving it plugged in 24/7 or having all your devices connected overnight. It’s totally worry-free.
- Only ever gets a little warm while charging, never hot.
- Comes with a 5-foot detachable power cable, so you should be able to position the unit anywhere on your desk for easy access.
- Small enough to toss into a bag, and it’s dual-voltage to boot so it’s perfect for international travel, assuming you’ve got the appropriate adapter(s).
Limefuel Blast USB External Battery Pack »
On the topic of charging, the Limefuel Blast is a handy external battery pack for charging a full-sized iPad, iPad mini, or iPhone while on the go. It can charge two devices at once, even while being charged itself. When the battery isn’t being recharged (which should be most of the time), it delivers full-speed output to your other devices.
Actually, the Limefuel Blast pairs quite nicely with the Anker 5-port USB charger listed above. Charge it up in your hotel room alongside everything else, then toss it in your bag as you head out to your destination with no worries about whether your devices will last through the day.
There are several battery capacities to choose from, ranging from 6,000mAh to 24,000mAh. The $50 18,000mAh model is a good choice for most peoples’ needs, able to fuel up a full-sized iPad about twice on a single charge.
Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard Cover »
The original Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPads 2, 3, and 4 remains a favorite accessory of ours. It’s the perfect tool for turning the iPad into a pro writing machine. Once you use one, it may practically become a “part” of your iPad.
For those with newer iPads — namely the Air, Air 2, and mini — the improved Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard Cover is definitely worth a look. It has two important features that set it apart from the old model:
The magnetic hinge used for “closing” the iPad and cover together now hides flush when not in use. Slide your iPad towards the hinge and it automatically pops up and clips on. (This is a very welcome addition; the old version’s hinge would sometimes fall over backwards, making the attachment process awkward.)
The angle of the magnetic docking slot is now adjustable, whereas the old model had only a single fixed angle. So whether you’re at a coffee shop or on a plane, it’s now easier to find a comfortable viewing angle.
This magnetic clip-on edition comes in several flavors (as of this writing, prices vary anywhere from $49 to $90 on Amazon):
iPad Air 2: space gray and silver
iPad Air: space gray and silver
iPad mini: silver — We don’t have first-hand experience with this one, but from what we’ve heard the typing experience of the mini model is a little cramped. You might be better off using the “old reliable” combo of an Incase Origami Workstation (or the newer Dragons by 67 Designs) + an Apple wireless keyboard.
Samson C01U Pro USB Condenser Microphone »
That’s right, the iPad can definitely be used for recording podcasts or music — provided you have a good mic to capture audio with. The Samson C01U Pro is a great entry-level USB condenser mic for anyone looking to record on-the-go without breaking the bank.
For a “budget” mic it sounds surprisingly good (more samples here) and does a great job rejecting room noise. The mic is totally plug-and-play over USB, making setup a breeze — just keep in mind that you’ll need an Apple Lightning-to-USB adapter for iPad (or iPhone) use.
A 1/8″ stereo headphone jack built right onto the front lets you plug in a set of monitor headphones while recording. Another nice little feature is the green LED power light, which flashes red to indicate if your audio starts peaking.
Included in the box is a 10-foot USB cable, a tabletop tripod stand, and a swivel mount. Once you’ve got that adapter, the Samson C01u Pro will always be ready to record, wherever you are.
Felt Case Mini Sleeve »
The Felt Case Mini (our review) is a simple, sleeve-style iPad mini case constructed from heavy wool felt.
It has a pouch to hold the iPad (with or without a smart cover attached). It has a cool (removable) analog pouch that’ll fit a Field Notes-sized notebook and a pen or pencil. A full-height flap folds over to “close” the sleeve, and an elastic band wraps around at the base to hold the flap in place. This sleeve is well made and offers good protection without being heavy, cumbersome, or ugly.
Leibal also makes a larger version of this sleeve ($55) that accomodates a full-sized iPad or MacBook Air.