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If you split time between the worlds of technology and pen and paper, you ought to be interested in Dapp and Pad & Quill, companies that make beautiful, traditionally-bound covers for iPads, Kindles, and other gadgets.
These cases don’t emphasize form over function so much as they aim at a different goal: replicating the feel of a high-quality hand-bound book. But like a fountain pen, which, for all its compromises, gives a writing experience unparalleled by any felt or ball point, these cases are fantastic.
I have at least a dozen iPad cases in my office to review, but none comes close to the utility offered by the simple Apple Smart Cover. It is simple, functional, good-looking, and inexpensive. If you want utility, get that. If you want style, then look no further than the beautiful cases from Pad & Quill and Dapp.
Pad & Quill Cases
I got two iPad cases from Pad & Quill to review: the Graduate Edition and the Contega. Both are bound in traditional book bindery cloth, although Pad & Quill also does leather binding, if you are into the whole ostentation thing. The frame for the iPad is sturdy birch, with cutouts for all the buttons and sockets and things. And both featured Pad & Quill’s signature “bookmark” that makes it easy to remove your iPad from the case.
I have included some small images in this post, but you really need to visit the Pad & Quill website to see these cases up close.
Pad & Quill Graduate Edition Case for iPad
Ever since I watched Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, I have been obsessed with little notebooks held shut with rubber or elastic bands. When I found my first Moleskine, I was in love, and I have been buying them ever since, whether I need them or not.
Now I do most of my writing on my iPad (both typing and handwriting), and while I like the Apple Smart Cover, it doesn’t have the same old-world look and feel that I love about my notebooks. The Pad & Quill Graduate Edition case does.
This is my favorite iPad case. I love the way it feels, the way it looks, and the way my iPad looks in it. This case is fantastic.
I have only one, small complaint, although there isn’t any way to fix it without making the case worse. The cover is just flexible enough that it will bow in one direction or another. Because you will usually fold the cover behind your iPad when you use the case, the cover will bow out, so that it is bowed slightly away from your iPad when closed. It’s not the end of the world, but it is noticeable, so I thought I should mention it.
Still, this case is my favorite.
Pad & Quill Contega Case for iPad
The drawback to book-bound cases like these is that they aren’t easily propped up for typing or watching videos. That’s not really the point, after all. They are meant to look good and protect your gadget, but that’s about it. The Contega is an attempt to add some utility.
The Contega is slightly thicker than the Graduate Edition — exactly the thickness of one side of the cover — because it needs some extra bits to fold into a stand. The way it does this is simple. The edge of the frame rests in one of two grooves in the inside of the cover, so you can prop up your iPad for watching videos or reading.
At first, I thought I would hate the extra bulk, but I actually really liked the Contega case. I took it to several bar committee and board meetings, and it was really nice to be able to set it up for viewing meeting materials (or surreptitiously checking email).
Neither position will make it more convenient to type, unfortunately, which is the only drawback. It would have been awesome if Pad & Quill had figured out a way to allow the case to also origami-fold so that one end was propped up a few inches for typing.
Still, the Contega adds a lot of utility to the traditional book-bound form factor with only a little extra bulk.
The Dapp FlightPad for iPad and Kindle
The FlightPad cover is beautiful, and I love the concept. But I don’t love it enough to overlook the serious flaws I ran into. Unlike the Pad & Quill cases I tested, Dapp binds its cases in only in leather. And instead of a wooden frame, Dapp uses elastic straps to mount your iPad or Kindle.
The leather cover is certainly built to be robust, but I wasn’t thrilled with the way the corners were folded. They come to a sharp point, rather than a smooth, rounded corner. Update: Dapp says that if you go with their cloth covers, you get more traditional, rounded corners.
Unlike other traditionally-bound covers, Dapp uses very thick material for the covers, which means you won’t get the same bowing that I experienced with the Pad & Quill Graduate Edition. However, this also means you don’t save any weight by eliminating the wooden frame.
Each FlightPad cover is constructed by hand (mine was built by Dapp co-founder, Pablo), which means each one is unique, imperfect, and beautiful. When you put your iPad into a FlightPad cover, it feels like a good, thick hardcover — which is a good thing. It looks great, feels great, and seems like it will last a long time.
Also, because the cover is leather, it has some grip, and you can prop it up in “viewing mode.” This might not work as well once the leather wears out a little, but it is nice to have the option without any extra bulk.
I did run into some problems with the FlightPad, though.
First, the elastic bands that grab your iPad’s corners are inelegant. The top left band actually holds down the power button on my iPad if I don’t arrange things just so, and the other end of that band presses on my volume rocker switch. Plus, they are elastic — they are going to loosen up over time, until eventually my iPad won’t stay put.
It also takes a while to mount. You can’t just pop your iPad in and out, like you can with the Pad & Quill cases. The elastic bands are really tight, and it takes some fiddling to get them seated just right. Once your iPad is buckled in, in other words, you probably won’t want to take it out. This is a problem, actually, because when your iPad is buckled in, it is extremely difficult to get to the power, mute/rotation lock, and volume buttons.
Between the two companies, I like the Pad & Quill offerings better, and I think the Graduate Edition is the coolest iPad case you will find. If you want style more than utility (form over function), it’s the iPad case you should own.
If you aren’t sure you want style, let me just say that I keep putting my iPad in the Pad & Quill cases, even though I have a perfectly good Apple Smart Cover for it.