I’ve owned all three incarnations of Apple’s iPad, and have enjoyed (and used) them more with each version. While I (and many others) would argue that they are unparalleled in media consumption, not everyone appreciates them for the content creation devices they can be.
Countless apps offer the power to generate content as easily as other computing forms. Take a look at videos of iMovie or iPhoto reviewed for the iPad; Apple’s engineering to adapt these apps to the iPad’s touchscreen interface are very impressive. Garageband has been brought over the divide from OSX as well. For the visually inclined there are more apps for painting, drawing, and even animation than one modest blogger can cover.
While each of these categories of apps may utilize additional inputs (I find Draw Something much easier to play using a stylus) none of them require something additional- the iPad and your digits will suffice. This paradigm starts to falter when the last category of content creation is considered- writing.
While the on-screen keyboard of the iPad is fine for daily use and short emails or notes, it’s problematic when writing anything longer than a paragraph or two. The new iPad’s voice dictation feature is helpful but not always accurate. What’s a touch typist with a freshly downloaded copy of Pages and ideas that need to be expressed to do?
The iPad’s Bluetooth connectivity allows you to pair it with any Bluetooth keyboard (I’m a fan of Apple’s standard wireless keyboard) and the combination works well- provided you don’t mind lugging both around. I’ve always favored Alton Brown’s ideals on multitaskers- the more things your gadget can do the better. Why not merge the keyboard with other features, like a case or screen protector?
I opted for Zagg’s offering- the Zagg Folio. The Zagg Folio melds a hard iPad case with a slim battery-powered Bluetooth keyboard sporting hotkeys for functions such as play/pause, volume, and sleep. When closed the Zagg Folio offers good protection for your device; the case covers all corners and the back of your iPad while doubling the overall thickness with the addition of the keyboard. When opened the iPad fits into a rubberize groove in the keyboard that holds it at a perfect angle for use. The keyboard isn’t full sized but is still easy to use; the feel of the keyboard is similar to Apple’s standard bluetooth keyboard. My only complaints are that the case doesn’t activate the iPad’s magnetically-driven automatic sleep function like Apple’s Smart Cover and recharging the keyboard requires sliding it out of the case at least partially to expose the mini USB port. I was able to purchase the Zagg Folio for $79 on sale, the regular price is $99 with free shipping to the continental US.
For those that don’t need or want a case Logitech may have what you’re looking for. The Logitech Keyboard Case is made in partnership with Zagg but is more of a screen protector than a full fledged case. The keyboard is crafted from aluminum, matching the aesthetic of Apple’s product lines. When not in use it fits securely over the iPad’s screen, protecting it with the aluminum backing and high-density cushioning inside to keep the keyboard from scoring the iPad’s glass, adding just over 1/8″ to the iPad’s thickness. When removed the iPad fits into a groove similar to the Zagg Folio, but unlike its competitor the Logitech case holds the iPad securely via hidden magnets (just as the Smart Cover adheres to the iPad). If you don’t mind protecting the back of your iPad with a skin, the Logitech Keyboard Case is a stylish alternative to the Zagg Folio.
Lastly, a current Kickstarter campaign is ongoing in an attempt to bring another intriguing keyboard to iPad users. The Brydge transforms your iPad into a faux MacBook Air; your iPad slides into a hinge connected to the aluminum keyboard securely, allowing you to position your iPad in a wide range of viewing angles. The hinge uses a combination of friction and magnets to hold your iPad snugly; the site’s videos demonstrated users picking up the unit and carrying it about by the iPad’s screen. The Brydge mimics the Smart Cover’s ability to automatically put your iPad in sleep mode when closed, and sports an optional set of stereo speakers. The Brydge’s only shortcoming is that like the Logitech Keyboard case it doesn’t protect the aluminum back of your iPad. The Brydge is an impressive product; their campaign hasn’t yet reached their goal so please consider supporting it if you’re in the market for an iPad keyboard case.
All of these options make the iPad a viable option for writing. I’ve been very happy with my Zagg Folio case and am intrigued by the Brydge (I freely admit my weakness for clever gadgets). If you find you do any amount of typing (including instant messaging) you will definitely benefit from the addition of a keyboard- your iOS “laptop” awaits!
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