Part 6: iPad Cases for the Gig

Now that you’ve got your iPad and your apps, you’ll definitely want a case to protect it while it’s on your stand. It’s a long way down if it should fall, and it’s a lot easier to handle the iPad when it’s in a case. There are literally thousands and thousands of cases/bags/skins/wraps, at just about any price point you want. A site like iLounge is a good place to get an idea of what all is out there. These are the two cases I have (a well-dressed iPad usually has a wardrobe, not just a single case), but you may well find something else that works better for you.

Previous posts in this series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Apple iPad Case

Nobody loves this case ($39), but a whole lot of people use it. I’ve looked at lots of other cases, and while I totally understand and agree with the unenthusiasm it creates, I wound up going back to it for use in the house.

apple iPad Case
The Apple Case. Not a thing of beauty, but it works

Let’s start with the bad. The first thing that strikes most people about this case is that it feels pretty darned cheap for something from Apple. It’s true–it’s not at all the kind of quality I’d expect from them. The corners are sharp, which makes it kind of uncomfortable to hand hold until you figure out the technique. And the microfiberish surface attracts all sorts of gunk.

On the other hand, it’s definitely the slimmest case that includes a screen cover. It’s very lightweight and adds almost nothing to the thickness of the iPad (although it does make it taller and wider). It’s pretty easy to wipe the cover clean, too. So if you need to put the iPad on a stand along with printed music books or if you want to throw the iPad into your regular gig bag, this is a very decent, inexpensive way to do it. I use this cover all the time at home. (Yes, it’s extremely hard to get the iPad out of this case the first couple of times you try, but either the case gives a little or you get the technique down after you’ve done it a couple of times. It does get easier.)

In the first post in this series I mentioned how much I love just bringing one small clutch-sized bag on a job, so there’s no clutter to stow and no piles of stuff around the stand. In order to do that, there’s really only one case choice right now.

Happy Owl Studio Clutch

Shortly after the iPad was first announced Happy Owl Studio announced that they would be producing this case ($80), which is a combination of a case and a clutch purse. It looked like the dream gig case–just remove the shoulder strap, open up the clutch, put on the stand and away you go. Nothing  lurking around to stow, and no more having to worry about the security of a purse parked in a drawer miles away from where you are.

Lots of people, including me, ordered them and waited for them to get into production. And waited. And waited. Finally, they began to trickle in just in the nick of time for Christmas. Was it worth the wait? Almost.

It’s a cute little purse (I get a lot of compliments on it from people who have no idea there’s an iPad in there, and you can see the closed clutch here), and it holds a lot of stuff, considering:

inside the Happy Owl Clutch
You can see one all beautifully arranged on their website. Here's a candid of the inside of mine.

Here’s what’s in mine:

  1. Credit cards and drivers license.
  2. Cash for valet.
  3. Antique cell phone (no reception where I live so it’s not worth having a smart phone).
  4. Virgin Mobile Mifi (for internet connection, since I have the wifi-only iPad).
  5. iPod Touch (for the cameras).
  6. Cable for tuner pickup (the pickup itself could also go, but my gig harp has a built-in pickup).
  7. Glasses (to see iPad screen, sigh).
  8. Tuning key
  9. Nail clippers.
  10. Comb and  (some) makeup.
  11. Pen, pencil, stylus.
  12. Square credit card reader in Square Snare.
  13. Business cards.
  14. Copy of signed contract. (I could scan it in, but I never have time.)
  15. Microfiber lens cloth for cleaning iPad screen (these come in nice flat little cases).

That’s a lot of stuff in in a very slim little bag, but it takes careful arranging to get it all in there without stressing out the zipper (if you do overload it, it’s a self-healing zipper, so you can just run the pull back over the separated area and the teeth will get back together). The iPad lives in its own compartment, so you don’t have to worry about scratching the screen.

It’s almost the perfect case, but there are some flaws, some of them major. First of all, their quality control isn’t what it should be. I ordered two of these and the first one, a red limited edition with  looser pleats which I gave away, was flawless. The second one, the blue one,  has some issues. When I opened the box, instead of the nice new leather smell that accompanied the red one, there was an overpowering smell like auto paint. Fortunately this dissipated in a couple of days.

Also, the construction was shoddier. There was lots of extra glue everywhere, even on the cute little metal owl logo on the snap. And the corners of the purse section had been pulled too tight so they were already bending away from the iPad side, making it look kind of tired before it had ever been used. More importantly, this means that it’s easier for stuff to get into the iPad side and possibly scratch the screen.

The clips on the strap work very smoothly, so it’s not a chore to remove the strap when you put the iPad on your stand, but several people have reported having the D-rings on the case itself pull loose  from the weight of the iPad because they’re not attached to anything stronger than the case leather. I haven’t had this problem, but then if I’m not on a job I usually take the strap off and treat the clutch as a big wallet and carry it in a purse. And I still see some minor stressing on the connection points.

back of Happy Owl Clutch open on music stand
On the stand, from the audience perspective.
Happy Owl Clutch on music stand from front
And the performer's view. It fits perfectly.

The purse side of it is really tight on space. There’s really not room for anything wider than its own strap. Even the iPad wall charger is pushing it. I’d like it a lot more if there were even another half inch of selvage on the zipper so that there was a bit more slack so I wouldn’t have to be so meticulous about putting things into it. You won’t get a set of harp strings in this case, incidentally. For me, since I mostly gig on a lever harp with a case that has a string pocket, this isn’t a big deal, but for a pedal harpist, it’s a consideration. You also won’t get even the tiniest hairbrush into it, and if you’ve got a long day where your makeup requirements involve full field artillery, it’s not so hot there, either.

It comes in red, the blue that I have, and a nice musicianly black (which unfortunately is lined with a rather lurid purple, which is why I don’t have that one). During the long, long wait lots of us searched and searched for an alternative, but although there are thousands and thousands of different cases of all sizes and colors, this is the only one any of us could find that has a purse, a strap, and lets you leave the iPad in it while you use it. I’d love to see them refine the construction and get a better grip on their quality control for the iPad 2 version.

Although it’s not heavy, it does add quite a bit of bulk to the iPad, which is why I prefer the slimmer Apple case when I don’t need to have everything at right at hand.

If you’re a guy and you want something that won’t look like a murse, or if you just don’t like pleats, they also have a wallet which is the same thing  in plain leather without the strap, but you can find a lot of alternatives if you forgo the strap.

There are innumerable other case options if you don’t need the all-in-one business. You can even find a case that makes your iPad look like a nice antique book.

Next time: No-hands page turns.

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