By Andrew Liszewski
The most annoying part about Wednesday’s new iPad announcement is that from that day forth I have to now append the term ‘original’ anytime I refer to the first generation model. It’s an inconvenience that gobbles up precious seconds of my day, but please don’t let this rare insight into the perils and hardships of a gadget blogger’s life depress you too much. Somehow we manage to muster the strength to carry on our responsibilities of bringing you all the latest toys in a cynical and sarcastic manner.
So today we want to bring you a quick look at another case solution for the iPhone 4 and the ORIGINAL iPad (sigh…) that will no doubt soon be updated to support the new iPad 2 as well. The iChair takes a simple but tried-and-true approach that’s been holding up picture frames for years now. Instead of transforming or flipping around to turn into a stand, the case simply has a flip-out kickstand-like support built into the back which comes in handy when you need it, but stays unobtrusive when you don’t. More after the jump.
First and foremost the iChair is designed to be a case for the iPad and iPhone, and for the most part it does that quite well. In fact it’s one of the better fitting cases I’ve ever used with my iPad, and even though we don’t score on a point system, I’m still going to award extra points to it for using a ‘split-apart’ design. That basically means the case breaks apart somewhere in the middle, making it far easier to install and remove since you just have to slip both pieces on either end and slide them together until they meet. Personally I think it’s a lot easier than trying to pry your iPad or iPhone into, or out of, a unibody case design.
And while it’s true that the ‘split-apart’ design of some cases results in a loose fit that can come apart with just light use, the iChair manages to avoid that pitfall with a padded, microfiber-covered interior which protects both devices while providing a snug fit.
In fact the only thing I feel that’s lacking with the iChair is a screen cover of some sort. While it does include a thin screen protector which works against scratches and nicks, it’s not going to stop your screen from getting cracked by a particularly strong impact. But other than that the iChair provides quite a bit of extra protection, and functionality of course, while not bulking up your iPad or iPhone.
But the iChair’s real raison d’être, or ‘killer app’ if you will, is the integrated kickstand you’ll find ’round back. On the iPad version it pops out just like the stand on a photo frame, and is attached to the case by a rotating hinge that allows you to prop the iPad up in a horizontal or portrait position. When fully extended the stand locks in place so there’s no chance it will accidentally collapse on its own in the middle of a video or when poking at the screen, and when not in use it folds away and sits flush against the back so it’s never in the way when not needed.
Here you can see the iChair propping up the original iPad in a portrait orientation, and the base of the kickstand is more than wide enough to prevent the whole thing from falling over, even if you’re tapping away at the screen. In this photo you can also see a smaller folding stand to the left of the larger one.
The smaller one is used to provide a more ideal angle for typing on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard when in landscape mode, which actually turns out to be a lot better than when it’s just lying flat on a desk, or at the steeper angle when using the larger kickstand.
These two photos also show, like with all iPad cases, the cutouts and notches around the perimeter that provide access to all of the iPad’s ports, buttons and speakers. Now I’m pretty sure there are no cases on the market that deliberately block access to these necessary features, but I feel the need to mention them nevertheless.
The iPhone 4 version of this case, which is compatible with the Verizon model as well, functions pretty much the same way as its larger counterpart. It’s got the same split-apart design and padded interior making it easy to install and remove, but it differs in the fact that it only features a smaller single kickstand on the back that’s not able to rotate.
But as you can see, given the smaller dimensions of the iPhone 4, the fact that the kickstand can’t rotate isn’t a problem. Thanks to some clever angles on the base of the stand, when opened it allows the iPhone to be propped up in either a portrait orientation…
…or a landscape orientation. Both providing a comfortable hands-free angle for watching videos or playing games.
Personal tastes and preferences always play a big part when it comes to choosing cases for your electronics, so I’m not going to come out and say that the iChair is the best overall solution if you happen to need ‘blank, blank and blank.’ But as cases go it’s definitely well-made, easy to install and provides a good level of protection vs. functionality, without severely affecting the iPad’s size. The kickstand is a simple idea, but executed well so it works as promised while still ‘disappearing’ when it’s not needed.
+ Some of the better fitting cases for the original iPad and iPhone 4 we’ve tested thanks to a padded microfiber covered interior.
+ Adds minimal bulk to either device.
+ Split-apart design makes them easy to install and remove.
+ Semi-soft rubber finish makes the case easy to grip and provides added protection if either device is dropped.
+ Allows both devices to be propped up without requiring you to do any Optimus Prime-like transformations.
- At $59.95 and $49.95 both are slightly more expensive than Apple’s iPad case.
- While they include screen protectors, the cases do not feature covers to protect either device’s displays from severe trauma.
If you have any questions about the iChair original iPad & iPhone 4 cases you’d like answered, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to respond to them as best I can.