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iPad cover or sleeve – which is better for me? (guide)

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iPad cover or sleeve - choose wisely
iPad cover or sleeve? This simple but detailed guide will help you decide / Images: Amazon

Do you really have to buy a dedicated case every time you get a new iPad? Sometimes all you need is a decent sleeve you could use much longer than just a year or two.

Many users who decide to buy a new (and overpriced) iPad, almost automatically add to the cart an original (and overpriced) Apple cover.

Some users wait for third-party iPad covers to arrive, because they want to get extra features, enjoy innovative design, keep the high quality – and save lots of money.

The biggest problem with dedicated iPad covers is that they are usually compatible with a single generation of a single iPad model.

After years of having a habit of buying an iPad and a cover together, it’s time to refresh your approach.

Maybe you don’t need a cover you used to buy so far, because other covers offer features that would better meet your evolving needs.

Maybe you don’t need even the most innovative or fashionable cover because it’s still too expensive when compared with the benefits it gives.

The main reason to buy an iPad cover is protection. Why buy a case that protects well from dust and scratches but gives a not-so-good protection against bumps and drops?

When you stop thinking about protection, new possibilities arrive: to save more money, to read hands-free, to carry more than one device, or to enjoy the look of the iPad every time you use it.

The need to replace a cover every time your new iPad arrives is not the only problem. Everything depends on how you actually use the iPad:

  • Sometimes the slim case is not enough for your active style of living. You can get a heavy-duty cover, or you can pack your iPad+cover into a protective sleeve.
  • If you use your iPad in a safe place, such as the sofa or bed, you don’t need a cover at all. But you still need a sleeve to safely carry the iPad.
  • You can go for a reasonable combination of the case and sleeve. An affordable backshell case can protect the iPad when you use it. A protective sleeve can protect in any other condition. And you can use this sleeve with your several iPads, not just one.
  • If you take a lot of gear with you, including the iPad, power banks, earphones, cables, or power adapters, you actually need the tablet-size bag the most. It can serve as an iPad sleeve, and you can go for an extra case cover or not.
  • Many users buy covers to be able to use their iPads at different angles. The thing is that cover stands, especially the ones with the tri-fold design, are unstable on uneven surfaces. You should go for a dedicated stand or, even better, a pillow stand.

In the following guide, I list the most common types of iPad covers and sleeves, as well as compare their pros and cons.

Most importantly, I will try to raise questions and provide answers that will let you make a more deliberate decision about what kind of accessory you really need for your iPad this time.

iPad case cover or sleeve bag guide
iPad case cover or sleeve bag? Complete guide with usage examples, pros and cons, and main kinds defined / Image: Geek Updated

iPad covers – everything you need to know

iPad cover types

Tri-fold stand cover

iPad tri-fold stand cover
iPad tri-fold stand cover / Image: Amazon

This is the most popular kind of iPad cover, and the one Apple is using for original cases.

The front cover consists of three parts that can fold back to form a stand, either a horizontal one (for writing) or vertical one (for watching). Please note, that the stand can be only used on flat and firm surfaces.

This slim and lightweight cover can be attached to the iPad with the magnets or using a back shell case. The latter option gives an extra corner protection.

Simple back shell case

iPad clear back shell cover
Simple iPad clear back shell cover / Image: Amazon

This is the most affordable kind of iPad cover. It is a simple back shell that is made from either a firm or flexible plastic.

It comes with cutouts for ports and buttons, and recently the large areas on the side are opened to allow for wireless charging of Apple Pencil.

This kind of case does not include a front cover, so it doesn’t prevent the display from scratching when you carry the iPad.

Folio cover

iPad folio cover with external pocket
iPad folio cover with external pocket / Image: Amazon

Folio cover looks and feels like a book or notebook. 

This kind of iPad case is heavier than the slim tri-fold cover, and it’s made of either leather or faux leather, with several layers stitched together. The inside is lined with a soft microfiber.

A Folio cover typically comes with an internal pocket or pockets, and sometimes a hand strap. The iPad is being held in either a plastic case or a leather frame.

The design of most folio covers lets you turn your iPad into a standing position, with up to three different viewing angles. 

360-degree rotating stand

iPad 360-degree rotating stand
iPad 360-degree rotating stand / Image: Amazon

While looking bulkier and outdated, this kind of an iPad cover comes with a very helpful feature: the stand that can position the iPad in either a landscape or portrait view.

The most prominent feature of 360-degree rotating stands is the large ring on the back side, through which you can see the Apple logo.

Rotating stands usually are made in the similar bookbinding technology as folio covers.

Advanced multi-angle stand case

Innovative multi-angle iPad stand cover
Innovative multi-angle iPad stand cover / Image: Amazon

This highly innovative kind of iPad cover was established by Zugu.

The cover combines several features: a multi-angle kickstand, Apple Pencil holder and charging area, heavy-duty frame for enhanced corner protection, and materials used in the aerospace industry.

The stand offers not 3 but 7 or 8 viewing angles. The magnets are strong enough to place the iPad on a fridge or magnetic wall.

Origami standing cover

iPad origami cover
iPad origami cover / Image: Amazon

Origami cases offer a clever way to form a stand. The front cover folds multiple-times, like origami, to create a folded base for iPad.

This kind of case is usually more expensive than the standard tri-fold cover (because the construction is more complex), but it is equally lightweight – and equally unstable on uneven surfaces.

Rugged, heavy-duty case

Heavy-duty iPad case cover
Heavy-duty iPad case cover / Image: Amazon

If you are looking for the maximum drop protection for your iPad, you should pick up the tough and ugly – the protective case.

There are several variants of protective covers for iPad, but they usually have a few things in common: the “thick” design that makes iPad look heavier and larger, two-color combinations, kickstand, a built-in screen protector, and, sometimes,  a hand strap, as well as shoulder strap.

Heavy duty iPad cases offer a multi-layer construction and enhanced corner protection.

Keyboard case

iPad keyboard case
iPad keyboard case / Image: Amazon

Keyboard cases are a way to enhance typing on the iPad. They include a keyboard panel with physical keys, similar to standalone keyboards or laptops. The panel is placed on the inner side of the front cover. The case can fold to form a typing stand.

The keyboard usually connects with the iPad via Bluetooth, and is detachable, so that you can take it out from the case when you don’t need it.

Please note that the keyboard has the maximum size of the iPad itself, so it works fine with bigger models, but not iPad mini.

iPad cover pros and cons

Here are the key benefits and disadvantages of iPad case covers. Which ones do you agree with the most?

iPad cover pros and cons

Advantages Disadvantages
▸ Tailored cutouts for a power/Touch ID button, charging port, volume buttons, and speakers
▸ Supports automatic sleep and wake feature – there is no easier way to start and stop using the iPad
▸ A lot of different kinds and designs are available for every iPad model
▸ The front cover folds back allowing for one-handed use
▸ There are lots of extra features that address even the most sophisticated needs
▸ A built-in, multi-angle stand is a common feature that let you use your iPad on flat and firm surfaces
▸ You will need to replace the case cover every time you replace your iPad
▸ Dedicated cases are usually more expensive than sleeves
▸ Many cases don’t fully protect against drops and bumps – usually, and extra protection is needed when you carry your iPad
▸ There is no pocket for cables and other small accessories
▸ Most iPad owners don’t use advanced features, such as the built-in stand, relying only on auto sleep/wake and protection

iPad cover – best third-party producers

Fintie – it’s one of the most popular and valued producers of tablet and e-reader cases and accessories. iPad cases offer a solid quality at affordable prices. Each cover is offered in multiple color and design variants, including the most fashionable ones.

ProCase – the company is usually slow in introducing covers for the latest iPad models, but it’s worth waiting for them. The covers offer a premium quality, a classic look, and natural feel.

MoKo – if you want to buy a high quality iPad cover for a reasonable price, you should give a try to MoKo. The company offers a wide variety of iPad covers for all needs, and is one of innovation leaders in the tablet category.

Zugu – the company is famous for producing iconic innovative covers for iPad and other tablet brands. The cases combine a slim, modern look with advanced features, such as two Apple Pencil holders and a multi-angle stand.

iPad sleeves – everything you need to know

iPad sleeve types

Simple slide-in sleeve

Simple slide-in iPad sleeve
Simple slide-in iPad sleeve / Image: Amazon

The simplest and cheapest iPad sleeve you can get. It’s typically made of felt or neoprene, and closes with a button or Velcro.

You slide the iPad from either the shorter or longer side. Usually there are no extra compartments. Felts sleeves are the most stylish, but you can also find minimalist sleeves made of faux leather.

Laptop-like sleeve bag

Laptop-like iPad sleeve
Laptop-like iPad sleeve / Image: Amazon

This multi-layer sleeve is typically made of waterproof material. It opens on one side using a zipper, and comes with multiple handles and pockets. 

Sometimes, there is more than just one main compartment. Suitable, if you plan to use the sleeve interchangeably for your iPad and other mobile devices, for instance, your Kindle.

Zipper pouch

Zipper pouch for iPad
Zipper pouch for iPad / Image: Amazon

Zipper pouches are more about fashion than protection. They can be used the same way as a purse, and sometimes come with a carrying handle. There are usually no pockets, either external or internal.

A zipper pouch is typically made of a soft material, so the only protection it gives is against dust and scratches.

Hard carrying case

Hard carrying case for iPad
Hard carrying case for iPad / Image: Amazon

If you want to get a sleeve that guarantees the highest possible protection, you should pick up a zipper carrying case that’s made of hard plastic shells, sometimes covered with a fabric. 

The hard carrying case offers protection against drops, and it usually comes with internal pockets and holders, as well as an extra compartment for another large device.

Travel organizer

Travel organizer for iPad
Travel organizer for iPad / Image: Amazon

Travel organizers are a suitable solution if you want to keep not only the iPad, but also other electronic gear, such as charger, power bank, earphones, and all kinds of cables.

Why carry two bags if you can pack your essentials into one? Travel organizers are bulky because they come with more than one large compartment and several small pockets, both inside and outside.

iPad sleeve pros and cons

Here are the key benefits and disadvantages of iPad sleeves and bags. Is there anything missing?

iPad sleeve pros and cons

Advantages Disadvantages
▸ It can be used with several iPad models, not just one
▸ It gives the protection when the Kindle needs it the most – when you are carrying it
▸ It doesn’t add bulk when you use your iPad, because it’s put aside
▸ It lets you enjoy the iPad in its entirety
▸ Many iPad compatible sleeves come with pockets for accessories and Apple Pencil holders
▸ Many sleeves are watersave or waterproof – a good option for rainy days if you don’t want to carry a suitcase or backpack
▸ You can use a sleeve as an extra layer of protection of your iPad with a cover
▸ No support for auto sleep/wake feature
▸ The more pockets there are, the bulkier the sleeve is
▸ You have to be more careful when using your iPad, because the sleeve is put aside and gives no protection
▸ To accommodate the current and future iPads, it’s good to buy a bit larger sleeve – and it may be too large for your needs
▸ Sleeves can’t be used as stands. You’ll have to invest in a tablet stand, if this is the feature you need

iPad cover – best third-party producers

MoKo – the company offers not only a wide range of high quality covers dedicated for the latest iPad models. Tablet sleeves are a strong part of MoKo’s brand. They are simple, decent, and offered at reasonable prices.

tomtoc – it’s a must-try brand for all mobile gear, from iPad, to Kindle, to MacBook. tomtoc sleeves are advanced, durable, top-shelf designs that will handle several generations of your iPads.

Fintie – it’s one of the most popular and valued producers of tablet and e-reader cases and accessories. iPad cases offer a solid quality at affordable prices. Each cover is offered in multiple color and design variants, including the most fashionable ones.

Mosiso – the brand is focused on developing sleeves for laptops and tablets (with dedicated ones for iPad), but also solid case covers. You can find here various sleeve types, but they all have one thing in common: a stylish design.

iPad cover or sleeve? Which one to choose?

If you have more than one mobile device

…choose a sleeve

More and more families have more than one mobile device, be it an iPad or any other tablet. If these devices have a similar size, for instance the 10.9-inch iPad and iPad Pro 11, it’s reasonable to get a single sleeve that could be used interchangeably.

If you want to take the iPad with you, just put it inside the sleeve, and put the other tablet in a safe place – and the other way around.

You may even consider getting one sleeve that can hold two iPads at the same time. Many travel organizers come with two large compartments suitable for tablets and other tablet-size devices.

If you want to have auto sleep/wake support

…choose a cover

A support for the iPad’s feature that wakes the device when you open the cover, and puts it to sleep on closing, is for many users the second most important benefit, after protection.

If pressing the power button every time you want to start using your iPad is something you can’t accept, you have no other choice but pick up a cover that supports auto sleep/wake.

Please keep in mind that not all covers designed for iPad support the auto sleep/wake. To avoid disappointment, read carefully the product description before adding the cover to your shopping cart.

If you want to feel an old good notebook

…choose a cover

The iPad is a beautiful object, and you can easily get addicted to its look, feel, personalization options, and the apps that you use.

That’s why, more and more users are looking for a cover or sleeve that provides more benefits, reflects personality, or simply brightens up.

If you, however, are still longing for the look and feel of an old good paper notebook, you have no other choice but pick up a book-style cover.

If you want to have a peace of mind

…choose a cover or
…choose a protection plan

Most users buy a cover together with a new iPad because they want to make sure they give their new shiny device the maximum level of protection. It’s all about relief that when you accidentally drop your iPad, it will survive.

The first thing you should ask yourself is how many times you have actually dropped the iPad (or any other device) in your entire life. The total number of drops of my two earlier iPad models equals zero. Why was I packing them into protective covers?

A better solution to make sure you will be able to use the iPad after you accidentally drop it is a protection plan – you will just get a new iPad instead of keeping a damaged one.

In Electronic Equipment Warranties on Amazon there are dozens of protection plans tailored for iPad and other tablets. Their price depends on the price of the tablet and the duration of the plan. You can pay once or in monthly installments. And you have everything included. New iPad instead of the broken one (and a broken cover).

If you want to protect the iPad against water

…choose a sleeve or
…choose a protection plan

Unlike the iPhone, no iPad is waterproof. It means that you will have to be very careful when taking it outside when it’s raining or taking it to the bathroom.

For outside use, the best solution is a waterproof sleeve. Most sleeves are made of materials (such as nylon or cordura) that are resistant to water spills and mild rain. Also the felt resists water quite well.

Please note that almost no sleeve has the official waterproof badge. Exposing it to heavy rain or putting it into water is not a good idea.

If water damage is your main concern, you should rather buy an iPad protection plan. Here are the options in the Electronic Equipment Warranties department of Amazon.

If you want to read hands-free

…choose a cover or
…choose a hands-free accessory

If your work or play sessions with the iPad are usually much longer than you have originally planned, every bit of comfort counts.

A cover with a hand strap is better than the one without. A cover that can be turned into a stand is better than the one with a hand strap.

As I already said, the problem with iPad covers is that they are usually not working well as stands. You will have to put them on a flat and firm surface to make sure the stand doesn’t fall.

Instead of buying a bulky standing case for your iPad, think about an iPad accessory for hands-free use. Soft and cozy pillow stands are the first thing which comes to mind, but there are several other innovative accessories that are worth checking out.

iPad cover or sleeve – idea lists

Have you decided which kind of accessory you want for your iPad?

For the best designs, check out my ongoing idea lists of iPad covers and iPad sleeves that I curate on Amazon, thanks to my participation in Amazon Influencer program.

Please note that if you buy anything from these lists, I may receive a small commission, usually between 1 and 4% of the value of your purchase.

⇢ iPad covers ⇢ iPad sleeves

• • •

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