All About Cases, Part One

Revised March 8, 2023

In this part we’ll discuss general issues regarding cases. All About Cases, Part Two has been replaced by How to Identify an iPad Case, which contains detailed information about over 400 different iPad cases and their attachments for keyguards.

Since every Keyguard AT keyguard can be custom fit to the user’s case, we have experience with more different cases than just about anyone, and people are always asking us “Which case should I buy?”. Well, we certainly have opinions on the good and the bad of many, many cases. However, we’re not qualified to tell you what’s going to work for your end user’s situation, but we do have some opinions on general usage, and we have strong opinions on what cases work best for designing keyguards.

So with that in mind we’re going to tell you a little bit of what we’ve learned about cases in general, some of the cool ways we have of attaching keyguards to iPad cases, and then the details of some of the most often used cases and how they facilitate keyguards.

Two Types of Case

We place cases in two general categories which we call foam cases and rigid cases. We don’t have a favorite type. We think you need to determine which type of case is best for your end users. Here’s a little bit about the differences, advantages and shortcomings.

Foam Cases

Foam cases are the elastic ones with no hard shell, regardless of whether they’re made out of actual foam. Some are firm and others are spongy, but they all protect the iPad by absorbing shock with their padding, like the airbags in your car. They generally fit all around and behind the iPad and are attached by being stretched around the edges of the iPad. They usually have openings for cameras, volume buttons, etc., and are generally cut to expose the home button. Foam cases are generally the least expensive, and are sometimes not very well made, though even the saddest looking ones still provide good protection.

The stiffest foam cases require enough force to insert the iPad that you are sure you’re going to crack the screen. It helps to insert the stiffest end first, then stretch the stretchiest end last.

Foam cases don’t generally come with a screen protector, so it is usually advisable to add a “glass” screen protector before mounting the case. Some come with handles or straps, and on some of them you can drill through the handle to attach straps of your own design. Often they have a folding stand which does a fair job of propping up the iPad a ittle, and a poor job of standing it near upright.

Foam cases in general provide plenty of room for us to make strong keyguards. We like ‘em, so don’t hesitate to choose one if you will be adding a keyguard.

Rigid Cases

The next type of case is a rigid case consisting of two or more pieces that form a clamshell around the iPad. They often come with a plastic screen protector which isn’t of high quality and often responds poorly to the user’s touch. These cases are often advertised as water-resistant or even waterproof! While they are certainly great protection against saliva and accidental or intentional submersion in the bathtub, I can’t see ever intentionally submerging my iPad! Some come with a plastic jig you can insert in place of your iPad to prove to yourself that it’s actually waterproof. Still...

If you don’t need the case to be actually waterproof, you can usually remove the cheap screen protector and add a nice “glass” one. The provided screen protector is usually held with a light glue or double-sided tape and can be easily removed.

To insert an iPad into a rigid case, you need to open it. If the case is surrounded by an elastic skin, remove it by peeling it off. It’s hard to get a grip on it sometimes, so look for elastic plugs around the power jack or elsewhere that provide a good place to start. With the skin removed, you’ll see what you need to do next.

If there are screws on the back, loosen them until you can separate the two parts of the case. If there are no screws, you usually have to pry apart the plastic clamshell. Look for places you can insert a dime or a flat screwdriver and give it a careful twist. There might also be small tabs which need to be pried back to release them.

Fit the iPad to the open shell, being carefull to orient it in the right direction so the buttons and cameras line up with the case openings. Align the two parts of the clamshell carefully, then snap or screw them back together. Re-wrap it in the skin if you removed it.

Rigid cases protect by transfering the shock through the hard shell like the structure in your car protects you. They sometimes have handles or straps, and may contain stands that we find vary from excellent to totally useless. Many rigid cases give us adequate room for a keyguard, though some give us so little room that we just can’t make a keyguard as strong as we would like.

Keyguard Attachment

The way you attach a keyguard to an iPad depends entirely on the case. The critical issues are the thickness of the bezel surrounding the screen opening, and the amount of open space around the visible portion of the screen (the part with the viewable pixels). While there are commonalities among foam cases and among rigid cases, the differences are much greater in the cases from one manufacturer or another, or even among different designs from the same manufacturer.

This section has been replaced by the blog Keyguard Attachment Methods.