I love the move from paper forms to digital, and the advent of handheld information systems. I have moved into the post-PC world wholly and happily, and try to keep most records on one of the digital devices I usually have close at hand. My company, too, has moved into this new realm, with all of our appointments, scheduling, work orders, and even HR forms fully digital. We use iPads in the day-to-day work of gathering customer information, checking employees in and out for breaks and lunches, and monitoring and requesting parts from our in-store inventory system. This means a lot of folks walk around with an iPad in hand much of the day. While it’s lighter than a laptop and much easier to manage, our hands get tired holding a thin piece of glass and metal all day. So when Julie asked for those interested in testing Comfe Hands, a new product designed just for this use, I jumped at the chance.
The Comfe Hands tablet grips are a pair of semi-soft plastic, modeled to fit around the corner of an iPad. The back is expanded and has ridges for your fingers, allowing them to flex, rather than try to hold the slab with just pressure on your fingertips. They come in Henry Ford’s favorite color, black, and are molded into opposites, so that there is a left and right-hand one. The pair I was sent arrived in a nice box that was completely recyclable, and could be adapted for retail shelf space or hanging pegs, just by refolding. There was no other packaging, just precision cut cardboard, folded into a box and holder. Nice touch – their design is even comfy for the planet.
I first tried them on my original iPad, which is not what they are designed for. While they weren’t a perfect fit, they were very secure and usable, and I liked them instantly. At this point, I knew they would be a hit at work.
Next day, I put them in my bag and brought them out on the floor. I pulled one of my managers aside and showed them to him, installing them on his iPad. His face lit up and he said, “Me likes.” I let him use them all day, and his opinion didn’t change. He actually used them over several shifts, and makes sure I get them back at the end of my shift, so they don’t get “lost.” This guy is not a geek, by any means, and wants something that just makes using this tech that he has to use more comfortable. The “nubbins”, as he nick-named them, do just that. He can hold the iPad more securely while using it, which gets the fear of dropping it off the table, allowing him to concentrate on managing, rather than dealing with a new device.
I also loaned them to a colleague who works in the service area, inputting customer data and checking schedules for techs. No lie, when I put them on her iPad and handed it back to her, she grabbed it and said, “Wow, those are really comfy!” (I can’t make this stuff up!) She laughed when I told her the name, and said, “Guess they’re accurately named, huh?” She liked the feel, but since she often sets her iPad down to work with customer devices, it felt a little odd having the face of it tip away from her on the table. Most of the time, we lock the screens into landscape mode, but it’s still a bit off to type “upside-down.”
Several other folks used them off and on during shifts over the next few days, and, to a person, they all loved them. I spent several shifts managing appointments for the tech support group, and found them to be a fantastic addition to the company iPad 2 I was using. They are compact and easily removable, whether I needed to swap out iPads or if I wanted to take them off to go to lunch. They are a bit large and not “compactable”, meaning they don’t pack down into a smaller space, but they’re not too bad in a jeans pocket for a short time. (I don’t wear skinny jeans, so your mileage may vary!)
Despite their immediate usefulness, there were a few things that came up with almost every user, myself included. First is the price. At $50, they are spendy. Yes, there is a lot of design and technical knowledge that is included, from the cutouts for camera and home button to the speaker channel that allows sound to come through, but fifty dollars is a lot for two sculpted pieces of foam.
The second issue could easily be repaired in the next molding. If you use them over the power switch, the iPad can go into shutdown mode. This can be rectified in use by placing the Comfe Hands over the opposite end, since the screen can be locked in any orientation, but this prevents using a smart cover with it. Putting a shallow channel in the correct spot would prevent activating the power button.
All things considered, if you hold an iPad for long periods of time, Comfe Hands are an investment that may prove – um – comfortable to you. Four stars out of five.