If you plan to upgrade, or have upgraded to an iPad Air, you’ve probably noticed by now that most of the cases no longer fit. The iPad Air, to me, seems too breakable to just throw in a backpack on a trip, so I needed a good, solid case for travel. Saddleback Leather is working on a version of their iPad case for the Air, and I was lucky enough to test out one of their prototype units. I know Saddleback is a great example of quality, style, and toughness, so I was eager to try it out.
I have never used a leather case for my iPad, so seeing this in person for the first time made my jaw drop. The case is a fine textured leather, not the flimsy, plasticity stuff, and it just screamed stylish to me. Picking it up though, showed me it was super heavy, and when installed was quite bulky compared to the plastic snap-on cases I am used to. The front of the case is plain with the Saddleback logo in the bottom right corner and the attachments for the straps to close the case placed above it. I don’t mean plain in a bad way, as the leather itself brings a rich look to the case.
The straps come around the side of the case and slide into two slots to keep the case firmly closed. It’s a simple design that will keep the case closed even if you accidentally toss it across the room. There are two cutouts on the back: one for the camera and one for the microphone. The cutouts on the case I received were a little off, though it didn’t affect the camera any. With the quality that Saddleback is known for, I can imagine when this case is released that the cutouts will be centered. The strap that you see coming from the top is what holds the iPad Air in place. It can be cut to any desired length, used as a bookmark, or just left there for some added design.
The stitching on the case is, by far, the best I’ve seen on any leather item in my possession. All of Saddleback’s cases are handmade, and you can tell quality is on top of their priority list. The only areas where the stitching isn’t perfect is where it is reinforced, but while it’s not perfect (and I’m not sure it can be), it still looks great.
As I mentioned above, the case is hefty. With the iPad Air inside, it weighs 2 lbs 3/4 oz. It took a while to get used to the thickness and weight, but I’ve grown more fond of the case as I use it each day.
All of the buttons on the side of the iPad Air are accessible.
You slide the iPad Air in through the top side of the case, nestle it into place, and thread the thin strap through the slot on the back to keep it in place. It fits tightly inside of the case with no wiggle room. The top of the case is open with access to the wake/sleep button and headphone port. The bottom of the case is mostly open, except for the reinforced leather that seats the iPad Air into place. Most Lightning cables will work with this case, along with most headphone jacks, due to the open design.
The biggest difference between Saddleback’s old iPad case and the iPad Air version is how the leather borders the iPad. In the old version, it would frame the iPad screen completely, while the iPad Air version only frames the top and the bottom. I like this, because you don’t have to worry about bumping the case when swiping side to side. The home button and camera cutouts were perfectly centered. A piece of leather has been sewn into the cover part of the case, which can be used to store a business card or two, but it is mostly for design. It would be neat to monogram something into this area to customize the case.
It has strength, style, and durability, but what about usability outside of just being a case? When you fold the cover of the case back and slide the straps into their slots, you get several viewing angles. The above picture is a viewing or typing angle (adjusted by how far the straps are into their slots). Rotating the case 90-degrees clockwise gives you a more upright viewing angle. Lastly, you can sit it vertically, and while it is not the most useful viewing angle, it would work if needed. When I put it into the typing angle, I can just rest it on my lap, and the angle is near perfect for surfing the web or playing games. As the leather has worn in, I’ve found it easier to fold the cover back and hold in one hand, but at first the stiffness of the leather made this a bit difficult.
When I first started using the case, I had pictured it just for travel, but I am thoroughly enjoying it as a stay-at-home case. The protection given by the case is superb, and it is useful and stylish, as well. It’s backed by a 100 year guarantee, though I can’t imagine your iPad Air lasting as long as the Saddleback Leather iPad case.
The iPad Air case won’t be available until later in January. The exact pricing and availability date isn’t confirmed and more than likely will be determined after Saddleback’s manufacturing is back from the holidays.