If you’ve been using an iPad—either the original model or an iPad 2—for a while, you’re likely well aware of the myriad accessories out there. But if the new iPad, which ships today, is your first, you may be wondering about the best accessories and add-ons.
We cover these products regularly, so we’ve got a good amount of experience here. The good news is that because the new iPad is nearly identical to the iPad 2, the market is already flush with compatible accessories. The bad news is that for the same reason, there are so many options that you may not know where to start. Here’s a quick list of the most-useful iPad accessories, some of our recommendations for each type, and links to our comprehensive buying guides to get more-detailed information.
Easily the most-popular iPad accessory, a good case keeps your iPad safe while traveling and protects it from accidental scrapes and drops during use. Some cases even include built-in stands to make it easier to watch videos or view photos hands-free. But beyond those basics, cases vary widely.
One thing to keep in mind: The new iPad is the same height and width as, but slightly thicker than, the iPad 2. Which means that while most iPad 2 cases will fit the new iPad, those that are especially form fitting—such that 0.03 inches of thickness would matter—may not fit. So when buying such a case, make sure the manufacturer claims it really does fit the newest iPad.
Apple’s own Smart Cover remains a great case if you don’t need full-body protection (or if you’re open to buying a separate cover for the back of the iPad). It protects the iPad’s screen, works with the tablet’s magnetic sleep/wake feature, and folds up to double as a typing or viewing stand.
Shells and skins generally cover the back and sides of your iPad, but not the screen. They’re available in thin, polycarbonate coverings; soft-silicone skins; polycarbonate-and-rubber protection; and chunky, molded-grip gaming jackets. Marware’s MicroShell Case ($35) is a good example of a rigid-polycarbonate model. A sleeve is a padded pouch—sometimes with a rigid, screen-protecting insert—that protects your iPad inside another bag, such as a backpack, briefcase, or messenger bag. The zippered Be.ez LA Robe Allure ($30) is a good option, as are WaterField Designs’ iPad Slip Case ($29) and iPad Smart Case ($59).
Folio-style cases offer all-over, stylish protection for your iPad, but flip open for easy access to the iPad’s screen. Portenzo’s BookCase ($60 and up), STM’s Skinny ($40), and Cygnett’s Lavish Earth are solid offerings.
An iPad-specific bag or pack, such as Tom Bihn’s Ristretto for iPad ($125), lets you carry your iPad along with your other gear, and you can use it to tote your daily stuff even when you aren’t carrying your iPad with you. A carrying pack lets you carry more than just your iPad—such as a Bluetooth keyboard and some accessories—in a compact package. WaterField’s iPad Wallet ($79 and up) and Incase’s Travel Kit Plus ($60) stand out.
The iPad’s screen is surprisingly scratch resistant. But some people still worry enough to want some additional protection, while others would prefer an anti-glare coating. Screen films attempt to address both concerns without affecting the sensitivity of the iPad’s Multi-Touch surface. Unfortunately, many are difficult to apply, and some make glare or fingerprints worse. Moshi’s iVisor AG ($30) offers an anti-glare finish and the easiest application process around thanks to a design that adheres only to the edges of the iPad’s screen. Power Support’s Crystal Film ($30) is among the clearest and toughest of the traditional films and uses static cling rather than true adhesive. Finally, although we haven’t tested it, Green Onions Supply’s Glossy Anti-Fingerprint Screen Protector claims to maintain the iPad screen’s oleophobic powers.
While we usually think of using our iPads in our hands, there are plenty of times—while watching video, viewing photo slideshows, or using an external keyboard, for example—when we’d prefer to prop up the tablet and view it hands-free. If your iPad’s case doesn’t include a stand, or if it doesn’t let you view the iPad in both portrait and landscape orientation, a dedicated stand is a convenient accessory to have on hand. Griffin Technology’s Xpo ($30) and Twelve South’s Compass ($40) are standout portable options, while Gogo’s Stump Stand ($25), Rain Design’s iRest ($50) and Heckler Design’s @Rest ($59) are great for home or the office.
We’ve got more options in our collection of iPad-stand reviews.
More and more people are using the iPad for serious work, and when that work includes inputting text, a real keyboard can make typing a much easier—and faster—task. The iPad supports almost any Bluetooth keyboard, but there are dozens made specifically for use with the iPad that include iPad-specific function keys and even integrated iPad cases. (Before buying a case-style keyboard, be sure the case part fits the newest iPad.)
Folio-case keyboards are the most common, integrating a keyboard into a folio-style case. They’re convenient, but most use small, cramped keyboards. The best are Adonit’s Writer ($100) and Zagg’s ZaggFolio ($100). Clamshell keyboards place your iPad inside a hard-plastic, clamshell case that unfolds like a laptop. These tend to be bulky with similarly cramped keyboards, and most make it difficult to use your iPad as a tablet when you’re not typing text, but they offer lots of protection. Clamcase (several models at $149) is the best of the lot here. Keyboard shells integrate a keyboard into a rigid shell that protects the front or back of the iPad while it’s in transit. When you’re ready to type, you pop the iPad out of the shell, prop it up, and start typing. The keys on these shells tend to be small, but decent. Our favorite is Logitech’s Fold-Up Keyboard for iPad ($130)
Standalone keyboards have to be carried separately and usually require a separate stand, but they also have advantages: Most use full-size, high-quality keys in a standard layout, and when you don’t need the keyboard, you can leave it behind. The best are Logitech’s Tablet Keyboard for iPad ($70, including stand and keyboard case), Targus’s Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard for iPad ($64), and Genius’s LuxePad 9000 Ultra-thin Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad ($60). But don’t forget Apple’s Wireless Keyboard—even though it lacks iPad-specific function keys, it’s compact, light, and sturdy, with great keys. Add Incase’s Origami Workstation ($30) and you’ve got a keyboard, stand, and keyboard-carrying case in an easily packable package.
For more pros and cons of each type of keyboard, as well as more recommendations, check out our iPad keyboards buying guide.
Do you plan on doing some sketching or note-taking on your iPad? Your finger will work in a pinch—ha ha—but a good stylus will do wonders for your touchscreen drawing, scrawling, and document signing. It’s also useful in cold weather, when your fingers are tucked inside warm gloves. These simple accessories take the shape of a pen, pencil, or brush handle, and sport a capacitative tip—usually a rubbery nib, but sometimes an actual brush for better artistic control—that works with the iPad’s screen.
Macworld staff editor Serenity Caldwell has probably tested more styluses than anyone, and she’s rounded up her experiences in our comprehensive comparison of styluses.
The iPad’s built-in speaker is fine for some things, but you’ll welcome better speakers if you’re watching video, listening to music, or using your tablet for anything with more-demanding audio output. You can plug any set of standard computer speakers, studio monitors, or powered bookshelf speakers into your iPad’s headphone jack—we’ve got a bunch of recommendations here—but there are other options, as well.
If you want to be able to pack your speakers in your luggage, laptop bag, or backpack, portable speakers offer small size, light weight, and battery power—at the expense of sound quality. With the exception of Bluetooth portable speakers (below), most plug into your iPad’s headphone jack, though some also include a dock for your iPhone; a few even sport an iPad dock. Check out Altec Lansing’s Orbit MP3 IM227 ($30), Nuforce’s Podio PS-106 ($59), iHome’s iD9 ($100), and Logitech’s Rechargeable Speaker S715i ($150).
Larger, transportable speakers offer bigger, better sound while still running off batteries and letting you carry them from room to room or to the beach or park. Altec Lansing’s Mix Boombox iMT810 ($300) and Philips’ Fidelio DS8550 ($300) are solid performers. If you’re looking for something to put on your desk, the kitchen counter, or a dresser, desktop speaker docks offer surprisingly good sound quality in a compact, AC-powered package; some include alarm-clock or radio features. The iHome iA100 ($200) and the aforementioned Philips Fidelio DS8550 each include an iPad-sized dock cradle.
Finally, wireless speakers let you keep your iPad in hand while streaming audio to speakers on the other side of the room, cable-free. Bluetooth speakers pair directly with a particular iPad (or iPhone, iPod touch, or Mac) from a range of up to 30 feet, and some let you control music playback using buttons on the speakers themselves. The Jawbone Jambox ($199) Altec Lansing’s inMotion Air IMW725 ($200), and Creative’s ZiiSound D5 ($300) will surely satisfy. AirPlay speakers are more expensive but use Apple’s AirPlay technology to stream a higher-quality music signal over your local Wi-Fi network. Audyssey’s Lower East Side Audio Dock Air ($400), Klipsch’s Gallery G-17 Air ($550), and Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin Air ($600) offer big sound and elegant designs.
We’ve got more details on each type of speaker, and many more recommendations, in our speakers buying guide.
Speaking of audio, a good set of headphones is a must-have for those times you want to listen to your iPad privately. If you’ve also got an iPhone, its stock headphones will work fine with your iPad, but there are plenty of better options out there.
In-ear-canal headphones and canalbuds fit inside your ear canals to block external noise, making them great for travel and other noisy environments. In-ear-canal models, also known as canalphones, use silicone or foam eartips that fit snugly—and fairly deep—in your ear canals. They also tend to be pricier than canalbuds and to offer better sound quality. Canalbuds are generally less expensive and use smaller eartips that sit just inside the ends of your ear canals, instead of deep inside them, offering better comfort, although not as much noise isolation. Canalbuds are also more likely to include an Apple-style inline remote/microphone module. Etymotic Research’s mc3 Headset + Earphones ($99) and Future Sonics’ Atrio ($199) are good bets for true in-ear-canal models, while Maximo’s iP-595 ($80) and Denon’s AH-C560R ($100) are solid canalbuds. All but the Future Sonics model include the aforementioned inline remote/mic.
Lightweight Headphones are portable and (usually) reasonably priced headphones with larger drivers that rest against the outside of your ears. Most have a thin headband that goes over or behind the head, though a few clip onto each ear; many fold up for easy packing. We’re big fans of Koss’s KSC75 ($20), KSC35 ($45), and Porta Pro KTC ($80), as well as Sennheiser’s PX 100-IIi ($90) and PX 200-IIi ($110). The last three include an inline remote/mic module.
Full-size headphones fully cover or surround your ears, and though bulky, they usually sound better than good lightweight models. Many full-size headphones also feature generous padding and ergonomic designs. They fall into two categories: Closed models block out some degree of external noise (and also keep your music from disturbing others), while open models, which some people prefer sonically, let more noise in and out. A few good options for iPad owners, thanks to an inline remote/mic module, are Sennheiser’s HD 238i (~$60 at street prices), Incase’s Sonic ($150), Skullcandy’s RocNation Aviator ($150), V-moda’s Crossfade M-80 ($229), and Bowers & Wilkins’s P5 ($300).
Noise-canceling headphones sample outside sound and then pipe in an inverse audio signal to “cancel out” a good deal of monotonous noise. Although they don’t usually sound as good, or provide as much noise isolation, as comparably priced in-ear-canal headphones, noise-canceling models are easier to put on and take off, and they let you hear what’s going on around you. Our favorite all-around model is Audio-Technica’s full-size ATH-ANC7b ($179), although Bose also makes a couple good (though pricey) models, and Klipsh’s upcoming M40 ($350) looks promising. Bluetooth stereo headphones let you listen without wires; most also let you control music playback using buttons on the headphones themselves. For exercise, Jabra’s Sport ($99) and Plantronics’ BackBeat 903+ ($100) are good options. For non-exercise use, JayBird’s Sportsband Bluetooth Headphones ($99) and Sennheiser’s MM 100 ($200) provide better sound.
For our full guide to headphones, along with many more recommendations, see our headphones buying guide.
Chargers and batteries
The iPad’s battery life is commendable, but sometimes you need to eek out a few more hours of use. And of course, you’ll eventually need to recharge. The challenge here is that the iPad requires more juice to charge than other iOS devices, so you need batteries and chargers specifically designed for the tablet.
For iPad-compatible chargers, Griffin Technology’s PowerBlock Plus ($35) offers an iPad-charging USB port along with a built-in AC outlet of its own so you don’t lose an outlet, and Twelve South’s PlugBug ($35) melds with your MacBook’s power adapter—taking the place of the adapter’s own cable or wall plug—to let you charge your MacBook and an iPad from a single outlet. Incase’s Combo Charger ($40) works with both standard wall outlets and the accessory jack in your car, and Scosche’s ReVolt C2 sits flush in your car’s accessory jack while allowing you to charge two iOS devices—even two iPads—at once.
If you need untethered power, look to iPad-compatible batteries. Just Mobile’s Gum Max ($110) and DreamGear’s iSound Portable Power Max ($130) each offer impressive capacity—10,400mAh for the former, and a whopping 16,000mAh, albeit in a much larger package, for the latter. Each can fully charge an iPad with juice left, with the iSound able to charge an iPad twice.