One advantage that you have owning Apple products is access to a robust and thriving ecosystem of accessories. This is especially true for mobile devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. As soon as a new device releases, everyone from the major brands, to boutique and custom makers, to no-name sellers on Amazon and eBay are either announcing new cases or already have them available.
While a few manufacturers may get a preview look at new Apple device designs so that they can make accessories for release right at launch (think Logitech with the original iPad Pro), most have to wait until launch to get the specs of the new hardware. Well, that or they can pay someone involved in the supply chain to get the designs ahead of time. They get their information the same way that we do in many pre-release rumors. Because of this, eBay and Amazon are usually well stocked with all kinds of cases the day a device is announced.
With that in mind, I find the relative lack of accessories available for the new iPad Pros somewhat concerning. If you search Amazon or eBay for 2018 iPad Pro, you will find a few cases, but nothing like you would typically expect for a new Apple device. I was able to get an inexpensive Smart Case knockoff delivered the day after I got my Pros, but the selection was really slim when I first looked.
It’s a little better today, but not much, and a lot of what is available are different brands offering the same OEM product.
It isn’t just the knock-offs that are lacking, either. Take a look at the bigger and boutique brands. Nothing from Logitech, Belkin, UAG or ZAGG. There are no keyboard cases other than a pre-announcement of a new model from Brydge, and that is a Bluetooth keyboard. So far, there aren’t any Smart Connector accessories announced.
Things do seem to be picking up a little a few days after Pros have started to arrive. Otterbox is on board. Targus has a few cases available for the 11″ model and one for the 12.9. Pad and Quill announced two cases right after the Pros were revealed. Vaja has a “coming soon” for the new Pros on their site. Hopefully a slow build is underway.
There are valid reasons for things to move a little slower this time out. The new design of the Pros wasn’t a surprise, but the magnetic charging connector for the Apple Pencil wasn’t leaked until a few days before the announcement. This may have held things up for some manufacturers. In fact, Speck has already had to address the fact that their early-release case prevents Pencil charging, and that the design will have to be changed. Add to this the new Smart Connector that is now on the back of the iPad, and there are new things to account for. With all this in mind, maybe the companies who waited to design their cases were smart to do so this year.
My biggest disappointment is the fact that there isn’t a follow-up to Logitech’s Slim Combo Keyboard case in the works. I loved the quality of the keyboard, the protection it provides, and its relatively lightweight design. I kept it on my previous iPad Pro pretty much all the time and was really hoping to get one quickly for my new Pro.
Unfortunately, not only has a new version not been announced, but it may never be. I listened to the MacBreak Weekly podcast this week and Rene Ritchie of iMore said that he asked an Apple rep at the hands-on segment after the announcement about how the new Smart Connector would be treated. Specifically, he asked about the MFi program and third party access. The answer- nope. There is none.
It is possible that the person Mr Ritchie asked wasn’t qualified to speak on it. I certainly hope that is the case, because this would be very disappointing. There will be Bluetooth keyboard case options, but they are usually thicker and heavier. My old ZAGG keyboard case was a veritable tank. The Logitech Create and Slim Combo were both thinner and lighter than other competitors because they didn’t have to worry about including a battery or any ports. I will have a bone to pick with Apple if they limit the Smart Connector to their own Smart Keyboard Folio going forward.
Hopefully more manufacturers will get on board with the new iPad Pro designs over the new few weeks. My biggest concern with the relative lack of accessories at launch is the possibility that the more limited market for the iPad Pro has scared manufacturers away. If they no longer feel there is money to be made on the Pros, they will abandon it and focus their efforts on the iPhone and Apple Watch. If this did happen, we would be left with Apple’s very expensive cases, a handful of name brand cases, and not much else. I am hoping that things pick up soon, but I have a feeling we will see fewer options available this year and going forward than last.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this over the next few weeks, and will hopefully be reviewing several new cases as they become available.