Which Smart Cover To Get? Get A Polyurethane One. Here’s Why

Which Smart Cover To Get? Get A Polyurethane One. Here’s Why

The Smart Cover is a beautiful invention, but pour a couple of beers and accidentally extinguish a couple of cigarettes on one, and it’s clear that some Smart Covers are better than others. So which one should you buy?

When Apple first unveiled the iPad 2 back in early March, it was the Smart Cover that truly impressed me. It had always smarted that the only way to protect a device as gorgeously designed as the iPad was to cover it up from ass-to-elbows in half a pound of flayed cow skin, and the Smart Cover (taking its inspiration from Japanese bath lids) was an elegant and functional solution to the problem: part screen protector, part cover, part stand. Genius.

The only problem with the Smart Cover? It comes in two flavors, polyurethane and leather, and unless you’re willing to spend thirty dollars more for a leather case, the swatch of colors just sucks.

Here are the colors you can get for your $40. A blue the exact color of urinal ice. A pink that matches the exact shade favored of ‘Juicy’ emblazoned sweatpants worn by the teen mom carousing the food court at your local mall. An orange that is the same color as the kitchen your grandma died in. A green that looks like it would best be applied to a Whole Foods logo. And a gray that could best be described as the antithesis of color, let alone joy.

For professionals, these options particularly hurt because only the soul-killing gray is truly business appropriate. For bozos like me — namely, men who ignorantly opine on the internet clad only in their underpants for a living — this is less of a concern, but even so, the selection of colors that Apple has imbued their polyurethane smart covers give one pause. They are the equivalent of wearing a Powerpuff Girls t-shirt: will people know you’re just being a fashionological iconoclast, or will they just think you’re some sort of guffawing, regressed man-child?

That was the thought process that led me to pick Apple’s more expensive Red Leather Smart Cover when I first ordered my iPad 2. It’s a decision I regretted almost immediately when I opened the box to discover a swath of thin, cheap leather sandwiching an impressive array of magnets. A mere two weeks later, though, and that regret turned to embarrassment and loathing. After just 14 days, a couple unfortunate spills and a few greasy fingered gropes, my $70 Red Leather Smart Cover looked less like a luxury leather accessory and more like a wafer-thin cross section of a lifelong smoker’s lung tissue. And no matter how much I cleaned it, it never regained its initial cheap-but-at-least-pristine appearance.

So I bit the bullet and bought a bright orange polyurethane Smart Cover instead. Initially, the idea was that if I was going to have to replace my Smart Cover every month, I’d at least only be out $40 instead of $70.

But you know what? Power through the fact that Apple apparently chose to pluck the colors of their polyurethane Smart Covers from a palette of hues usually favored by Nickelodeon in the production of slime, and what you’ll discover is the polyurethane Smart Covers are amazingly resilient to staining. In the last month, I’ve spilled beers and coffee on my Smart Cover. I’ve manhandled it with fingers covered in automotive grease and tar. I took it to the beach. I got barbecue sauce on it. I even once dropped a lit match on it. Yet no matter how gross and disgusting my polyurethane Smart Cover got — and I’ll freely admit that my Smart Cover’s grossness is an accurate reflection of its owners clumsiness and cavalier attitude towards hygiene — I was just a spritz of Windex away from it recovering its pristine appearance.

Which Smart Cover should you get? Go for polyurethane all the way. Not only are they vegan-friendly, but unless you are transhuman in your immaculateness, like that being of light Steve Jobs, but it’ll be a better return on your investment over time. After all, what’s the point of picking up a high-end leather Smart Cover if, after just a few weeks, it has picked up a patina of grease more appropriate to a paper towel placed underneath a pound of microwaved bacon than a high-end leather accessory?

So if you’re a businessman, buy the gray polyurethane Smart Cover. Just like it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a $5,000 suit if your fingernails are dirty, no one’s going to admire your iPad 2 if the Smart Cover looks like someone used it as a grease catcher. If you’re not a businessman, well, pick the color of your favorite shade of gak, power through your embarrassment and wear that Smart Cover as a point of pride. Sure, some might still mistake you for a regressed man-child, but at least they’ll think you’re a clean one…. and at the end of the day, how many Lennys really carry around an iPad 2 at all?

  • [Deleted User]

    Q: Which Smart Cover To Get? 
    A: None of them. The Smart Cover sucks

  • jayoen

     I saw someone today with a baby blue polyurethane smart cover and it looked horrible. The cover had changed colour and was now slightly dirty brownish. It looked so tacky and made the iPad look cheap. It’s like these covers are made to be replaced every month or so.

  • brownlee

    Absurd. The Smart Cover is awesome.

  • Michael A.

    Fuck you! 

  • Jbordley

     I’ve had my black leather smart cover for a while now (months) and, with the exception of a few wrinkles in the bending area, it stills looks it did when the day I attached it. Granted, I rarely if ever use my iPad with dirty, greasy, or wet hands.

  • bplano

     You could get a GroveMade case. 

    Or just stop drinking around your iPad… which is advisable anyway…

  • JFMD

    Brownlee- your assessment of the color palette is right on- I too went with the orange- paired with my white ipad, it is now unfortunately  the cream-sicle-
    regressed man-child it is…

  • Mass

    I agree with Jbordley. My leather black Smartcover still looks pretty good and my iPad is always with me. Travels in my pack daily and just has some minor scratches on it. Go with that one for sure.

  • miatercharlie

    Sir, I have the pink one, and I love it. It matches my [redacted], and is just as clean.

  • J C Stevenson

    Hmm… think I’ll stick with my black leather one which still looks, feels and smells as great as it did on day one. Don’t think those tacky plastic ones.

  • Anton Soze

     For the $40 + $70 paid for the 2 Smart Covers you could have gone for the Miniot wood cover…that utilizes the magnets.  Both beautiful and practical and it’s resistant to stains.

  • Ephimetheuss

    Got the Black leather Smart Cover. As long As you mind what You’re doing with it will do just fine.

  • Sauron Buell

    My Black leather SmartCover is a couple of weeks old with no problem.

    Then again I look after my stuff, and don’t go spilling random liquids on it.

  • Alex Koester

     An excellent, well written and amusing article. Thank you.

    Now which Nickelodeon slime colour to choose…

  • brownlee

    So, in other words, you didn’t need a cover to begin with.  

  • brownlee

     I don’t care for the roll-up design as much.

  • Enoch Cincotta

    Honestly, I don’t know why anyone would WANT to do that kind of thing to electronics in general…

  • BearsFan34

     I went with the gray SmartCover + white iPad 2. Couple that with a Hypershop gray “case,” (I think it was $19.99 US) and the combo looks fantastic. Like the author, I didn’t like any of the other colors, save the Black…but didn’t want to pay extra for the leather. Maybe the gray color matches my boring personality, but having gray on the front & back of the iPad 2 looks great to me, and it’s fully protected.

  • Matt R.

    Smart cover not so smart for my family…. My kids keep knocking it off and thinking they’ve broken something. Whenever my wife uses the iPad, I find the cover off and left somewhere and the iPad propped up against a book or something in the kitchen. Can’t put it in the doc with the cover on….. So I like the magnets, and the auto turn-on, but overall, the smart cover isn’t so smart. 

  • God

     So, by your standards, you should only get a smart cover if you intend on throwing lit matches and motor oil at it?

  • God

    I have the black leather smart cover and it looks and works great. I’ve had some minor spills on it. Even a little beer found its way onto the cover, though I have absolutely no idea how ;-) The stains all wiped right off with a microfiber cloth. I’m a little too keen on keeping my iProducts in black/attractive cases to accept a pastel cover for my most prized electronic device.

  • AaronBushell

    Can you link to the gray Hypershop case you purchased?  I am interested in something like your setup, but hadn’t found anything that went well with the Smartcover.

  • brownlee

    No, by my logic, it’s absurd to criticize someone for spilling random liquids on his Smart Cover when that’s precisely what the Smart Cover is there to deal with: the unforeseeable. 

  • Support 18inc

    Here’s a better answer. Cause leather is dead skin. Buy a polyurathane cover because something need’t die to protect your electronics. Great article though, well put!

  • Allan Cook

    If you’re stubbing out butts and pouring beer on your Smart Cover, you shouldn’t have an iPad 2.

  • Guest

    Agreed… I got both the red and black leather (bought 2 and the leather one cause Im not from US so I bought both as a precaution)

    The red really get scratched and marked easilly (in the 1st two weeks it really looked something used) but the black looks perfect even after lot of use (and havier use than the red one).

    I personally think one case cant generalize a whole and I like this blog a lot but this post was desappointing

  • Guest

    I don’t feel that anyone was criticizing you. It seems as if the op was just saying that he baby’s his, as do I. I think Apple intended the smart cover to protect the screen from grime or scratches while in transit and not against spills or lit matches, but I’m not an Apple engineer. I just assume that a leather cover wasn’t intended to stand up against motor oil and tar as you say you’ve subjected your latest cover to. I understand that you didn’t specify everything that you subjected the leather cover to, but you can see where it would be easy to assume it didn’t have an easy life from your own account of how you’ve handled the polyurethane one. It’s wonderful news to know that the polyurethane ones are that tough. I have the black leather one. I feel more than a little dumb for shelling out 70 bucks for it, but I had to have black. I can only assume Apple knew this and decided to tax stupid people like myself. That being said, it probably hides fingerprints and minor dirt better than a red one.

  • Guest

    I don’t feel that anyone was criticizing you. It seems as if the op was just saying that he baby’s his, as do I. I think Apple intended the smart cover to protect the screen from grime or scratches while in transit and not against spills or lit matches, but I’m not an Apple engineer. I just assume that a leather cover wasn’t intended to stand up against motor oil and tar as you say you’ve subjected your latest cover to. I understand that you didn’t specify everything that you subjected the leather cover to, but you can see where it would be easy to assume it didn’t have an easy life from your own account of how you’ve handled the polyurethane one. It’s wonderful news to know that the polyurethane ones are that tough. I have the black leather one. I feel more than a little dumb for shelling out 70 bucks for it, but I had to have black. I can only assume Apple knew this and decided to tax stupid people like myself. That being said, it probably hides fingerprints and minor dirt better than a red one.

  • Gravedrinker

    I got the orange one and I like it a lot. It has a lot of other things that come to mind than just some old kitchen, I never ever thought of that and still find it untrue.

    Now, the pink one, with the white iPad, matches the GTA Vice City color scheme, and therefor creates a nice 80s look. I hate pink though so I wouldn’t get it.

  • Gravedrinker

    Strange opinion, I love it and use it all the time inside. I leave it on pretty much always too, except when taking the iPad with me, for that I have another case obviously. 

  • Asdflkjhasdflkjasdf

     Hey… President Obama uses a gray polyurethane Smart Cover too!  

  • bobbcat

    Well, I ordered the red cover & still await the iPad 2 it will cover. Not too worried about mussing up this cover, as I don’t suffer from stupid-man syndrome.

  • jaywhaz22

     Um, Google?

  • [Deleted User]

    you really like it? I hated it. Doesn’t protect the back. Doesn’t always rest flush with the back casing when you’re using the iPad. The magnets inside the cover could have been a little bit stronger too so it doesn’t move around as much when you’re walking around with it (mine always turned off and on when I’d be walking around with it). It does make a nice stand though. Other than that, I thought it’s over rated. 

  • coffeecoffee

    I agree with the sentiments of this article. I bought the black leather Smart Cover when I purchased my iPad on launch day, but since then it’s become dirty and marked — it’s quite a cheap leather, and doesn’t last particularly long. After reading this article, I purchased a grey Polyurethane cover, and it’s a much higher quality product.

  • LolJohn

    Lol

  • Eadie

    I too fell for the red leather cover and it looks worse by the day so I am about to switch to the vinyl also, but what a poor selection of colors. So bad I’m not sure that the spotted red isn’t better!

  • Pete Murphy

    I bought the red leather cover.  Looked great, for a while.  I have a Zagg screen protector.  After having to leave my iPad in a backpack in a car for an afternoon (during a midwest winter day), the Zagg picked up a slight red-stain from the cover.  According to Zagg, this is not an infrequent occurance.

  • Jriv420

    Nigga I’m rolling weed on my iPad.

  • bobbyopenhouse

    You sound like a retard. Learn to write and not make everything into a comedic matter…

  • http://mrproductreview.com MrProductReview

    Both types of materials no matter what case it is have their own advantages and disadvantages. If someone plans on treating their case that badly then I don’t think they would/should ever consider getting a leather one.

    PU is much easier to clean than real leather and comes in more colours. But real leather feels much better, looks much better, smells better and lasts much longer if you maintain it well.

    Leather is luxury really so if your into that then why not. I wrote more about the differences here http://mrproductreview.com/leather%20or%20polyurethane.html.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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