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?


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.