ZaggFolio 90(ish) Day Review

I purchased the new iPad (3rd generation) a few weeks after it was released and have always been a heavy user in meetings and around campus because of the form factor (I feel there may be a Macbook Air in my future). The problem I’ve always had is my note taking abilities suffer when I used the on-screen keyboard and carrying a bluetooth version around was a bit clunky, don’t even get my started on the keyboard dock. When I upgraded I was on the hunt for a nice case/keyboard combo that worked well. Zagg has always had a good name in the i-Device accessory market so they were the first ones I went to.

The ZaggFolio is a form-fitting case wrapped around a bluetooth keyboard specifically built for the iPad. Zagg touts the system on their site "Created with a stylish design and a durable microfiber lining, the ZAGGfolio is an impressively thin multi-function iPad keyboard case for AppleĀ® iPadĀ® 3 (3rd Gen)." It has all the keys you need to operate your device without needing to touch the screen too often. The top row consists of the home, search, slideshow, cut/copy/paste, music and volume controls, and the lock/unlock button. It ranges in colors available, but if you want something plain or simple you’re out of luck. I was hoping for a black case to keep my setup fairly low key but ended up having to buy the "carbon fiber" because they offer every color under the rainbow except black (unless you spring for a leather version for an additional $30).

The Case

When I opened the packaging, the first thing I noticed was that it is not thin, at all. On top of that, it is not a true clamshell, merely two half cases held together by fabric. The carbon fiber was simply a print on some sort of paper/cloth that coated the outside of the case. The paper/cloth was glued to the case and around the edges seemed to already be separating from it. It was a bit disheartening to say the least.

The outer shell was held together by this glued on paper/cloth coating giving it a fairly flimsy feel and no real structure when opened. The paper/cloth binding also provides the flexibility needed to open the case. Instead of a push button clasp or a magnetic mechanism, you simply slide the top portion out and the "latch" lets go of the bottom portion. The biggest issue I saw is that when the keyboard is within the case you can not charge it. The charging port is hidden behind the side bezel and can only be accessed by removing the keyboard from the case entirely. I’m not sure who failed the "Form over Function: Designing Technology Accessories 101" class, but this is a major oversight.

When you’re creating an accessory for a device that is purpose built for the experience and every single piece has this in mind, you may want to make sure you’re in the same mindset. Surprisingly, there are slots for the 30-pin connector, headphone jack, volume, multi-use switch, and even the speaker all around the edges. All in all, it was not what I was expecting and appeared to be very low quality.

The Keyboard

The keyboard that slides into the case is nothing short of exactly what I wanted. It looks and feels very similar to a Macbook keyboard and has all the functionality you need. The battery life seems to be endless and the keys are responsive when typing. There is a slot across the top, just above the function keys, that acts as a resting place for the iPad and props it up at an angle perfect for sitting at a desk or conference room table and note taking. Not much else to say except that it works well.

Case issues aside, I started using it.

Use

Built into the case are the same magnets that are used in the Apple Smart Covers to turn the iPad on and off when opening and closing it. This also appears to wake up the keyboard from its bluetooth connection timeout slumber. It all worked well and within a few seconds of opening both the iPad and the keyboard we connected and ready to go. The keyboard, as mentioned, is responsive and easy to use. When navigating around the home screen and moving into and out of applications I find myself using the system search and launch tool more and more rather than touching the screen. Despite its low quality feel and clunkiness I still got quite a bit of use out of it; the keyboard is the only redeeming factor.

After about 3 weeks I noticed that the paper/cloth that covers the unit started to fray and peel away from the case, making this $100 case look even worse for the wear. It got to the point where I figured I must have a defective unit and a bad batch of glue was used to hold it together. After a little research (something I should’ve done in the first place) I found out that this was a common issue that has yet to be addressed by Zagg. I promptly contacted customer support to see if there was something I could do, trade my failing case in for credit towards a different product or maybe there was something going on behind the scenes to take care of those who experience the problem. Nope. I was offered a replacement unit of the same make and model and told that it was a common problem but it was not a defect in the design or manufacturing process. I passed since within a few weeks I would be in the same situation.

I will probably end up using the keyboard extensively over the next year or so, continuing to use the case "until the wheels fall off" and it’s no longer protecting anything. At that point I’ll look into the new Smart Cover or something similar and go back to lugging a keyboard around alongside the iPad. At least it’s a good keyboard and can support holding the iPad on its own.

Final Thoughts

The keyboard is fantastic. If you’re in the market and don’t need a case, go buy it now. I wish I could say the same about the case that goes with it. I’m a bit perplexed how a company like Zagg can put out a low quality case like this and charge $30 for it (you can buy the keyboard by itself for $70). It truly feels like an eBay-straight-from-China-for-$0.39 product. I can’t and won’t recommend this case to anyone.

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