Twelve South's SurfacePad: A solid, minimalist iPad cover

According to Jordan Golson, Twelve South's SurfacePad won't protect the iPad from a 30-foot drop, but it is one of the best iPad covers around.


As the default Apple guru for my friends and family, I'm frequently asked which capacity iPhone to get (generally the smallest unless you take a lot of videos), which Apple notebook is the best (13-inch MacBook Air), and -- maybe more than anything else -- which iPhone or iPad case they should buy.

This is a hugely subjective question, as some folks want something indestructible and don't care about size or weight (OtterBox's Defender series is a good place to start), while others won't allow a case anywhere near their iDevices, because they prefer to show off Jony Ive's impeccable design taste.

Somewhere in between those two extremes lies Twelve South's SurfacePad for iPad Air and iPad mini. It's somewhat similar to Apple's Smart Case and Smart Cover iPad cases but with some clever twists.

Made of leather, the SurfacePad adheres to the back of the iPad with a semi-permanent adhesive. It can be removed and reapplied, but it's not really designed to be taken on and off. Instead, the SurfacePad acts as a minimalist case, but it uses the iPad's built-in magnets -- designed for Apple's in-house cases, but made available to other casemakers -- to adhere to the front of the iPad as well.

With the case attached (Figure A), the iPad seems to magically prop itself up as the magnets hold it in place across several different viewing angles, including a fantastic typing position. Even better, swapping between positions or just opening and closing the iPad is a seamless affair. It's difficult to describe, but Twelve South's website does an admirable job showing the different ways the cleverly designed SurfacePad can be used.

Figure A

Figure A
The SurfacePad on an iPad mini.

Even better, the SurfacePad turns the iPad on and off automatically when the screen is opened and closed because of the built-in smart cover magnets. It weighs just 6 or 9 ounces, depending on which model iPad you have, and the front cover itself is only 0.1 inches thick and lined with protective microfiber.

You can find the SurfacePad for the iPad Air ($80) and iPad mini ($70) from Twelve South's website in white, black, and red leather, and there's a $35 iPhone version available as well.

This is, by far, my favorite minimalist iPad case -- protective, highly functional, and with a modern look. What's your favorite iPad case? Let us know in the comments below.