In early January, TUAW ran a story about Apple accessory manufacturer Happy Owl Studio. The company, now based in Golden, Colorado, makes some of the finest Apple accessories I have had the pleasure to review. I had a nice meeting with Happy Owl CEO Devon Read (right, above) and Chief Design Officer Ryan Jordan (left) the other day to get an idea of their design philosophy and future product plans. In the process, I was able to get a hands-on look at some of their iPad and iPhone products, as well as gaze longingly at samples of their upcoming MacBook Air briefcase. Let's take a look at some of the products from Happy Owl Studio.
The Wallet for iPad 2 (US$79.99) could easily become a favorite of iPad-toting folks all over the world. Think of a wallet that's big enough to swallow your iPad 2 and also carry credit and business cards, pens, accessories, and your iPhone in a zipper-protected folio, and you've got The Wallet. I was reminded of the Day-Timer planners that people used to carry in the pre-iPad days.
The Wallet is made of black pebbled leather that's easy to grip, and the two halves of the case -- the iPad side and the zippered side -- are snugged together with a snap closure strap emblazoned with the iconic Happy Owl logo. On the iPad side, your device slides in from the left side and is held in place with a small Velcro closure. Your iPad screen rests against a smooth Microsuede material, and the entire device is held in place with a leather bezel complete with openings in all of the right places. And yes, there is a magnet for automatically turning the iPad 2 on and off, as well as an opening for the rear-facing camera.
If there's one teensy little complaint I have about The Wallet, it's that leather bezel. On the sample I was using, the iPad didn't appear to be centered (i.e., there was more of the iPad bezel showing on the the right side of the display than the left side). Then again, only an obsessive person like me would probably be concerned about it not being perfectly centered...
Like many folio-type iPad cases, The Wallet can serve as a stand or prop up your iPad for typing. The same strap that closes the folio can also be routed so that it holds the iPad in a perfect position for typing or, when flipped, watching movies.
The pocket side has a ton of space. Should I ever decide to do away with carrying a wallet in my back pocket, I'll carry The Wallet instead. I can see where this would be perfect for international travel. Pop your credit cards in the slots, and put cash and those pesky Euro coins into the zippered pouch in the center. The second zippered pouch is big enough for a couple of passports and other travel documents. The entire pocket side closes securely with another zipper, this one with a large and helpful leather pull attached to it.
The Wallet is more of a unisex design, but The Clutch ($79.99) is designed for the ladies. Available in either black or a lipstick red, it's stylish and functional. The design is very similar to that of The Wallet, but with a more feminine look and a detachable strap.
For women who are used to carrying either a small purse or a clutch, The Clutch would be perfect. For my engineer wife, who carries a purse that has to have everything including the kitchen sink in it, I have a feeling this would be a bit too limiting. However, The Clutch would be perfect for the female executive with a serious iPad fetish who just wants to carry one well-designed bag.
The Clutch also performs folding magic to become a useful iPad stand. Unfortunately, it's too late the sexy red Clutch as a Valentine's Day gift for your favorite lady, but it's an awesome way to insure your popularity with her at any time of the year.
A lot of iPad owners like the minimalist protection of the Smart Cover, but end up buying a cheap and ugly plastic shell to protect the back of the iPad from scratches. The Shell ($39.95) once again showcases the design savvy of Happy Owl Studio with a thin leather shell that works with the Smart Cover to provide classy iPad protection.
If you have one of the black leather Smart Covers, you'll love The Shell as it has the identical luster and feel of the leather used for the Apple covers. It has a wonderful feel and provides a non-slip grip when carrying an iPad around.
The Shell snaps onto the back of your iPad 2 easily (it has a thin plastic interior shell). If you like the smell and feel of leather, you'll want one of these on your favorite tablet. There are cutouts in all of the proper places, and The Shell accommodates the Smart Cover nicely.
The Bamboo Skin and Leather Skin for iPhone 4/4S
Both Devon and Ryan from Happy Owl Studio noted that they love the design of the iPhone 4 and 4S so much that they decided to just protect the relatively fragile back of the design with skins that would offer more grip.
The resulting products are the Bamboo Skin ($19.99) and Leather Skin ($19.99). These are very thin stick-on skins that provide the natural feel of wood or leather and protect the glass on the back of your phone while adding virtually no additional weight or thickness.
For those of you who don't use GPS apps regularly like me and need to use a battery pack case just to make it through a day, these skins are pretty nice. Like The Clutch, the Leather Skin comes in both black and red leather.
Coming Soon: The Briefcase for MacBook Air
Some day soon, I am going to need to go through a twelve-step program to cure me of my addiction to computer bags. That day will be when The Briefcase for MacBook Air arrives from Happy Owl. It is totally sweet, and I have to apologize to Devon and Ryan for drooling on the two samples that they brought to our meeting.
This gorgeous bag won't be cheap at $299.99, but trust me when I say that it is the nicest MacBook Air bag I've ever laid eyes on. It's big enough to carry a 13" MBA in a padded pocket, has built-in slots for pens and business cards, and cable loops to organize those dangling messes. There's an beautiful interior lining, and the attention to detail extends to the silver finish on the metal hardware.
The company is now taking pre-orders for The Briefcase, and is lopping off $100 to bring the price tag to a more palatable $199.99.
While the Happy Owl Studio team have had their products made in China up to this point, they noted that they're seriously looking to bring production to the U.S. In addition to the existing product line and The Briefcase, they're also working on a Square-enabled iPad cash register called The Cashbox ... but that's a topic for another post.
It's always a pleasure to talk with startups that are making a difference in the Apple ecosphere, and Happy Owl Studio is a perfect example of such a company.