Back at Macworld | iWorld 2012, TUAW editor-in-chief Victor Agreda had a chance to talk with the creator of the iBackFlip Somersault (US$89.95). Now that this iPad bag has been in the wild for a time and has gone through a few design revisions, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to review the Somersault. Be sure to read through to the end of the post for details on entering to win an iBackFlip Somersault in a TUAW giveaway.
Of all of the myriad bags that we receive at the TUAW Labs, I have to say that the iBackFlip Somersault is one of the most unique I've seen. At first glance, it appears to be a sling-type backpack just big enough for an iPad or perhaps a MacBook Air. It can actually carry both of those Apple products (up to a 13" MacBook Air) at the same with no problem.
The real difference shows up when you open the main fold-out pocket on the Somersault. On one side is a slide-in holder for an iPad, complete with a hole for the rear-facing camera (more about that later) and not one, but two stylus holders. In that same pocket are two thin straps that can either be unlatched so that the iPad can be folded out flat for TSA inspection or folded over to sit on your lap or a desktop, or latched to let the case hold your iPad as if it's on a portable desk in front of you.
This is the killer feature of the Somersault, and the thing that really makes it stand out in the crowd. Who would use something like this? Let's say you're in the oil business and you're using an iPad to look at well logs (yes, there's an app for that) -- while you're standing near a drilling rig, you can be looking at the logs hands-free. Or you're taking surveys at a theme park using an iPad. You can be standing with a customer talking to them, and typing with both hands on the iPad entering data.
I can see where the Somersault would be even more useful in the medical field, where nurses and doctors might have an iPad with them on rounds. The iPad can be hidden away in the backpack while they're working with a patient, then flipped out to type on to take notes or check prior readings.
That cool little fold-out "desk" panel isn't the only feature of the iBackFlip Somersault, though. Starting at the front of the bag, there's a medium sized zippered pocket into which you can fit things like cables or an extended battery pack. There's also a full-sized zippered pocket that reveals a hole for the iPad camera to peek through if you need to take pictures. It's big enough to hide paperwork or a dead-tree book.
Moving beyond the iPad fold-out compartment, there's another padded full-sized zippered pocket, perfect for carrying another iPad or a MacBook Air. Even the sling strap is chock-full of useful features -- there's a zippered pocket for an iPhone, six elastic bands for either routing a cable from an iPad to earphones or to clip things to, a loop for hanging the bag from a coat hook, and two key hooks.
You might think that all of this capability would come with a big weight penalty, but the bag weighs in at just a hair under two pounds. The back of the Somersault is covered with a perforated material to keep your back cool even in muggy conditions. And if that mugginess turns into a torrential downpour, you'll be happy to know that the case is water resistant.
What impresses me the most is how iBackFlip managed to pack so much carrying capacity into such a slim and lightweight case. I have some back issues that have been causing me some pain when I carry a couple of iPads in a standard over-the-shoulder bag; the iBackFlip Somersault is much more comfortable, and I don't have to scrunch up a shoulder to keep the strap is going to falling off.
Sure, the Somersault doesn't have the carrying capacity of some larger bags I own that can handle two DSLRs, tons of cables and power bricks, etc... But those bags are also bulky and uncomfortable, and I don't need the extra capacity all the time.
For anyone who just needs to carry an iPad and a MacBook Air, with a few cables and accessories, and wants the ability to use their device while standing up, the Somersault is the perfect solution. It's hands-down the most versatile iPad bag I've had the pleasure of reviewing.
One of the great regrets of being a reviewer at TUAW is that we don't keep review items. However, our loss is your gain -- we're giving away our review Somersault to a lucky TUAW reader. Just fill out the form below (one entry per person only), click or tap Submit, and you'll be entered into our giveaway.