The Sleeve360 (US$49.99) comes in a plastic hanger box that's perfect for stocking in retail stores, but it doesn't seem to follow the recent trend to more biodegradable packaging. Inside the box is another plastic shell holding the case, along with instructions and a nice drawstring travel bag.
Out of the box, ThinkFast recommends that you read the instructions or watch the online tutorials. Why? Well, you don't exactly want to pop your $500 - $830 iPad into the case, set it spinning and then watch the iPad fly into the wall. That's why the case is designed with two snaps on the right side that close securely to keep the iPad in place. The snaps do a very commendable job of securing the iPad while being easy to lock into place. Another reason there are instructions? The mechanism is rather complex, and it's a good idea to know how to move the various bits around before you start using the case.
Once inside the case, I placed my hand into the comfortable hand strap and then snugged it down (it has a Velcro closure) until it was a fit to my relatively small hands. Now, would I want to walk around all day with an iPad strapped to my hand? No. First of all, if you put your arm down in a natural way to walk, it feels like the iPad is going to slip off of your hand, so your fingers tend to immediately want to grab the back of the case. After a very short amount of time, I found that my fingers were getting tired. To stop that, I moved the strap up to my wrist, where the palm of my hand kept it from sliding off. That's awkward. You could take the Sleeve360 off of your hand, hold the strap, and then walk with it, but that's awkward as well.
How about using the iPad with the Sleeve360? If I'm using an iPad while standing up, I'll usually hold the device either with my left hand cradling the device in the upper right corner, and my forearm and chest/stomach supporting the weight of the iPad. I then use my dominant right hand to tap buttons, type, etc... That's fairly comfortable to me, and I use the iPad that way a lot.
Another method is to grip the left side of the iPad with my hand and tap with the right, although that tends to make my left hand tired after a while. With the Sleeve360, I found that the screen angle was wrong for me when I was holding the iPad in the most comfortable position. As a result, I had to twist my forearm so that the screen angle was optimal. When I did this, my forearm got tired quickly. I think, however, that Sleeve360 users would quickly adapt their method of holding the iPad to a more comfortable position.
The strap can be detached from the case fairly quickly by pulling up on a small tab, and then sliding the strap base in one direction. There are two buttons on the base of the strap; pushing them in simultaneously and then pulling up the handle creates a stand that works well to prop up the Sleeve360 on a table or desk. There are also two small pull-out props that serve to tilt the iPad into a good landscape viewing position when the handle is removed.
While I was working (yeah, right -- I was playing Monopoly for iPad) with the Sleeve360 last night, I noticed that the case covers a small portion of the iPad screen. It's wider than the iPad bezel, so if you use apps that have content near the sides of the screen, be aware that they might be obscured slightly. The cutouts for the dock connector, speaker, Home button and other ports and switches are nicely sized. However, I felt that it was somewhat difficult to press the on-off/sleep switch due to the thickness of the Sleeve360.
There are competitors to the Sleeve360. Marware, for example, offers the C.E.O Hybrid ($49.99), the Eco-Vue ($54.99) and the Sportshell ($59.99), all of which have removable hand straps. None of these cases, however, have the swiveling strap that makes the Sleeve360 unique. Belkin's Grip 360° + Stand ($49.99) uses a similar swivel that can be replaced with a stand (or lost), and there's a Kickstarter project called Grabbit for iPad ($69.95 proposed price) that doesn't look like it's going to make it to reality.
Even with some of the minor niggling issues I found with the Sleeve360, in my opinion, it's the best way to hand hold and use an iPad while standing up. ThinkFast went through a lot of tough design decisions to create this case, and it shows in this completely unique design. How the company can produce such a complex swivel mechanism and sell this case for only 50 bucks is amazing to me.
Now it's time for one TUAW reader to get a free Sleeve360. Here are the rules and a link to the legal statement:
Here are the rules for the giveaway:
- Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
- To enter, leave a comment telling us how you'll use a Sleeve360 case with your iPad
- The comment must be left before January 15, 2010 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.
- You may enter only once.
- One winner will be selected and will receive a Sleeve360 case valued at US$49.99
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.