Now on its third iteration, the wildly popular Apple iPad has given birth to a huge community of third-party app developers. Right now, there are more than 200,000 iPad-specific apps to choose from.
But software isn't the only thing that can enrich your iPad experience. There are just as many, if not more, third-party iPad accessory makers. The accessory market runs the gamut from simple cases, stands, and compatible hardware that helps increase utility, to add-on gadgets for gaming, entertainment, and pure pointless fun.
After plenty of research - and by research, we mean hours and hours of iPad playing time - we dug up the best accessories for your new tablet for productivity, music, video, gaming, and more. Anything you can do with your iPad, these products can help you do it better. We'll start with the most practical and obvious - keyboards, covers, and stands - and then branch out further from there.
Keyboards and Covers
One of the biggest knocks against the iPad is its lack of physical keys. However, you don't have to pull out your laptop every time you need to type more than 140 characters. The Clamcase helps turn your tablet into a productivity powerhouse. The Clamcase emulates the laptop form factor and functions, as an endlessly adjustable stand.
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover
If you want something slimmer than the Clamcase, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is, as its name suggests, a sleek and streamlined way to carry a keyboard with your iPad at all times. Because it looks like it was made by Apple itself, you might actually want to.
Apple Smart Cover
One of the greatest things about the iPad is its sleek, minimal design. But that beautiful Retina display is susceptible to smudges and scratches, if it's not properly shielded when your tablet is in transit. The Smart Cover is a nifty screen protector that folds up to become a stand for typing or video viewing. Since it's made by Apple, it's got the same design aesthetic, and adds very little bulk to your iPad. It comes in polyurethane or leather in a variety of fun colours.
The DodoCase Classic will appeal to anyone looking for a bit of an old-world feel for their new tablet. The case mimics the look of a cloth-bound hardcover book, with a bamboo tray for protection and a folding front that functions as a stand.
The SofShell is a form-fitting case that surrounds the back of your iPad with an anti-shock, anti-slip material. The manufacturer claims the SofShell reduces 43 per cent of shock from accidental drops. Its website features a video of a SofShell clad iPad staying put on the trunk of a Porsche going 60 miles per hour. The SofShell also features cut-outs to work with your Apple Smart Cover.
Magnus iPad Stand
The Magnus takes a page out of the Apple school of design, with an ultra-minimal aluminium stand that puts nothing between you and your iPad. The stand is hand finished and features magnets in lieu of visible supports, giving the illusion of a freestanding iPad.
Belkin Chef Stand + Stylus
The iPad is a great companion when cooking, thanks to a large selection of apps that help you channel your inner Gordon Ramsay. But mixing cooking with your iPad can turn your tablet into an expensive paperweight. The Belkin Chef Stand + Stylus features a multi-angle, non-slip rubber stand and built-in stylus to help ensure your high-tech kitchen companion remains foie-gras-free. Once finished with your culinary masterpiece, both the base and stylus can be hand-washed using soap and water.
If you just want a versatile stand for your iPad that doesn't take up any room on your desk, the HoverBar could be the answer. It uses a secure, silicon-lined clamp to attach to a variety of objects, from your iMac to a kitchen cabinet. The adjustable arm lets you position your iPad however you like, all while preserving the "floating iPad" look.
The New iPad comes with the option to buy with 3G connectivity, but it's a pricey proposition - £499 plus monthly service for a 16GB iPad. A stand-alone mobile hotspot from Three is a more versatile solution for adding mobile broadband to your tablet, as well as any nearby laptops and phones. The MiFi is small and costs just £49.99, and provides the Internet access for up to 5 Wi-Fi devices.
Own a MacBook and an iPad? The PlugBug is a simple device that cuts down on the things you'll need to remember and pack when leaving the home, combining a MacBook power adapter and a USB port that can charge an iPad, an iPhone, or an iPod. It not only cuts the clutter, but also frees up outlet space for other power-hungry electronics in your bag.
Apple Camera Connection Kit
With the introduction of the latest version of iPhoto and apps like Adobe Photoshop Touch, editing and manipulating your photo library on your iPad has never been easier or more feature rich. Unfortunately, with no ports save for the 30-pin connector, getting your photo library onto your iPad can be a chore. Apple's Camera Connection Kit gives you two ways to upload your shots to your tablet: either via your camera's SD card or its USB cable.
Pogo Sketch Pro
Fingers are great and all, but for getting the most out of drawing or taking quick notes on your iPad, you'll want a real stylus. The Pogo Sketch Pro is one of the best we've tested, with an elegant design, multiple tips, and precise control. It gives you more precision when you're drawing or making handwritten notes, and it gets your finger out of the way.
Kensington Virtuoso Mini Collapsible Stylus
For those who want a portable, easy to carry stylus, the Kensington Virtuoso Mini Collapsible Stylus comes with a holster that conveniently plugs into your iPad or iPhone's dock. It features a telescoping aluminium frame with a soft rubber tip.
JBL OnBeat Extreme
The iPad is great for media, but its anemic-mono speaker is cringe-worthy. The JBL OnBeat Extreme is about as good as it gets when it comes to iPad speakers. It uses Bluetooth to wirelessly stream music from your tablet, but it can also dock your iPad for syncing to a computer. Plus, the adjustable docking arm holds the iPad in both vertical and horizontal orientations, making it a great mini-theatre for movie watching. Oh, and its combined 90 watts of power, delivers booming bass and articulate highs that will please even the most demanding audiophile.
Logitech Wireless Speaker Adapter
If you already have a great speaker system you love, the Logitech Wireless Speaker Adapter will turn it into an iPad-friendly wireless device. It supports both standard analogue RCA inputs and 3.5mm jacks, meaning it'll work with virtually every speaker system out there. It's also a good deal less expensive than most Bluetooth capable speakers. Plug your speaker system into the Wireless Speaker Adapter, and then use it like any other Bluetooth capable speaker.
Phiaton PS 20 BT
Wires are going the way of the optical drive, and the Phiaton PS 20 BT is one of the best ways to cut the cord and listen to your music without wires. It connects via Bluetooth and delivers surprisingly robust audio performance, with deep bass and even frequency response at any volume level. You'll have to keep the PS 20 BT charged, but wireless makes far more sense with the less-than-pocket-friendly iPad.
Just For Fun
If you own an iPad, chances are you probably own an HDTV. While you risk being called an Apple fanboy (or fangirl), another Apple product, Apple TV is a real no-brainer - when it comes to getting the most out of your iPad. With AirPlay wireless streaming, you can view content on your tablet or from iCloud on your HDTV via Apple TV. You can even use your iPad as a remote control, or play some games on your television, using your iPad as a controller.
The Apple TV is great, but not everyone needs or wants one-most have perfectly capable entertainment systems already in place. However, you don't need an Apple TV to use your iPad as a remote. The Griffin Beacon will let you control your digital set-top box, A/V receiver, and HDTV using your iPad as a full-featured universal remote.
iOn Audio iCade
The iPad is great for gaming, but not all games are suited for the touch-screen controls. Virtual controls and buttons don't do justice to classic games like Asteroids or Pac-Man that were meant to be played, with a good old fashioned lollipop joystick. Ion Audio's iCade is a mini arcade cabinet that docks your iPad and adds the familiar joystick and physical buttons. It's a must-have for nostalgic Atari-loving iPad owners.
Logitech Joystick for iPad
If you want to do some gaming your iPad, but don't need the full-on arcade cabinet, the Logitech Joystick is an easy, inexpensive option for adding tactile feel to your game controls. This simple plastic spiral uses suction cups to attach to your iPad's screen, instantly adding a thumb-sized joystick for any game that uses an on-screen virtual joystick or a D-pad. More than 30 games are officially supported.
Uncommon Goods USB Typewriter
If you're really into nostalgia, this pricey accessory docks your iPad on a fully functioning Underwood typewriter. Remember those? The USB Typewriter from Uncommon Goods works with any USB device, but to use it with your iPad you'll also need the Camera Connection Kit.
Do you have a favourite iPad companion that we missed? Tell us in the comments section below.
- Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
- Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc.