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Road Tested: Hard Candy's Bubble Sleeve for iPad

When we visited with Tim Hickman from Hard Candy at Macworld Expo, he told us how they worked to get their cases ready for production without access to actual iPads for sizing and fit. For the past few weeks, I've been using the company's Bubble Sleeve as my everyday case for my iPad. In some ways, I wish that Hard Candy had waited a bit longer to think through the case design before rushing to market.

The Bubble Sleeve has a rigid outer shell covered in fabric and featuring, well, bubbles -- circular bumps that provide a firm gripping surface without causing too much friction if you slide the case into a larger bag.

Unzipping the twin zipper pulls reveals a soft interior with red plastic corner braces on one side of the case; these are repositionable, via Velcro, for a tighter or looser fit for the iPad (and allowed Hard Candy some wiggle room in case the iPad didn't come out at the exact size that was expected). The other side of the case has a grid of padded squares, providing a soft surface for the iPad screen to rest on.

Read on for my impressions, and see our gallery of product shots below.



The best thing I can say about the case is that it does seem to protect the iPad from drops and bumps. Beyond that, I had some issues with it. The "bubbles" began to scuff and discolor after a few days' use, probably from brushing against clothing. The plastic brackets don't actually secure the iPad inside the case, so you have to be cautious when unzipping so that your iPad doesn't topple out.

The lack of a secure lock-in also means that it's tricky to use the iPad while it's still in the case, because you can't turn or tilt the case too far (forget propping it up for video playback, for instance). Adding insult to injury, the padded squares leave lots of visible marks on the iPad screen, especially when there are a few fingerprints on the screen already.

It's possible that my final problem with the Bubble Sleeve was attributable to the fact that I was testing the Gold Green model, and I was carrying it under my arm. However, when I approached the concierge desk at a San Antonio hotel, the young man behind the counter greeted me with a cheery "Good afternoon, ma'am, how can I help you?" I glanced down at my "purse," said "Let's try this again, shall we?" and waited for him to correct his mistake.

The Bubble Sleeve for iPad is available in black, pink, and the aforementioned gold; you can buy it for US$49.95, direct from the Hard Candy website or at retail outlets. If you're considering it, I strongly suggest checking it out at a retail store first to make sure it's going to work for you. For me ... not so much.

If you're looking to browse the universe of iPad cases, Daniel Brusilovsky has launched ipadcasefinder.com; the site aims to list all of the available cases on the market.

TUAW policy is to return or donate any hardware provided for review. For more details, see our policy page.

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iPad

When we visited with Tim Hickman from Hard Candy at Macworld Expo, he told us how they worked to get their cases ready for production...