It’s Christmas Day, and if you were especially nice this year, you may have just found a new iPad under your tree. Apple’s tablets are able to do incredible things right out of the box, but they’re also easily damaged, and there are accessories that really help to expand their capabilities. If you want to make sure your iPad performs at its full potential, it’s a good idea to protect it and accessorize right away.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help new iPad owners choose the best accessories across a variety of different categories. Our top picks range from stands and cases to speakers, keyboards, game controllers, and much more. We also explain what’s near-mandatory, what’s optional, and what you can safely skip. Read on!
Question 1: What Does A New iPad Owner Need?
The single most important thing that’s not included with iPads is a stand, followed closely by a protective case. We’ve assembled a complete guide to iPad stands here, going through a large collection of options, but our three top picks are:
Belkin’s FlipBlade Adjust, a $30 portable stand;
Just Mobile’s Encore, a $60 desktop stand;
And any of ZeroChroma’s cases with awesome integrated stands for iPad mini and iPad Air; the Vario-SC is the least expensive (around $50), with Folio-Slide (shown) as a more expensive and protective alternative.
Unfortunately, there’s not yet a version of either ZeroChroma case for the iPad Air 2; our top current stand/case for the thinnest iPad is SwitchEasy’s $50 Rave (above). If you’re buying a case to keep a small iPad safe for kids, we’d recommend the OtterBox Defender for iPad mini ($38-70, color-dependent) or Griffin Survivor for iPad mini ($54-$60). Either one will be virtually impervious to typical kid drops, spills, and other mishaps; they’re great insurance policies against accidents.
Question 2: What Might A New iPad Owner Want?
You probably won’t want to dock your iPad for listening to music or watching videos, but it has excellent wireless streaming abilities. We have a full guide to the year’s best Bluetooth speakers here, with JBL’s $150 Charge 2 (above) as the year’s top pick, and Apple’s $300 Beats Pill XL as one of several higher-priced runners-up.
For wireless video streaming, your best and only option is the sub-$100 Apple TV, which connects to your HDTV and streams iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch video smoothly over your Wi-Fi network. The Apple TV also has a large collection of numerous built-in apps taken from network TV, cable TV, and Internet video channels. If you’re buying one now, make sure you get the current-generation Apple TV, not an older model, since Apple is no longer supporting earlier Apple TVs with software updates. Refurbished current-generation units are selling for a discount.
Want to get work done on the iPad? If you have an iPad Air or iPad Air 2, the easiest (but priciest) option is to go with Belkin’s $150 Qode Ultimate Keyboard Case Pro, sold in different models for the thicker and thinner iPads. But as iPads continue to shrink in size, making iPad-sized keyboards feel overly cramped, an arguably smarter alternative is to just buy Logitech’s awesome $80 Easy-Switch Keyboard, which is rechargeable and very portable. iPad mini users will find it to be twice as usable as any iPad mini keyboard case; iPad Air users will see at least a 20% improvement over the best Air-sized keyboards. A battery-powered stylus such as The Joy Factory’s $60 Pinpoint X1 will dramatically improve your on-screen writing and sketching ability.
If you’re a gamer, particularly if you have an iPad Air/Air 2 or mini 2/3, you’ll really enjoy playing iOS games with the best wireless game controllers we’ve tested. The $60 Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i is virtually identical to an Xbox One controller in size, features, and performance, while the $50 Micro C.T.R.L.i is smaller but otherwise identical. Both are sold in five colors.
Using an iPad in the car tends to be more of a back seat (read: for kids) than a front seat (adults) affair. In either case, make sure you have a 2.1-Amp charger such as Just Mobile’s $30 Highway Max, which includes USB ports capable of full-speed iPad and iPhone charging. A six-foot-long Lightning cable such as Amazon’s will reach into the back seats. If you have a ZeroChroma Folio-Slide case, you can add a headrest mount for $30; if not, Griffin’s roughly $20 CinemaSeat mounts for iPad Air or iPad mini are other options.
Spare wall chargers also come in handy for iPad owners. We really like RAVPower’s value-packed two-, four-, and six-port chargers, which each can handle at least two iPads at full recharging speed; the four-port one can also charge two iPhones, while the six-port model handles three iPads and three iPhones. The dual-port version is currently $13, the four-port version is currently $17, and the six-port version is currently $27.
Question 3: What Can A New iPad Owner Skip?
iPad-docking speakers and alarm clocks have largely been a bust. Stands and iPad-ready wall chargers deliver enough of the same experience to do away with alarm clocks. If you really need a clock, Bluetooth wireless options such as iHome’s $120 iBN10 (above) and Soundfreaq’s latest $80 Sound Rise are generally better choices for pure audio quality.
If you received an iPhone or iPod, we have a separate 9to5 Guide for you here!