Luckily, third-party manufacturers have already started coming out with some clever cases and covers for the iPad Pro, and one of the first available rear shells comes from popular accessory maker SwitchEasy. The iPad Pro CoverBuddy is SwitchEasy's first product for Apple's tablet, and it's designed to work alongside Apple's own Smart Cover and Smart Keyboard.
SwitchEasy funded the iPad Pro CoverBuddy through Indiegogo, but now it's ready to ship out to customers. While the Indiegogo campaign was still ongoing, SwitchEasy sent me a prototype CoverBuddy to check out, which I've been using for the last week.
Made of a thin but rigid polycarbonate, the CoverBuddy snaps onto the back of the iPad Pro. Since it's only 1.5mm thick, it adds very little additional weight and bulk. The polycarbonate of the CoverBuddy is textured and it's super grippy. The grip on the CoverBuddy is probably my favorite aspect of the case because it makes the unwieldy iPad Pro a lot easier to hold on to.
CoverBuddy's polycarbonate material isn't going to protect the iPad Pro from serious damage, but it feels sturdy enough to protect it from the scratches, dings, and minor drops that occur from day-to-day use and travel.
The CoverBuddy leaves all of the ports and the rear camera accessible with precise cutouts, and it has a Lightning port cutout that's able to accommodate the Apple Pencil for charging purposes. On the back, there's a removable plastic Apple Pencil holder, which is actually quite versatile.
It keeps the Apple Pencil in place on the back of the iPad Pro so it doesn't get lost, and when used on a desk or a lap, it props the iPad Pro up at a slight angle that's ideal for drawing or playing games. SwitchEasy's calling this "Sketch Board" mode, and I found it to be useful for writing and sketching.
It's fairly easy to get the Apple Pencil in and out of the built-in holder to use it because it's open at the middle. A quick slide with a finger is enough to remove it, and putting it back is as easy as sticking it into the holder.
When an Apple Pencil isn't in use, the Pencil holder snaps off of the back of the CoverBuddy and can be replaced with a thin strip of plastic that covers the holder. The holder itself can be used on a standalone basis to keep the Apple Pencil safe in a bag, but it's not the most elegant solution when not attached to the case.
Having an additional piece of plastic that covers the Apple Pencil cutout area is a bit of an imperfect solution because it's easy to misplace or lose. I'm fairly well organized, but I still have a tendency to misplace the odds and ends that accessories sometimes ship with. I also had some trouble getting the plastic cover to stay in place, but SwitchEasy has told me small manufacturing issues like this will be ironed out with the final release of the CoverBuddy.
Along with leaving the ports uncovered, the CoverBuddy also has an opening on the left side that's designed to work with the iPad Pro Smart Cover or the Smart Keyboard. The cutout is sized perfectly for the Smart Keyboard that I have, and the CoverBuddy worked well alongside it. The CoverBuddy doesn't get in the way of the keyboard and it keeps the Apple Pencil out of the way at the top.
The CoverBuddy is designed to stay on the iPad Pro at all times, but it's easy enough to take it off if you want to use the iPad Pro sans case. It snaps off at the corners and takes only a couple seconds to remove. Given the rigidity of the material I worry that it could crack from the force of removing it, but that didn't happen during the time that I tested it.
I tested an opaque white version of the CoverBuddy designed to match the white Apple Smart Cover, but it also comes in translucent black to match the charcoal Smart Cover and the charcoal Smart Keyboard and a clear translucent color that's perfect for the gold iPad Pro.
SwitchEasy's CoverBuddy isn't quite as premium as Apple's own Silicone Case for the iPad Pro, but it offers full rear protection for the tablet in a slim form factor that preserves its thin design. At $39, the CoverBuddy is reasonably priced and it works well with existing Apple accessories.
The add-on Apple Pencil holder is useful because it keeps the $99 accessory close at hand and it provides a comfortable drawing angle when used in a lap or on a desk. I do wish SwitchEasy produced a version without the Apple Pencil holder for those totally uninterested in it, but the existing CoverBuddy is convertible and suitable for use with or without an Apple Pencil.
If you're looking for a rear shell solution that's more affordable than what Apple offers, the CoverBuddy is definitely worth checking out.
It's worth noting the CoverBuddy is a product that's been around for awhile, so it's not something that's untried and untested. SwitchEasy has been making CoverBuddy cases for Apple's iPad lineup for some time, and it's received largely positive reviews from media outlets and buyers.
- Slim design
- Adds grip
- Holds Apple Pencil
- Works with Smart Keyboard/Smart Cover
- Plasticky - not as high quality as Apple's products
- Swappable components are easy to lose
- Flap to cover Apple Pencil slot doesn't stay in place well
- Apple Pencil slot is unattractive when not used with Apple Pencil holder
How to Buy
The CoverBuddy for iPad Pro can be pre-ordered from the SwitchEasy website for $39.99. Orders are expected to ship on December 14.
Update 5/3/2016: SwitchEasy also makes a CoverBuddy designed for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, available in Translucent Black, Translucent Clear, Space Gray (rubber coated), and Rose (a pink shade designed to make the Rose Gold iPad Pro pinker. It's priced at $29.99 and can be purchased from the SwitchEasy website.
Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this review.