Six ways to protect your Apple iPad

Follow these tips to protect your iPad investment

Are you one of the millions who have either pre-ordered the third-generation iPad, or plan to brave the crowds at the Apple Store and other retailers to pick one up first-hand this Friday? You’d better take some steps to protect that investment.

It’s nice that Apple continues to launch new and improved devices while maintaining the same prices as the previous versions, but $500 and up is still a lot of money. Imagine how devastating it would be to shatter the display or spill cup of coffee on your iPad a few weeks after you buy it.

Here are six things you can do to protect your iPad for your own use, and preserve its resale value for when the next iPad comes along:

1. Use a Screen Protector

The iPad is a touchscreen device, so the display is going to get a workout. Apple uses glass that is strong and scratch resistant, but it’s not impermeable - I have an original iPad with scratches on the glass to prove it.

There are lots of options out there for screen protectors. You can pick up do-it-yourself screen protector kits at just about any retailer that sells the iPad. The problem with screen protectors is that they have to be applied perfectly, and it’s not easy. Your display has to be pristine and lint free, and you have to be very careful to apply the screen protector without any air bubbles.

Personally, I recommend spending a little extra like at one of those mall kiosks and let someone else put the screen protector on for you.

2. Use a Case

Even with a screen protector, you don’t want to expose the iPad display to unnecessary abuse when it’s not even in use. Apple sells the thing, reticulated iPad Smart Cover that automatically turns the iPad on when its opened using magnets. It can also fold back to prop the device up for better typing or viewing.

That is just one option, though, and there are plenty of alternatives. Many—like the iPad Smart Cover—only protect the display side of the iPad. The metal back side is also prone to scratches, so you may want to consider a full case that protects both sides of the iPad.

My problem with cases like those is that they often protect the iPad (or iPhone) at the expense of both aesthetic beauty and practical aspects of the tablet. Part of the appeal of the iPad or iPhone is how thin it is. Encasing it in a giant rubber or hard plastic case might protect it, but it also makes it ugly and bulky.

3. Protect It From Liquids

It goes without saying that water and techno gadgets don’t mix. You shouldn’t go swimming with your smartphone in your pocket, and you shouldn’t use your iPad as a coaster for your coffee mug.

I’ve had light rain fall on my iPad or iPhone with no issue. I’ve also used my original iPad as a digital recipe book in the kitchen and splattered a thing or two on it occasionally. Those things just wipe away easily without incident.

The obvious solution is to simply keep your iPad a safe distance away from any liquid that could actually spill on it and possibly seep in to fry the internal components. That would be bad. For additional peace of mind, though, you could explore the possibility of using something like Liquipel to give your iPad a protective layer against liquids.

4. Pad Your iPad

Even if you have a screen protector, and a heavy-duty case defending the front and back of your iPad from bumps and scratches, it could still use a little extra attention when you’re traveling.

If the iPad is in a backpack or messenger bag, and something heavy (like a person) gets set on it, it could still shatter the display. If you transport the iPad in checked luggage on a flight it could be in for a rough ride of bumps and jostles - and that’s just from the ticket counter to the jet.

When you put your iPad in a bag or suitcase, make sure you surround it with adequate padding to cushion the blow and prevent any damage that might occur from jarring the tablet too hard.

5. Babysit the iPad

Kids love iPads, and many parents are more than willing to share the Apple tablet with kids. There are tons of apps--both entertaining and educational--to keep kids occupied for hours (or days if they’re playing Minecraft).

If you’re going to let your kids play with your iPad, keep an eye on it. Kids have a tendency of setting their peanut butter sandwich down on it, or leaving it on the couch to fall between the cushions. It’s not fun to try and hunt down your iPad when your kid doesn’t remember where he or she left it, and find it under a bed with a half-eaten Gummi Bear stuck to it.

Of course, you could just not let your kids touch the iPad, but who wants to be the mean parent?

6. Insure Your Investment

The ultimate protection would be to insure the iPad. It’s a pretty big investment, so if you’re prone to accidents, tend to lose items, or are subject to theft, consider purchasing insurance for your gadgets.

Apple offers AppleCare protection. AppleCare costs $99 and extends your telephone support, and hardware technical support for the iPad to two years. It also includes coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage--with a $49 deductible per incident.

Aaron Cooper from Worth Ave. Group, a provider of insurance protection for tablets, laptops, and smartphones, points out that the AppleCare plan may not be comprehensive enough for some people. It doesn’t cover loss, theft, and certain accidental damage.

iPad insurance from Worth Ave. Group varies by the model of iPad in question, and the state you live in. Where I live, though, two years of coverage from Worth Ave. Group is about the same as AppleCare ($100.70 instead of $99), but provides coverage for accidental damage, natural disasters (fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes), as well as theft or vandalism.

Whether you stick with simple measures like using the iPad Smart Cover, or take extra precautions with waterproofing or insuring your iPad, make sure you do what it takes to protect your investment and enjoy the benefits of your new tablet for as long as possible.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)

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