Accessorizing Your iPad mini - The Undiscovered iPad mini - iPad mini For Dummies (2013)

iPad mini For Dummies (2013)

Part V. The Undiscovered iPad mini

Chapter 17. Accessorizing Your iPad mini

In This Chapter

arrow Apple cases, keyboards, and chargers

arrow Apple connection options (camera, TV, and projector)

arrow Earphones, headphones, and headsets

arrow Speakers

arrow Third-party cases

arrow Other protection products

arrow Miscellaneous other accessories

Anyone who has purchased a new car in recent years is aware that it’s not always a picnic trying to escape the showroom without the salesperson trying to get you to part with a few extra bucks. You can only imagine what the markup is on roof racks, navigation systems, and rear-seat DVD players.

We don’t suppose you’ll get a hard sell when you snap up a new iPad at an Apple Store (or elsewhere). But Apple and many other companies are happy to outfit your iPad mini with extra doodads, from wireless keyboards and stands to battery chargers and carrying cases. So just as your car might benefit from dealer (or third-party) options, so too might your iPad mini benefit from a variety of spare parts.

remember_4c.epsOne thing is certain: If you see a Made for iPad label on the package, the developer is certifying that an electronic accessory has been designed to connect specifically to the iPad and meets performance standards established by Apple.


Lightning connector versus Dock connector

Your iPad mini uses Apple’s latest and greatest connector, dubbed the Lightning connector. (In the photo, the Lightning connector is on the left and the Dock connector is on the right.) It’s smaller but more capable than the old-school 30-pin Dock connector in first- through third-generation iPads and iPhones other than the iPhone 5.

The point is that your iPad mini requires accessories with Lightning connectors. If you have older accessories with Dock connectors you can still use many of them if you have one of the myriad of Lightning-to-Dock Connector Adapters from Apple and third-parties.


We start this accessories chapter with the options that carry the Apple logo and conclude with worthwhile extras from other companies.

Accessories from Apple

You’ve come to expect a certain level of excellence from Apple hardware and software, so you should expect no differently when it comes to various Apple-branded accessories. That said, you can find a variety of opinions on some of these products, so we recommend a visit to, where you can read mini-reviews and pore over ratings from real people just like you. They’re not shy about telling it like it is.

Casing the iPad

The thing about accessories is that half the time, you wish they weren’t accessories at all. You wish they came in the box. Among the things we would have liked to have seen included with the iPad was a protective case.

Alas, it wasn’t to be — no iPad has ever come with a case though you can find cases aplenty just the same. You read about Apple’s here and other cases a bit later in this chapter.

Apple’s case-like offering for the iPad mini (and second, third, and fourth-generation iPads), shown in Figure 17-1, is more cover than case, which is probably why it’s called a Smart Cover instead of a Smart Case. Made specifically for the iPad mini, it’s ultra-thin and attaches magnetically. Flip the cover open (even just a little), and your iPad wakes instantly; flip it shut, and your iPad goes right to sleep. It’s available in numerous bright colors in polyurethane for $39. Bob really likes his PRODUCT RED Smart Cover, as shown in Figure 17-1.

Apple’s newest entry is the iPad Smart Case, which combines a Smart Cover and a case to protect the back of your iPad. Like the Smart Cover and iPad Case, it too folds into a stand for reading, typing, or watching video. And because it’s “smart,” it automatically wakes and sleeps your iPad when you open and close it. Smart Cases are all constructed of polyurethane (sorry, no leather this time), and are available in six bright colors for $49.


Courtesy of Apple

Figure 17-1: Apple’s Smart Cover for the iPad mini.

Exploring virtual keyboard alternatives

We think the various virtual keyboards that pop up just as you need them on the iPad are perfectly fine for shorter typing tasks, whether it’s composing e-mails or tapping a few notes. For most longer assignments, however, we writers are more comfortable pounding away on a real-deal physical keyboard, and we suspect you feel the same way.

The Apple Wireless Keyboard

Fortunately, a physical keyboard for the iPad mini is an easy addition, and Apple offers a good one for $69.

The Apple Wireless Keyboard, as shown in Figure 17-2, is a way to use a decent-enough aluminum physical keyboard without tethering it to the iPad. It operates from up to 30 feet away from the iPad via Bluetooth, the wireless technology we discuss in Chapter 15. Which leads us to ask, can you see the iPad screen from 30 feet away?


Courtesy of Apple

Figure 17-2: The Apple Wireless Keyboard.

tip_4c.epsIf you have an Apple TV connected to your HDTV, you can stream the screen of your iPad to the HDTV by using AirPlay. (See Chapter 8 for the details.) And although you probably can’t see it from 30 feet, we’ve found the Apple Wireless Keyboard is great for using on the couch, where we can easily see the screen.

As with any Bluetooth device that the iPad makes nice with, you have to pair it to your tablet. Pairing is also discussed in Chapter 15.

The Bluetooth keyboard takes two AA batteries. It’s smart about power management, too; it powers itself down when you stop using it to avoid draining those batteries. It wakes up when you start typing.

The Wireless Keyboard is very thin, so it’s easy to take with you. If you use a backpack, briefcase, messenger bag, or even a large purse, you almost certainly have room for the Apple Wireless Keyboard.

And if your native tongue isn’t English, Apple sells versions of the Wireless Keyboard in numerous languages, each still $69.

warning_4c.epsNot all the function keys on the Wireless Keyboard, will, um, function on your iPad. They’re there, though, because you can use the same keyboard with a Mac.

tip_4c.epsThough we have tested only a few third-party Bluetooth keyboards, the iPad ought to work fine with any keyboard that supports Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology.

Connecting a camera

The iPad mini doesn’t include a USB port or an SD memory card slot, which happen to be the most popular methods for getting pictures (and videos) from a digital camera onto a computer.

All the same, the iPad delivers a marvelous photo viewer. That’s why if you take a lot of pictures, you’ll probably need either Apple’s Lightning–to–USB–Camera Adapter or Lightning–to–SD–Card Camera Reader ($29 each), which we also discuss in Chapter 9. As a reminder, these two components, shown in Figure 17-3, either of which plugs into the Lightning connector at the bottom of the iPad. One sports a USB interface that you can use with the USB cable that came with your camera to download pictures. The other is an SD Card Reader that lets you insert the memory card that stores your pictures.

tip_4c.epsThough the official line from Apple is that this USB adapter is meant to work with the USB cable from your digital camera, we’ve seen old USB keyboards work with it — and even USB speakers, MIDI keyboards, and more. But don’t expect every USB device to be compatible: The power requirements of those devices (and their requisite software drivers) aren’t loaded on the iPad.

We only hope that despite this helpful accessory, Apple will get around to adding a USB and an SD slot, but it hasn’t happened yet.


Courtesy of Apple

Figure 17-3: The Lightning–to–USB–Camera Adapter (left) and the Lightning–to–SD–Card Camera Reader (right).

Connecting an iPad to a TV or projector

The iPad mini has a decent screen for what it is, a small tablet computer. But its display is nowhere near the size of a living room TV or even a computer monitor that you might find in a conference room or an auditorium. To send iPad content to a bigger screen, you can choose from these connectors:

check.png Lightning–to–VGA Adapter: Projecting what’s on the iPad’s screen to a larger display is the very reason behind the iPad Lightning–to–VGA Adapter that Apple is selling for $49. You can use it to connect your iPad to TVs, projectors, and VGA displays. What for? To watch videos, slide shows, and presentations on the big screen.

technicalstuff_4c.epsVGA (video graphics array) delivers, by today’s standards, low-resolution video output, compared, say to the more advanced HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface).

check.png Lightning Digital AV Adapter: The newest addition to the Apple adapter family is the $49 Apple Digital AV Adapter, which connects to your big screen TV via HDMI, which is pretty much the standard for HDTVs and other modern A/V gear. It lets you mirror the display on your iPad on a big screen TV, which is great for demos and presentations. Ed has used this adapter to, among other things, play Angry Birds on the bigger TV screen. Bob uses it to watch HD movies in hotel rooms. Both of us think it rocks.

tip_4c.epsSpeaking of mirroring the display of your iPad onto a large-screen TV, you can do that wirelessly as long as you’re streaming to another Apple accessory, Apple TV. It’s all accomplished through AirPlay. Apple TV provides a lot of niceties in its own right, even if you don’t own an iPad. (But if you don’t, why are you reading this book?) For example, you can watch 1080p high-definition TV shows and movies; watch videos on Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Vimeo; listen to music from your iTunes library on a PC or Mac; and admire photos through iCloud, all for $99.

Keeping a spare charger

With roughly ten hours of battery life on the Wi-Fi–only iPad and nine hours on models with cellular access, a single charge can more than get you through a typical workday with your iPad. But why chance it? Having a spare charger at the office can spare you (!) from having to commute with one. The Apple iPad 10W USB Power Adapter sells for $29 and includes a lengthy six-foot cord.

And if you’re traveling abroad, consider the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The $39 kit includes the proper prongs and adapters for numerous countries around the globe, and it lets you juice up not only your iPad, but also iPhones, iPod touches, and Macs.

Finally, if you have an old iPhone or iPod USB power adapter, or almost any other power adapter with a USB port, chances are good it’ll work, though it may take longer to charge your iPad.

remember_4c.epsIf you try to charge your iPad with an adapter that doesn’t provide enough power, nothing bad will happen. Your iPad will merely display a Not Charging message instead of the battery-with-a-lightning-bolt icon you see when your iPad is connected to a charger with sufficient juice.

tip_4c.epsIf you want the iPad mini to work with accessories that plug into the 30-pin dock connector on older iPads or iPods, consider the $29 or $39 Lightning to 30-pin adapters. And if you need an extra Lightning–to–USB cable, you can purchase extras for $19 each.

Listening and Talking with Earphones, Headphones, and Headsets

You’ve surely noticed that your iPad didn’t include earphones or a headset. That’s probably a blessing because the earphones and headsets Apple has included with iPods and iPhones since time immemorial aren’t all that good. In fact, Bob refers to them as “mediocre and somewhat uncomfortable” in almost every article he’s written about the iPod or iPhone. Ed agrees.

For what it’s worth, Apple’s new EarPods with Remote and Mic, which are included with the iPhone 5, are a million times better than the old Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic. But you won’t find them in the box with your iPad mini, either.

When a pair of earphones isn’t included, you can select a pair of headphones or earphones or a headset that suits your needs and your budget.

tip_4c.epsThough the new Apple headset is much better than the previous version, if you’re shopping for earphones, you may find third-party options that sound better or that are more comfortable, or both, for around the same price ($29).

Earphones? Headphones? Headsets?

We refer to headphones and headsets several times and thought you might be wondering whether a difference exists, and if so, what it is. When we talk about headphones or earphones, we’re talking about the things you use to listen to music. A headset adds a microphone so that you can use it for voice chatting, schmoozing with Siri, FaceTime video chatting, and (in the case of the iPhone or Internet VoIP services such as Skype) for phone calls. So headphones and earphones are for listening, and headsets are for both talking and listening.

Now you may be wondering whether earphones and headphones are the same. To some people, they may be, but to us, headphones have a band across the top (or back) of your head, and the listening apparatus is big and covers the outside of your ears. Think of the big fat things you see covering a radio disk jockey’s ears. Earphones (sometimes referred to as earbuds), on the other hand, are smaller, fit entirely in your ear, and have no band across the top or back of your head.

Headsets can be earphone style or, less commonly, headphone style. The distinguishing factor is that headsets always include a microphone. And some headsets are designed specifically for use with Apple i-products (iPhone, iPod, iPad) and have integrated Play/Pause and volume control buttons.

One last thing: Some companies refer to their earbud products as headphones, but we think that’s confusing and wrong. So in this book, headphones are those bulky, outside-the-ear things, and earphones are teeny-tiny things that fit entirely in your ear canal.

Wired headphones, earphones, and headsets

Search Amazon for headphones, earphones, or headsets, and you’ll find thousands of each are available at prices ranging from around $10 to more than $1,000. Or, if you prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar store, Target, Best Buy, and the Apple Store all have decent selections, with prices starting at less than $20.

tip_4c.epsMuch as we love the shopping experience at Apple Stores, you won’t find any bargains there. Bargain-hunting doesn’t matter that much for Apple-branded products because they’re rarely discounted. However, you can almost always find widely available non-Apple items such as headphones, earphones, and headsets cheaper somewhere else.

With so many brands and models of earphones, headphones, and headsets available from so many manufacturers at so many price points, we can’t possibly test even a fraction of the ones available today. That said, we’ve probably tested more of them than most people, and we have our favorites.

When it comes to headphones, Bob is partial to his Grado SR60i’s, which are legendary for offering astonishingly accurate audio at an affordable price (around $80). He’s tried headphones that cost twice, thrice, or even more times as much that he didn’t think sounded nearly as good. Find out more at

Ed goes with sweet-sounding, albeit pricey (about $350) Bose QuietComfort 3 acoustic noise-canceling headphones.

For earphones and earphone-style headsets, Bob likes the Klipsch Image S4 Headphones and S4i In-Ear Headset with Mic and 3-Button Remote. At around $79 and $99, respectively, they sound better than many similarly priced products and better than many more-expensive offerings.

Bluetooth stereo headphones, earphones, and headsets

Neither of us has much experience with Bluetooth (wireless) stereo headphones and headsets, but we thought we’d at least plant the seed. The idea is that with Bluetooth stereo headphones/earphones/headsets, you can listen to music wirelessly up to 33 feet away from your iPad. If this sounds good to you, we suggest that you look for reviews of such products on the web before you decide which one to buy. A search of Amazon for stereo Bluetooth headset brought up more than 300 items, with prices starting as low as $15.

Listening with Speakers

You can connect just about any speakers to your iPad, but if you want decent sound, we suggest you look only at powered speakers and not passive (unpowered) ones. The difference is that powered speakers contain their own amplification circuitry and can deliver much better (and louder) sound than unpowered speakers.

Prices range from well under $100 to hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars. Most speaker systems designed for use with your computer, iPod, or iPhone work well as long as they have an auxiliary input or a dock connector that can accommodate your iPad.

Desktop speakers

Logitech ( makes a range of desktop speaker systems priced from less than $25 to more than $300. But that $300 system is the Z5500 THX-certified 505-watt 5.1 digital surround system — surely overkill for listening to music or video on your iPad, which doesn’t support surround sound anyway. The point is that Logitech makes a variety of decent systems at a wide range of price points. If you’re looking for something inexpensive, you can’t go wrong with most Logitech-powered speaker systems.

Bob is a big fan of Audioengine ( desktop speakers. They deliver superior audio at prices that are quite reasonable for speakers that sound this good. Audioengine 5 is the premium product priced at $349 a pair; Audioengine 2 is its smaller but still excellent-sounding sibling priced at $199 a pair. They’re available only direct from the manufacturer, but the company is so confident that you’ll love them that it offers a free audition for the speaker systems. If you order a pair and don’t love them, return them within 30 days for a full refund. Bob knows a lot of people who have ordered them, and so far no one has sent them back.

Bluetooth speakers

Like Bluetooth headsets, Bluetooth speakers let you listen to music up to 33 feet away from your iPad. They’re great for listening by the pool or hot tub or anywhere else you might not want to take your iPad.

Both of us have written favorable reviews of the $199.99 wireless JAMBOX by Jawbone, a rechargeable speaker that offers very good sound despite being able to fit into the palm of your hand. You can connect via Bluetooth or its auxiliary stereo jack. An added bonus: JAMBOX doubles as a decent-enough speakerphone.

More recently, Jawbone introduced the BIG JAMBOX. Quick quiz: What do you think that means? Right, a bigger version of the JAMBOX with bigger sound. Of course, at $299.99, it also carries a bigger price, and it’s a bit less portable than its diminutive sibling.

Ed also likes a big rival to the BIG JAMBOX, the Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker, which fetches a similar price.

Both of us travel with a Jawbone JAMBOX, and we both really like it. A lot.

AirPlay speakers

The newest type of speakers you might choose for your iPad feature Apple’s proprietary AirPlay protocol, which takes advantage of your existing Wi-Fi network to stream audio and/or video from your iPad (or other compatible i-device or a Mac or PC running iTunes) to a single AirPlay-enabled speaker or audio/video receiver.

The biggest differences between AirPlay and Bluetooth speakers are described in this list:

check.png Bluetooth can stream music only in compressed form; AirPlay can stream music (and video) uncompressed. So a speaker with AirPlay should sound better than a similar speaker with Bluetooth.

check.png Bluetooth’s range is roughly 30 feet; AirPlay’s range is up to 300 feet. There’s no way to extend Bluetooth’s range; Wi-Fi range can easily be extended with inexpensive routers such as Apple’s AirPort Express ($99).

check.png iTunes (on your computer) can use AirPlay to stream audio or video to multiple speakers or audio/video receivers, with individual volume controls for each device; Bluetooth only streams to one device at a time.

Wrapping Your iPad in Third-Party Cases

Much as we like the Apple Smart Cover, other vendors offer some excellent— and different — options:

check.png Targus: Targus ( has a full line of iPad cases in a variety of materials and prices. The nice part is that none of them, including the leather portfolio, costs more than $60.

check.png Griffin Technology: Griffin Technology ( also has a pretty good selection of iPad cases at reasonable prices (that is, none more than $50).

check.png iLuv: iLuv ( is yet another case maker with a range of affordable cases fabricated from leather, fabric, and silicone, none of which costs more than $40.

check.png The iPad Bubble Sleeve: From Hard Candy Cases (which is at, the Shockdrop ($49.95) offers significantly better protection against bumps and scratches than many other cases we’ve seen. If we expected our iPads to be exposed to moderate impacts, this case’s rigid exterior and additional shock-absorbing rubber bumpers for the screen make it the case we’d choose (at least, Bob adds, until LifeProof comes out with a case for the mini).

But Wait . . . There’s More!

Before we leave the topic of accessories, we think you should know about a few more products, namely, film protection products that guard your iPad’s exterior (or screen) without adding a bit of bulk: the Griffin Technology A-Frame tabletop stand for your iPad, and 2-into-1 stereo adapters.

Protecting the screen with film

Some people prefer not to use a case with their iPad, and that’s okay, too. But if you’re one of those people (or even if you’re not), you might want to consider protective film for the iPad screen or even the whole device. We’ve tried these products on our iPhones in the past and have found them to perform as promised. If you apply them properly, they’re nearly invisible, and they protect your iPad from scratches and scrapes without adding any bulk.

Bob recently discovered the joys of iVisor AG Screen Protector for iPad ($30) from Moshi ( and says it’s the best screen cover he’s tested to date. It’s easy to apply, resists fingerprints better than Apple’s oleophobic screen coating, and features patented technology for a bubble-free installation every time. The best feature, Bob believes, is that if it gets dirty, you just wash it under a faucet, and then air-dry and reapply it (bubble-free, of course).

Another option is from the aforementioned RadTech (, which offers two types of Mylar screen protectors — clear transparent and antiglare. These screen protectors are somewhat stiffer than the film products, and unlike film, they can be cleaned and reapplied multiple times with no reduction in performance. They effectively hide minor scratches, surface defects, and abrasions, and the hard Mylar surface not only resists scratches and abrasions, but is also optically correct. Finally, they’re reasonably priced at $19.95 for a pair of protectors of the same type.

Bob has also tested more traditional film products from invisibleShield by ZAGG (, BodyGuardz (, and Best Skins Ever ( and says, in a nutshell, they’re more similar than they are different. invisibleShield is the most expensive and possibly the best-quality film. BodyGuardz products are roughly 25 percent cheaper than invisibleShield and of comparable quality. Both invisibleShield and BodyGuardz offer free lifetime replacement of their products. Best Skins Ever products are 25–55 percent less expensive than invisibleShield or BodyGuardz, yet the product is, if not just as good, darn close to it. The difference is that Best Skins Ever has minimal packaging, and rather than including the “special liquid” you need to apply it (like invisibleShield and BodyGuardz), Best Skins Ever includes instructions for making it yourself. And unlike the others, Best Skins Ever has no free replacement policy, though it does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. Finally, all three offer total protection (front, back, and sides) as well as separate products for the front or back.

Which one to choose? If you think you might take advantage of the lifetime replacement policy, you want either invisibleShield or BodyGuardz. If you want a good product at the lowest price but with a 30-day money-back guarantee instead of lifetime replacement, look at Best Skins Ever.

remember_4c.epsAny or all of these so-called skins (including the iVisor AG, which is the easiest of all to install) can be tricky to apply. Follow the instructions closely, watch videos on the vendors’ websites and YouTube, and take your time. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with clear film protection that’s nearly invisible yet protects your iPad from scratches, nicks, and cuts.

tip_4c.epsThe last time we checked, Best Buy will apply these skins for you for a small (under $10) fee, which may be a bargain compared to messing things up and having to buy another skin. Ask your favorite electronics retailer if it provides a similar service.

Sharing your iPad with a 2-into-1 stereo adapter

A 2-into-1 stereo adapter is a handy little device that lets two people plug their headphones/earphones/headsets into one iPad (or iPod or iPhone, for that matter). They’re quite inexpensive (less than $10) and extremely useful if you’re traveling with a friend by air, sea, rail, or bus. They’re also great when you want to watch a movie with your BFF but don’t want to risk waking the neighbors or roommates.

tip_4c.epsWe call ’em 2-into-1 stereo adapters, but that’s not the only name they go by. Other names you might see for the same device are as follows:

check.png 3.5mm stereo Y-splitter

check.png 18-inch stereo 1-plug-to-2-jacks adapter

check.png 18-inch stereo Y-adapter

check.png 3.5mm dual stereo headphone jack splitter

check.png And many others

You need to know only two things. The first is that 18-inch and 3.5mm are used interchangeably in the adapter world (even though they’re not really the same).

technicalstuff_4c.epsSome measurements to keep in mind: 18 inch = 0.125 inch, whereas 3.5mm = 0.1378 inch. Not the same, but close enough for rock ’n’ roll.

remember_4c.epsThe second is that you want to make sure that you get a stereo adapter. Some monaural adapters work but pump exactly the same sound into both ears, instead of sending the audio information for the left stereo channel to your left ear and the right stereo channel to your right.

In other words, you need a 18-inch or 3.5mm stereo adapter that has a single stereo plug on one end (to plug into your iPad) and two stereo jacks on the other (to accommodate two sets of headphones/earphones/headsets).

tip_4c.epsTest it before you travel. Bob recently discovered that the one he had packed made it much louder for one person than the other.