The great gadget cover-up
Protecting your gadgets from the elements is a compromise between sleek experience and a long-lasting device. But real protection costs real money.
My smartphone has just reached a major milestone: 16 months of active, intensive and even brutal usage. Yet, it still looks as good as new and still has high hand-me-down value. This is possible only because I struck a major compromise with my lifestyle – instead of a sleek, slippable Samsung Galaxy S4 that slides unobtrusively into any pocket, I have a stylish leather cover that has ensured the phone remains intact through approximately 231 hard falls on concrete, tar and tiles.
This protection didn’t come only at the cost of the slim profile of the device; it also costs about three times the typical themed case from flea markets. It’s manufactured by Noreve, a St Tropez-based company that produces luxury covers and cases for all high-end smartphones and tablets.
Its covers for the Galaxy S4 and S5 range, available in the Orange online store, range from R450 to R600, depending on the style. Variations for the HTC One M8 range from R575 to R860, flip-style covers for the LG G3 and Sony Xperia Z2 come in at R720, while leather covers for niche devices like the Nokia Lumia 1020 camera phone and the Lumia 1520 Phablet range from R700 to R860.
None of these are cheap but, considering this is always less than 10% of the price of the smartphone itself and may just double the life of the phone, it is an investment that really does give back. Not to mention the fact that your toy now looks like a fashion or lifestyle accessory. My next phone will also be sheathed in one of these covers.
Tab and laptop options
For larger devices, it’s not only about the casing, but also the carrying. Here, too, one should consider the cost of the device itself, and on the flip side the potential cost of going with a cheap solution. The typical themed tablet cover bought on the basis of price may cost less than R100, but it’s not going to do much for a dropped iPad or Galaxy Tab – which is likely to have set you back more than R5 000.
My preferred solution here comes from a South African company, FLD, which has designed tablet and laptop sleeves with soft fur and PVC backing on the inside, and water resistant nylon on the outside. The result is a lightweight and stylish cover with extra protective pouches for optional extras, like smartphone and sunglasses.
At the eBucks store, prices range from R240 for a 7.5” FLD mini tablet bag to R900 for a 15” laptop bag. It doesn’t replace a laptop bag – but for quick nip-out-of-the-office portability with high protection, it is a low cost investment. My 13” MacBook Air frequently moves around in a 13” FLD bag with a R700 tag – a small price to pay for the combination of convenience and confidence.
That laptop bag tends to be an area where gadget owners look for real cheap and nasty options; the sentiment seems to be that the laptop costs so much, no way are we going to spend real money on a random accessory like a laptop bag. After all, they can be had for less than R100.
The consequence, of course, is that the bag begins to disintegrate under the pressure of regular use, especially if you travel frequently. Indeed, I was quite happy with my free corporate-branded bag, until I found myself having to hop on a plane every few weeks. Aside from the carry strap eventually fraying, and holes appearing in the bottom of the bag, my laptop itself was left a little the worse for wear from being jammed under economy seats and into sub-economy overhead bins.
The solution turned out to be surprisingly cost-effective. A bag from Everki, a California-based manufacturer of “stylish and innovative lifestyle products that carry and protect the digital equipment”.
Its slogan is “Style that works”. And work it does. Several laptop bags in the Everki range include a slide-out, padded pouch that remains connected to the interior of the bag. The elegant Everki Tempo, designed for ultrabooks and the MacBook Air, is described as “checkpoint friendly”, which means the traveller can slide the pouch out at airport security without having to remove the laptop itself, eliminating another source of potential battering of the device. I’ve tested the Tempo at airport security in South Africa, Europe and the Far East, so far without resistance.
Equally important, the exterior of the bag is made of water-repellant “ballistic” nylon, originally designed for flak jackets but now becoming common in heavy duty luggage.
Again, at around R770, the Tempo is not cheap. But its durability also enhances the durability of its contents, extending their life and value, and representing a relatively cheap insurance policy.
Top of the range
If price is not an object, you can go one better: a true lifestyle accessory that does not compromise on protection or quality. Here you would be looking at what is called a briefcase bag rather than a laptop bag, so that it’s not even obvious you may be carrying an electronic device.
The leading laptop bag manufacturer in this category is London-based Knomo. It produces briefcase bags made from full grain, durable leather that is usually associated with high-quality shoes. The key benefit being that its appearance improves with age and use.
The 13” Knomo Kinsale offers a surprise both on the outside and inside. The outer leather is so soft, it feels simply wrong to use the bag for electronics. However, the interior begs for it, with a padded pouch for the laptop – it can accommodate a MacBook Air or Pro – additional pouch for smartphone and a compartment for cables and connectors.
A small, zipped pouch on the inside is ideal for the likes of passports and credit cards, while a larger exterior zipped compartment allows for more gadgets and accessories. An open pouch on the back adds to the versatility of the bag.
That’s another way of saying the Knomo delivers more value than just its appearance. And it had better. The price of this beauty in South Africa’s iStores is a mere R2 500. Bear in mind this is the top of the range; a Knomo Alfie sleeve briefcase will cost a third of that and a zip sleeve half again of that sleeve.
Perhaps you can’t justify forking out for a high-end bag. But even less can you justify buying the cheapest protection on the market for the most expensive devices you own? – Gadget.co.za