Q) What $1.50 accessory from eBay can just about double the usefulness of your iPad, e-reader or Android tablet?
A) A non-slip sticky pad.
You can see these in import shops now, too: They’re made of the same gooey material as stretchy kids’ toys, with one side flat and the other ribbed by raised dots. The standard size is around 8 x 14 centimetres, and they come in opaque black and a variety of translucent colours. You may already have one to keep things from sliding off your car dashboard.
The reason they go so nicely with tablet devices is because when the tablet designers were putting their specs together, they decided that tablet backs should be smooth and shiny and high-tech. They forgot that a device which is smooth and shiny on both sides is going to slip easily out of your hand, fall down when you prop it up on something, and slide around on flat surfaces—like tables—when you try and operate it with finger presses.
With a non-slip pad on the back—or two for a ten-incher—a tablet is easier to hold, stays where it’s put, and can be propped up against a jam jar for breakfast reading. Peel the pad off to clean it every now now and then, and it will retain its grip for years.
If you’ve got a non-slip pad then you probably don’t need a tablet stand, but eBay has those too. Sometimes a fold-out stand is provided as part of a rigid case, but I’ve not had much luck with those. I prefer dedicated stands, which are now available in a range of styles and designs, from about $3.50 upwards for plastic and $4.50 for metal. The prize for simplicity has to go to the Universal Stand Holder, a rubber ‘gumball’ with a suction cup attached, but these are intended for MP3 players and a tablet would probably require at least two. For best results, search eBay for “iPad stands.”
Styluses can be found on eBay for $1 upwards, and one ingenious designer has combined a stylus with a dust cap which will close off the connection socket at the bottom of an iPad or Kindle and prevent dust or spills getting in. You will need a different sort of point for a capacitive screen (soft and rubbery) and a resistive screen (hard and pointy), but multi-gadget users can now buy a multi-gadget stylus with a different kind of point on each end.
Some also have a lanyard which plugs into a headphone socket, to stop them getting lost. (An award for optimistic pricing goes to the Targus AMM0103US Stylus, which according to its packaging allows you to “take notes, draw, or simply turn a page,” and costs only US$114.59 plus postage!)
Finally, cases and covers. Again, searching for “Kindle cases” or “iPad cases” currently produces better results than “Android cases” or “tablet cases.” I favour the soft neoprene cases, which are stretchy enough to fit a range of sizes, and these start at around $3; rigid cases range from the same price upwards to $318 for an Giorgio Armani design. Some cases are reinforced, some include keyboards, and I spotted one with a built-in solar charger. And some soft covers now include a ribbed silicon non-slip rear end … which takes us right back to where we started.