There are all kinds of cases out there for tablets these days-rugged, leather, pleather, vinyl, rubber, folio-style…if it’s a material that can be tablet-sized, chances are someone’s made a case out of it. Papernomad has an interesting twist with cases made from brown paper and felt, allowing you to feel like your iPad is a childhood textbook.
That is, assuming you just covered your textbooks in old paper bags like I did. In any case, the Papernomad Little Tootsie allows you to draw, doodle, paint, sketch, bedazzle, sticker, etc all over the plain brown style. Their tagline is “unique as you”, and it’s encouraging that you let out your inner artist all over the case. I didn’t do so with our review sample because stick figures are outside the realm of my skill set, and it would be cruel and unusual to subject innocent readers of Gear Diary to my chicken scratch. However, if you’re a good artist, or have a friend who is a good artist, this has some potential to indeed become a remarkably unique looking case. The real question is whether the gimmick of a decorative surface is enough of a draw to offset an otherwise weak case offering…how weak? Read on to find out.
There are s a few positives about the Papernomad case, and I’ll start with those. It’s extremely well constructed, and despite being made of paper it seems reasonably tough. The felt lining isn’t terribly rough, and it does add some nice soft support to the iPad’s screen. It also holds the iPad in quite well, with two corners securing the iPad and a magnetic strip along the opposite top keeping it from tipping out. You have access to the volume keys and mute switch, but not to the camera or the power button. The lid has on/off magnets built in, and there’s a sturdy hemp and magnet strap that helps keep the case closed. All the materials feel quite strong, and most of the paper is reinforced with felt. The corners that hold the iPad are the only parts not reinforced by another material, but they feel pretty tough on their own and seem unlikely to rip easily. There’s a funky and very artsy feel to the case, and it does an excellent job of keeping the iPad secured and in place.
Those are the positives.
Unfortunately, I found there were a lot of trade-offs. Lack of access to the power button is a pain, especially since the magnets in the lid don’t always work correctly, requiring you to manually turn the screen off by pressing the power button through the corner holder. The lid is sectioned to give you a writing angle, but I found it didn’t stay cleanly in place-you really need to get the strap placed just so to get it to stay. Trying to stand it as more of a viewing angle worked but it was a bit wobbly, and standing the iPad in portrait mode left the whole thing too top-heavy to stay in place. I had a lot of concerns about the Smart Cover functionality not working correctly, because it meant being jostled in my bag could consistently unlock my iPad and cause some minor battery drain. It also meant the lid didn’t quite sit firmly against the iPad, leaving it more vulnerable to something getting between the lid and the screen.
By far, though, the biggest issue I have with the Papernomad case is the price. I recognize that this sort of crafted case is not as cheap to produce as something mass manufactured and sold for a few dollars on eBay, but the Papernomad Little Tootsie for the iPad Mini is a jaw-dropping $59.99. For that much money, I expect a case that has a properly functioning Smart Cover system, isn’t so wobbly in stand mode, and doesn’t feel quite so gimmicky. Plus, this is a case where you should decorate it yourself … make sure you do it in pencil first, because it will be a costly mistake if you don’t like what you sketch!
MSRP: $59.99 from Griffin
What I Liked: Creative way to hold the iPad in place; lets you customize the design; materials used are high quality.
What Needs Improvement: Smart Cover functionality was hit and miss; stand modes were very finicky; power button and camera are covered; very expensive.
Source: The Papernomad Little Tootsie was a manufacturer review sample