HumanToolz: Making the iPad a Bit More Usable

Steve Wildstrom / September 18th, 2012

Photo of HumanToolz iPad standAs much as I love my iPad, I have to admit it has a problem. Holding it gets tedious and is generally impractical while typing. And getting it to sit in a vertical position requires and external support of some kind.

Apple’s solution to this is hopeless. The Smart Cover works very well to protect the screen, but is a miserable stand. It only works at one angle and at the slightest provocation, its magnetic strip detaches from the iPad, which then topples over. There are many other stands available, but they tend to be clumsy, ugly, inflexible, or all three.

Enter the HumanToolz Mobile Stand, available for $65 as a preorder on Kickstarter; delivery is expected in November.) It’s a handsome aluminum device–the color on my preproduction model almost but didn’t quite match Apple’s–that supports a third-generation iPad or iPad 2 in positions from nearly horizontal to nearly vertical in landscape mode. (In portrait it is limited to a position 11 degrees off vertical.)

The stand consists of two thin bars that snap firmly to the iPad’s corners. A support piece shaped like a broad U attached to the middle of these bars with a clever hinge that rotates smoothly, without detents, through nearly 180 degrees but remains securely in any position you put it.

The stand weighs just 2.5 oz. (71 g) and is 5 mm thick at its thickest point, the hinge. It doesn’t really add appreciably to the iPad’s weight or bulk, a good thing since it is just hard enough to remove that you won’t want to put it on and off terribly often.

I found I used the HumanToolz stand in a variety of settings: Propped near vertical on a desk for table for reading or for use with my ZAGGflex keyboard, a bit above horizontal for typing on the on-screen keyboard, propped at a comfortable angle on my legs while sitting, or at a slightly less comfortable angle on my belly while lying down.

HumanToolz funded production of the stand by raising $88,600 on Kickstarter and it will be available online and in stores. Apple has kept stands other than the Smart Cover out of it retail stores, maybe on grounds of general ugliness. They ought to give the HumanToolz version a good look.

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
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