Backed Or Whacked: To Have But Not To Hold The iPad

Editor’s note: Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research and writer for Engadget. Each column will look at crowdfunded products that have either met or missed their funding goals.

The iPad mini stole the show at Apple’s far-flung October 23rd product introduction, creating a more compelling alternative to the iPad 2 while taking a backseat to the muscled-up fourth-generation iPad that retains nearly the same dimensions. The consistency of the latter’s design has enabled cases of cases and other iPadaphernalia that now span three generations of Apple’s premiere tablet.

Three recent Kickstarter projects, though, have sought to add to the pile, aiming to address iPad usage in every possible situation — standing, sitting, and even lying down. Unfortunately, each swung and mightily missed.

Whacked: GoPad. From the fertile mind that brought you Scruzol, the combination stubby screwdriver and universal power drill bit known in some circles as the most versatile drill accessory ever, comes GoPad. Like the previous work of Canadian inventor Peter Kielland, GoPad can be used in multiple ways, including as a stand and a minimalist carry sling. Its standout feature, though, is its ability to keep the tablet roughly perpendicular against the gut, enabling you to view or type on it while standing. In this mode, the product is full of function, but falls a bit short on style unless you’re aiming for that stadium popcorn vendor look. A contribution of $55 would bag your choice of a GoPad that worked with Apple’s 10″ tablet or a number of leading Android competitors.

Alas, after raising less than $2,000 of its $75,000 goal with only a third of the campaign time left, the GoPad funding project itself has gone mobile, reestablishing itself on Indiegogo after failing to come to terms with Kickstarter’s “restrictive guidelines concerning ‘sales oriented’ campaigns.” In its new crowdfunding home, it has lowered its funding goal by a third to $50,000 but has opted to stay with the “all or nothing” campaign format even though Indiegogo offers alternatives to it.

Whacked: Orion iPad Stand. In one configuration, the GoPad is one of at least a dozen products — including Apple’s own Smart Cover — that can prop up an iPad for viewing or on-screen typing. Such formidable competition, though, did not deter San Diego-based industrial designer Michael Williams from creating the Orion iPad stand.

Comprised of three beefy aluminum parts that assemble via magnets, the product appears to be a good option for exceptional stability. But for most uses, it seems a bit overengineered with a whopping early adopter price of $85 and a regular backer price of $99. That may have scared off many backers. With fewer than 50 hours to go in the campaign, the Orion iPad stand had attracted only 13 backers, raising just $1,351 of its $30,000 goal.

Whacked: Manatee. If one designer thought that $100 wasn’t particularly onerous for an iPad stand to be used while sitting down, the crew at Realize, Inc. reckoned that the ability to use your iPad while lying in bed would be worth at least twice that. And so they developed Manatee. The flower-like product consists of four silicone petals that can ensconce an iPad (or most tablets with a generous bezel). These converge at a maple ball that allows the iPad to rotate, which is in turn attached to a stem that meets a paw-like base. The base can stand on the floor or be inserted under a mattress so that the iPad is suspended beside or even above your head for extended viewing without your literally needing to lift a finger.

Manatee looks like it could be a great aid to those with limited mobility or the bed-ridden. However, while Realize says that the product was named after the parts that grip the iPad since they resemble a manatee’s arms, there is a fair possibility that some would begin to resemble the endangered sea cow with prolonged supine use of the product.

Alas, the urge to preserve inertia in bed was not enough to eliminate inertia in the campaign. Manatee attracted less than half of its relatively modest $17,900 funding goal. As with the Orion stand, high reward prices likely played a role with Manatees starting at $179 for early backers and $199 for later ones, plus an extra $39 for domestic shipping. That’s enough to pick up a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD, although you’ll need to bring your own arms. Still, the price represented a significant discount given that Realize estimated the final product to sell for more than $280. For now, though, this Manatee campaign sleeps with the fishes.