I bought my iPad 11” iPad Pro (1st generation 11″) in 2018, and it still feels like a brand-new device for all intents and purposes. These things are built to last in a way that isn’t quite true with iPhones since the much larger iPad batteries seem to have more longevity than their tiny siblings. The same can’t be said of iPad cases however, as I’m now on my 3rd one. Now that my iPad is a bit “old,” finding an available and compatible case has been more difficult. While you can find some of this information if you dig hard enough, I’ve made some interesting discoveries about what newer cases will fit on older iPad Pros.
Why aren’t all iPads and cases compatible?
Models of the 11” and 12.9” iPad Pros have stayed physically very similar over the years. While the dimensions have stayed identical, one thing has changed drastically: the cameras. Much like the iPhone, newer models of iPads now have two camera lenses, fitted into a raised square section that also has the flash and lidar sensor. This started with the 2nd generation iPad Pro and has continued on through to the current 4th generation model. What does this mean? Newer cases need to have a larger cutout for the camera bump.
Apple has a guide here, but it’s missing some context that’s important in a couple of instances, and some of their link titles are out of date.
Comapatility is only in one direction
A larger opening on the case won’t have a negative effect when using on an older 2018 1st generation iPad, besides aesthetics. This is true for newer generations of iPad Pros (2nd-4th), as they are all backward compatible. However, the reverse is not true, as putting the 2018 case on a new iPad would mean there wouldn’t be an adequate-sized cutout for the camera!
Here’s how the new folio case looks on the older 2018 iPad Pro:
You can get this case for only $17.99 from Woot.com , but some of the colors are already selling out! As of today, it should still arrive before Christmas. The normal $79.99 price of the Smart Folio is quite ridiculous, but for $18 I am willing to deal with a larger camera opening to save money $60!
I love this case, but it isn’t for those who are looking for rugged safety. The edges of your iPad will be exposed as this is a “sandwich” style case, but I’ve found I need less protection on my iPad than my iPhone since it stays at home.
Unfortunately, the Woot deal won’t last forever, but these are occasionally on sale on Amazon as well:
I think the Apple Folio is solid and worth it when a good deal is available, otherwise Wirecutter put it best when explaining why they recommend buying a cheaper knockoff of it:
“We don’t normally recommend such obvious knockoffs, but this time we think it’s justified considering Apple’s pricing.”
What about iPad Air cases?
This is where things get interesting, as the iPad Air is very similar to the old 2018 iPad pro. The main difference is that the Air has an ever so slightly smaller screen and therefore larger bezel, but in the exact same-sized frame as the Pro. So while Apple doesn’t advertise this compatibility at all, you can use an iPad air case on an older 2018 iPad Pro!
I haven’t personally checked this, but found this Reddit post that verified it:
If you don’t want to deal with the larger camera hole cutout, then this is a great option. The case above retails for a whopping $79, which is why I opted instead for the on-sale newer iPad Pro version that has the larger camera cutout.
My last case
The last case I bought was only $10 and was a dupe, but after two years it’s completely toast. The case layers are delaminating and peeling back, and overall just doesn’t look good anymore. While I have no idea how the Apple case will hold up, I expect it to last a little longer.
With my almost 5-year-old iPad still going strong as ever, I’ve decided to get a new case for it. If for some reason my iPad dies in a week, I’ll have a case that also fits a newer iPad. The deal that I got is quite good, but if you can’t snag that deal then a dupe case should do you well for at least a couple of years.