Like anything else related to AAC it’s wise to weigh the pros & cons to help decide what model of iPad, case and speaker may be the best fit for that user’s needs and the environments they will be in. This should be part of what’s considered during an AAC & feature matching.
Traditional SGDs have built in speakers but not everyone has a funding source to pay for those much more expensive devices and the weight of them can be too heavy for many AAC users to carry.
Some wheelchairs for very young children are too lightweight for that type of heavy SGD to be mounted to it.
The weight of traditional SGDs is a common factor that I see mentioned related to device abandonment. So that should always be considered during the AAC evaluation and feature matching process.
I get pretty frequent requests for info about ways to amplify the sound on an iPad when using it for AAC. Thankfully Apple has improved the sound loudness and sound quality in the basic iPad model over the years. But in noisier settings it can still be a little difficult to hear.
This blog post is focused on sound amplification when the iPad is being used for AAC.
There are primarily three options:
- Purchase an iPad Pro. It is louder than an iPad 8th gen or iPad 9th gen since the iPad Pro has four speakers vs. two speakers in those base models.
- Purchase an external Bluetooth speaker that can either be attached to a carrying strap or worn.
- Purchase a case with a built-in Bluetooth speaker (or one that allows that to be added).
See a 4th app-specific option at the end of this post.
Option 1 (iPad Pro): Here’s a video showing the sound on my iPad Pro 9.7”. Sound loudness was ~ 80dB (measured with the Decibel X app on my iPhone 11) which was just slightly less than the Tobii Dynavox Speech Case (see info below). It’s likely that newer iPad Pro models would have even better sound output.
iPad Pro 11 inch
Pros: Having the increased volume without having the extra weight associated with having a case with built-in speakers or the drain that using Bluetooth speakers puts on the iPad battery.
Cons: Significantly higher price and kid-friendly cases can be more difficult to find for that model of iPad.
At the time of this post the price for the least expensive iPad Pro 11” was $799. The price for the least expensive iPad 9th gen 10.2” was $329 ($470 less than the least expensive iPad Pro on Apple’s website. Even less expensive if you get the $269.99 deal currently available on Amazon Prime).
Kid-friendly & AAC-friendly iPad Cases for the iPad Pro 11:
PRC-Saltillo’s new VersaWrap Case has a built-in stand and the Bluetooth speaker is optional so you won’t need to purchase that if you have an iPad Pro 11”. The VersaWrap 10.1 case was designed to fit several different similarly sized iPad models (iPad 7th 8th, 9th, 10th Gen; iPad Air 4th, 5th Gen; iPad Pro 11 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Gen). This will hopefully will allow it to remain a sustainable option for years to come. It is available on Amazon (https://a.co/d/4buZfTy) and their website (https://store.prc-saltillo.com/versawrap-f19142). It comes in 5 colors (black, grey, blue, pink, purple). Weight: 9.6 oz. (.6 lb). They also offer one sized to fit the iPad Pro 12.9” so be sure to look closely prior to ordering. Price: $75.00.
Total cost: iPad Pro 11 ($799, 128GB) + VersaWrap ($75) = $874 (+ taxes and shipping)
The iPad 9th gen, $329, 64 GB is currently my top pick for an affordable iPad being used just for AAC and AAC-related apps (like Pictello and alternative keyboard apps). Sound loudness of iPad 8th gen and iPad 9th gen in a Pepkoo case: ~ 76.6 dB (measured with Decibel X app on my iPhone 11).
If you plan on embedding lots of videos or saving music on that iPad or you are an SLP who will also be loading therapy apps, then you should get the 256GB model ($479). There aren’t enough features relevant to supporting AAC use to warrant the huge price difference in the new iPad 10th gen ($449, 64GB or $599, 256GB) and the case options would be very limited for that model. If you plan on using external eye tracker hardware then you need to research the exact model of iPad needed to support that before making your purchasing decision.
If an iPad is out of your price range, see my blog posts about affordable AAC:
- Affordable AAC: Amazon Fire vs. Android vs. iPad: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2022/08/13/affordable-aac-amazon-fire-vs-android-vs-ipad/
- Affordable Pocket-Sized Android AAC: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2022/09/20/affordable-pocket-sized-android-aac/
- Cases for those are included on this post: https://bit.ly/iPadCasesPepkooAndMore
Option 2 (External Bluetooth Speaker): Options for good Bluetooth speakers has changed over the years. My “go to” for an inexpensive lightweight Bluetooth speaker that had great sound quality and didn’t drop off the first part of the message was the iON Clipster. I often clipped it onto a carrying strap or attached it with super strength Velcro.
Here a blast from the past. The iON Clipster + the GripCase case in 2014. I own two iON Clipsters and they still work. The maximum loudness is about 85dB (measured with the Decibel X app on my iPhone):
Unfortunately the iON Clipster hasn’t been available for several years.
Links to current recommended options (will likely change as these options disappear and new ones come on the market):
- Anker Soundcore Icon Mini (Amazon, $29.99, 8 hrs of use per charge, waterproof, 6.4 oz. While I haven’t personally had a need to order one I’ve seen a couple of AAC specialists recommend it for use in especially loud settings but they indicated that the weight and design may not be as good as the Noxgear 39g): https://a.co/d/iS91sD9
- Noxgear 39g (Amazon, $59.95 (usually $69.95), 39 grams (1.38 oz.), 15 hrs of use per charge). While I haven’t personally had a need to order one I’ve seen several AAC specialists recommend it. Occasionally I’ve seen comments that it wasn’t quite loud enough for a school cafeteria or community outings. To be honest if a speaker could get that loud I might be concerned about the risk of hearing damage. I’d also be teaching the AAC user skills to approach a communication partner and gaining their attention. Amazon: https://a.co/d/fUlqlC6
The JBL Clip 3 isn’t recommended since some folks reported that it sometimes cuts off the first part of the message.
Kid-friendly & AAC-friendly iPad Cases for the iPad 10.2” (iPad 7th, 8th & 9th gen). I’d add a high quality tempered glass screen protector. I prefer that over cases that have a built in flimsy plastic screen protector. A shoulder carrying strap could be added to thicker foam cases by drilling holes. See a picture in my in-depth blog post about cases: https://bit.ly/iPadCasesPepkooAndMore.
- Pepkoo (My favorite case, lightweight, affordable, available in several fun colors, attached sturdy rotating stand that doubles as carrying handle (lays flush enough that the case doesn’t wobble when laid flat on a table); $20.99 on Amazon): https://a.co/d/5zJmNO0. Combined weight of iPad 8th gen in a Pepkoo case = 1 lb, 12.2 oz. (weighed on my postal scale). Sound loudness with iPad 8th gen and iPad 9th gen in this case: ~ 76.6 dB (measured with Decibel X app on my iPhone 11)
- Pepkoo Triple Shockproof (I prefer the original Pepkoo but this model has the extra feature of a shoulder carrying strap; $26.99 on Amazon): https://a.co/d/0fvvQsm
- Rug-Ed Buddy 10 (I love this case almost as much as the Pepkoo, lightweight, affordable, attached rotating stand that doubles as carrying handle, similar to Pepkoo, slightly slimmer, comes in two muted colors, comes with two tempered glass screen protectors; $29.99 on Amazon & company’s website): https://a.co/d/ePU8GWt & https://rug-ed.com/collections/ipad-cases/products/buddy-coming-soon-in-november-2021. Combined weight of iPad 8th gen in a Rug-Ed Buddy 10 case = 1 lb, 11oz. (weighed on my postal scale).
- Rug-Ed Journey 10 (lightweight 1lb., similar to Buddy 10 but slimmer, doesn’t have plastic case around edge of screen which makes it better suited to snap-in keyguards, 6 color options, comes with two tempered glass screen protectors; $29.99 on Amazon & company’s website): https://a.co/d/1UFyc2N & https://rug-ed.com/collections/ipad-cases/products/journey
- Rug-ed ProLOCK 10 with SwivelRing (lightweight 12.8 oz., tamper-proof locking pins to help prevent removal of the iPad, attached rotating stand that doubles as carrying handle, comes with two tempered glass screen protectors; $29.99 on Amazon & company’s website): https://a.co/d/c2VBuSS & https://rug-ed.com/collections/ipad-cases/products/prolock-w-swivelring. The also offer a very affordable carrying strap ($5.00): https://rug-ed.com/collections/accessories/products/strap
- Fintie Rotating Rugged Case. I prefer the Pepkoo or Rug-Ed Buddy 10 where the iPad is held more securely in the case with the plastic edging and the rotating ring is sturdier but this case is a good option if you are wanting to use a keyguard with a snap in attachment. Weight not listed. Amazon, $19.99: https://a.co/d/4FIX8Pv. Company’s website, $17.99: https://www.fintie.com/collections/ipad-10-2-9th-8th-7th-2021-2020-2019-generation-cases/products/ipad-9-2021-ipad-8-ipad-7-10-2-rotating-rugged-case?variant=39765065105592
- Go Now Case. Weight not listed, $99.00 case, $10.00 shoulder strap, $39.00 cover stand. If you need the ultimate protective case that requires a screwdriver to remove it, my top pick is the GoNow Case + add the accessories for a a shoulder carrying strap and cover stand. I’d get a high quality tempered glass screen protector instead of the one that they offer. This is my “go to” when it’s needed for protection. The cons are this case is heavier, more expensive and I don’t like this type of stand as well as a rotating ring stand: https://www.attainmentcompany.com/gonow-case-for-ipads-10-2-and-10-5, accessories: https://www.attainmentcompany.com/gonow-case-accessories
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + external Bluetooth speaker ($29.99-$69.95) + one of the cases with an attached rotating ring stand ($20.99-$29.99) = $379.98-$428.94 (+ taxes and shipping)
Option 3 (iPad Cases with a built-in Bluetooth speaker (or one that allows that to be added). The options for these have also varied over the years. Every time Apple changes the specs for the base model of iPad many companies that used to offer cases haven’t been able to afford to keep offering different models of cases.
Info about current recommended options (will likely change as these options disappear and new ones come on the market):
LoganTech’s LogansVoice iPad Cases:
- LogansVoice iPad mini (separate options for iPad Mini 5 & iPad Mini 6, weight not listed, $299.00): https://logantech.com/collections/logansvoice-cases/products/logansvoice-ipad-mini-case
- LogansVoice iPad (10.2”) case (weight not listed, $399.00): https://logantech.com/collections/logansvoice-cases/products/logansvoice-ipad-case-1
- LogansVoice iPad air (10.9″) case (weight not listed, $399.00): https://logantech.com/collections/logansvoice-cases/products/logansvoice-ipad-case.
- They also have one for the iPad Pro 12.9 but I’m not sure that would be needed for sound amplification reasons since an iPad Pro is loud on its own.
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + LogansVoice 10.2” case ($399) = $728 (+ taxes and shipping)
PRC-Saltillo’s new VersaWrap Case has a built-in stand and they will have a VersaSpeaker Bluetooth speaker that can be inserted to transform this into a case with an embedded speaker. There is also a spot to add an Apple AirTag.
The VersaWrap 10.1 case was designed to fit several different similarly sized iPad models which hopefully will allow it to remain a sustainable option for years to come. It is available on Amazon (https://a.co/d/4buZfTy) and their website (https://store.prc-saltillo.com/versawrap-f19142). It comes in 5 colors (black, grey, blue, pink, purple). Weight: 9.6 oz. (.6 lb). They also offer one sized to fit the iPad Pro 12.9” so be sure to look closely prior to ordering. Price: $75.00 (on sale for $60.00 (20% off) during their Cyber Sale event 11/25/22 through midnight 11/28/22. Sale is available on Amazon & their website)
The optional VersaSpeaker will reportedly be $149.00 but it isn’t available yet. The VersaWrap user guide shows an optional carrying strap but I haven’t seen any details about that yet.
*** I hope to be able to borrow the VersaWrap after the VersaSpeaker is available so I can do sound and weight tests and try out the various stand positions *** So be watching this section for more info…
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + VersaWrap ($75.00) + VersaSpeaker ($149.00) = $553 (+ taxes and shipping)
Tobii Dynavox’s Speech Case:
Available for the 10.2” iPad (7th, 8th & 9th gen) and the iPad Mini 6. Cost of SpeechCase: $399.00: https://www.tobiidynavox.com/products/speech-case
I was able to borrow the 10.2” sized Speech Case to try out so I have firsthand info to share on this particular case.
Here’s my sound comparison test of an iPad 8th gen in a Speech Case vs an iPad 8th gen in a case without an external speaker. Sound loudness with iPad 8th gen in the Speech Case: ~ 85 dB (measured with Decibel X app on my iPhone 11)
Here’s a video showing a close look at the features:
And a video showing it disassembled so you can see the parts:
Weight: Combined weight of iPad 8th gen in the Speech Case = 2 lbs, 12.4 oz.
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + Speech Case ($399) = $728 (+ taxes and shipping)
A 4th app-specific option:
- Proloquo2Go has Whisper, Loud & Shout volume buttons in the Tools Popup. I created a test phrase “This is a test of the Ella voice on Proloquo2Go” on an iPad 8th gen in a Pepkoo case and measured the loudness with the Decibel X app on my iPhone 11:
- Whisper = 63 dB
- Loud = 73.8 dB
- Shout = 81.8 dB (digitally boosted sound with minimal reduction in sound quality)
- Manually setting the iPad to the loudest setting = 76.6 dB
The GoTalk Now app has an option in the app Settings – Text to Speech Settings – Acapela TTS Volume Boost – options for No Boost, Slight Boost, Medium Boost & Heavy Boost. Whether or not that “boost” made a difference varied by the voice being used. This setting would then always be used vs. having a way for the user to choose a loudness option based on the situation.
Several other robust AAC apps offered a way to adjust the volume within the app but the “shout” or highest setting didn’t boost the sound beyond the iPad loudest volume. I’ll be adding a row related to those settings in the next update for my AAC feature matching resources.
Looking for in-depth up to date info to compare features in AAC apps for iOS, Android, Amazon Fire and Windows? Check out my 5 AAC Feature Matching resources: https://bit.ly/5aacFeatureMatchingResources
Know of great options for cases or Bluetooth speakers that I should take a look at? Have questions? The best way to reach me is via Facebook messaging over on my OMazing Kids page: https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsAAC/
Disclaimers: This blog post may be updated in the future as options change. Prices & availability were correct at the time this post was published but could change at any time. It’s wise to double check info prior to making purchasing decisions. I am not making patient-specific recommendations and am not liable for any purchasing decisions.
Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP, Founder of OMazing Kids, LLC, OMazing Kids AAC Consulting
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