Can You Hear My AAC? Three Options for Amplifying Sound on an iPad: iPad Pro, External Bluetooth Speakers & iPad Cases with a Built-In Bluetooth Speaker

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 three options:

  1. 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.
  2. Purchase an external Bluetooth speaker that can either be attached to a carrying strap or worn.
  3. Purchase a case with a built-in Bluetooth speaker (or one that allows that to be added).

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 $799

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)


iPad 9th gen, $329 (often less expensive on Amazon or Best Buy)

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:

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
  • 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
  • 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
Combined weight of iPad 8th gen in a Pepkoo case = 1 lb, 12.2 oz.
  • 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
  • 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
Combined weight of iPad 8th gen in a Rug-Ed Buddy 10 case = 1 lb, 11oz.
Rug-Ed Journey 10
Rug-Ed ProLOCK 10 with SwivelRing
Fintie Rotating Rugged Case
GoNow Case + Accessories Kit to add stand cover and carrying strap
  • 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):

LogansVoice iPad 10.2” Case

LoganTech’s LogansVoice iPad Cases:

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)


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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Perfect tablet sleeve to fit the Rug-Ed Buddy 10 or Pepkoo 10.2” iPad Case (7th, 8th, 9th gen)

My video shows a great protective sleeve that will fit the Pepkoo and Rud-Ed Buddy 10 cases:


I always take my iPad with me when I travel and have tried TONS of protective sleeves but had a difficult time finding one that would fit my iPad 8th gen in the Pepkoo case or my iPad 9th gen in the Rug-Ed Buddy 10 case.

Most iPad or tablet sleeves are designed to fit an iPad that either isn’t in a case or is in a very slim case. Or there were oversized sleeves designed for a Chromebook or laptop. Those were too bulky.

I finally found the perfect option on Amazon: Dadanism 9-11 Inch Tablet Sleeve Case for iPad 10.2 2019-2021, iPad Pro 11 2018-2021, iPad Air 4 10.9 2020, Galaxy Tab A7 10.4 2020, Lenovo Tab M10 Plus 10.3, Tablet Protective Sleeve Bag, Night Blue, https://a.co/d/6DAfnoh. Exterior Dimensions: 12.2” x 9.45” x 0.98”.


See my blog post about iPad Cases with Rotating Stand for iPad 7th gen / 8th gen / 9th gen: Pepkoo & Rug-Ed Buddy 10 (plus cases for Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite tablet, Samsung Galaxy A03s phone, and Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet): https://omazingkidsllc.com/2021/04/30/pepkoo-ipad-8th-gen-case-features/


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


Have a question? The best way to reach me is via Facebook messaging over on my OMazing Kids page: https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsAAC/


Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP, Founder of OMazing Kids, LLC, OMazing Kids AAC Consulting

• Teachers Pay Teachers Store: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Omazing-Kids-Aac-Consulting

• YouTube: https://youtube.com/user/amoorad1

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• OMazing Kids AAC Consulting Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsAAC/

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• GoTalk Now AAC & GoVisual Visual Scene Apps – Ideas and Sharing Facebook Group: https://bit.ly/GoTalkNowAACappGroup

• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/omazingkidsaac

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• Blog: https://omazingkidsllc.com

{Dear Apple} If you want to be “special needs friendly”, please do this….

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Dear Apple,

iPads were the best purchase ever as a SLP. If you truly want iPads to be “special needs friendly”, please do this:

  • Maintain consistent sizes on devices. Companies that make cases need consistent sizes over time for them to invest in making cases for them. It has been a challenge to find cases for the iPad Mini 4 & iPad Pro 9.7″

 

  • Please make an iPad Pro Mini. Having the Mini size + the 4 speakers + the enhanced processor speed would make it ideal for most kids who would use it for AAC.

 

  • Please add the visual aspect back to the built in timer in your next update for iOS 10. Very useful for kids with Autism.

Thanks for considering these suggestions!
Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP
OMazing Kids (https://omazingkidsllc.com/)
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This feedback was submitted directly to Apple via their online feedback form on 11/6/16. I’ll keep you posted if I get a response. I have seen rumors of a an iPad Pro 7.9″ (aka. iPad Mini 5 but with 4 speakers and other features of the iPad Pro) possibly coming in March 2017. If that happens, I hope Gripcase & Lifeproof will both get on board in supporting the special needs community and offer cases for it. 

https://www.apple.com/feedback/ipad.html

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Here are some good FREE visual timer apps to use until Apple adds the visual aspect back to the built in iPad timer:

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Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Founder of OMazing Kids, LLC – inclusive wellness & educational activities for kids of all abilities
Facebook Messaging for OMazing Kids: https://www.facebook.com/messages/17426452595789
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Blog: http://omazingkidsllc.com
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Angela Moorad is the founder of OMazing Kids, LLC and is an ASHA certified & licensed pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Kids Yoga Teacher with 27 years experience working in a variety of settings (early intervention, schools, teletherapy & a nonprofit pediatric rehab hospital for children with developmental disabilities). She is an app beta tester for educational & therapeutic app developers and loves sharing info about great apps, products, books & toys to use with kids of all abilities.
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