Tag Archive for ‘Keyboard’

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro 11-inch

I ordered the Magic Keyboard for 11-inch iPad Pro just a few hours after pre-orders became available. I had a feeling that this was going to be a transformative accessory and based on the reactions I’ve seen online so far, that hunch was correct. Now that I’ve spent a few days with it, I can confirm it’s an incredible piece of tech, but I’m not quite sure its going to change the way I personally use my iPad.

When the package arrived, it was much heavier than I was expecting. Even after seeing reviews that noted its weight, I wasn’t really prepared for it. After just a few minutes with it unboxed, though, the term “heavy” was rapidly replaced with “dense”.

The Magic Keyboard is heavier than most of us expected, sure. But it’s not really the weight itself that’s so surprising, its the accessory’s weight compared to its physical size. It feels solid, like it’s absolutely packed with technology. Albeit to a lesser degree, this is a similar feeling to what I had when I purchased the first iPhone in 2007 — I just couldn’t believe how small it was with the features it offered.

The Magic Keyboard is filled to the brim with magnets, features a comfy little trackpad, a backlit keyboard, a nifty hinge that’s reminiscent of the iMac G4, and an extra USB-C port to boot. It doesn’t seem like Apple should have been able to get this much into such a small package. But they have and it’s delightful.

The magnets in the lid are very strong. To the point where I’m not worried at all about the iPad falling off when I don’t want it to. That does make it a bit tricky to remove the iPad, though. I tend to brace the keyboard with one hand and lift up on one of the bottom corners of the iPad itself with the other. It’s a bit too easy to have the iPad slip during this process, though. Often this causes the opposite corner of the iPad to bump against the keyboard, which isn’t ideal.

It’s definitely a trade-off, but I’d rather it be a little finicky to remove than have to worry about the iPad falling out unexpectedly. And I’d place this in the nit-pick category, for sure, it’s not like it’s that difficult to gracefully remove the iPad.

The backlit keyboard feels comfortable to type on, despite some of the keys being smaller than usual. I might have made slightly different decisions when designing the layout than Apple did, specifically the narrow hyphen key, but that’s mostly because of my own typing style — I almost certainly over use em-dashes.

It also would have been nice to see a function row with an escape key, but I don’t know how often I’d really use those. It’s omission is likely because of physical design limitations, though. If a function row was added, it would often be located uncomfortably far behind the bottom edge of the iPad. Since that’s the case, it’s probably better that Apple left it out.

You can get the functionality of the escape key mapped to one of the modifier keys, though. If you navigate to Settings > General > Keyboard > Hardware Keyboard > Modifier Keys, you can select one of the modifier keys and set it to act as an escape key. I’ve done so for the globe key, since I don’t use anything other than the standard virtual keyboard on my iPad.

The trackpad below the keyboard, is what many consider to be the star of the show. It’s the hardware feature that really sets the Magic Keyboard apart from what we’ve seen with the iPad previously. It functions exactly how you’d hope it to, giving you the ability to two-finger scroll, three-finger-swipe, tap to click, and all of the other nifty trackpad features that Apple added with iPadOS 13.4.

The physical size of the trackpad isn’t as generous as we’ve seen in Apple’s MacBook-line, but that’s because of the size limitation of the iPad itself. In the first few days with the accessory, I would mouse around with my middle or index finger and then attempt to click with my thumb. That’s my normal behavior on the MacBook Air and naturally have been trying to do so on the iPad too. But too frequently I would find myself missing the bottom edge of the trackpad entirely. I’ve since adjusting my hand positioning a bit, keeping my thumb a smidge closer to my mousing finger. I’ve also been more heavily relying on tap-to-click, which has worked just fine for me.

Coming from such a large trackpad on the MacBook Air, getting used to the trackpad in the Magic Keyboard has been an adjustment, but nothing that was insurmountable. And already I’m finding myself rarely running into these issues anymore.

The trackpad might be what sets the Magic Keyboard apart from the crowd, but the hinge system is makes the accessory’s design so striking. It’s clearly designed with weight distribution in mind. Allowing the iPad to float over the keyboard means that the entire package’s center of gravity is never too far back, which would cause it to tip over too easily.

With the two hinge system, I’ve never been concerned about the device tipping over. Even when tapping at the top corners of the display with the hinge pushed as far back as it can be — this thing isn’t going to tip over unless you really want it to. And that’s while allowing for a pretty comfortable range of motion. I’m sure there will be some users that are left wanting more — especially if they are a bit taller or frequently use their iPad at a standing desk. But for me, it’s just right.

I find my fingers bumping up against the bottom edge of the iPad while typing on occasion. Typically when I’m reaching for the hyphen or delete keys. I think I type with my hands a bit higher than most, though, so some owners might never run into that issue at all. It’s not exactly bad and it’s happening far less frequently than it did when the keyboard first arrived, so perhaps it’ll simply take a bit more time to adjust for. But if you keep your hands a bit high over your keyboard while typing, it might be something to keep in mind.

Built-in to the left side of the hinge is an additional USB-C port that can be used for charging. My buddy Matt Birchler did some testing and found that the port charges the iPad Pro at nearly the same speed as the iPad’s built-in port when using the stock charger. That was surprising to me — I presumed it would charge at a much slower rate, like half of the normal speed. But this is great news for iPad users that plan to use the Magic Keyboard full time.

Many iPad owners will find it useful to have an additional port available, so they can charge their device through the Magic Keyboard while another accessory is connected through the iPad Pro’s built-in port. But I’ve never actually connected anything other than a charging cable to my iPad. And I’m in the habit of charging my iPad each night, so charging the device while I use it is a rare sight. Maybe when the battery has aged a few years I’ll make use of it, but until then, it’s superfluous for me.

The Magic Keyboard’s base is quite rigid and feels like it was built to last. That combined with the excellent weight-distribution of the double hinge, means that the Magic Keyboard gives you a great typing experience on your lap too. I wrote the entirety of this review on the Magic Keyboard and much of that time was spent with it right on my lap.

It’s not exactly as comfortable to use on your lap as a MacBook is, but that’s sort-of to be expected. Given how much of the weight is located above the keyboard, though, I think Apple did an outstanding job engineering this thing to be useable on your lap. And that’s a huge leap forward compared to what we had available to us previously.

But the biggest surprise to me about the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro and what has really shaped my thoughts about it overall is the fact that it made my iPad less inviting to use. For the first couple of days, I kept my iPad in it full time and found myself reaching for my iPhone when I typically would have been using the iPad. Perhaps because of the greater barrier to entry in opening the device with the keyboard attached — the magnets are strong and unlike MacBook’s there isn’t a cutout where you can easily open the hinge.

Or it could also be the indirect nature of interacting with the iPad through the keyboard and trackpad. It doesn’t lend itself well to touching the screen because of its mostly vertical position. And I really enjoy directly interacting with my apps through touch.

It also could have been the added weight, but whatever the specifics are, the Magic Keyboard has taught me that holding the iPad Pro in my hands is my favorite way to use the device by far. And anything that gets in the way of that tends to discourage me from actually using it.

Now that isn’t to say I don’t like the Magic Keyboard. Quite the opposite, actually — I love the Magic Keyboard. It’s my favorite accessory for the device. But for me, it isn’t something I plan to keep my iPad in permanently. The vast majority of the time, I’m going to continue using my iPad Pro exactly how I was before — setting it in Twelve South’s Compass Pro to watch videos, holding it in my hands on the couch to browse the web, tapping away on the screen to compose tweets and shorter links here on Initial Charge, and so on.

The Magic Keyboard plays an important role for me — it will become my default keyboard for the iPad Pro. Instead of getting out my Canopy by Studio Neat when I want to type for long stretches, I’ll grab Apple’s Magic Keyboard instead. This will let me enjoy the benefits of the integrated trackpad, physical keyboard, and its comfortable lap-top usage when I need it. And when I’m done writing, I can detach the iPad and use it as I always have — re-establishing the inviting nature of the platform that I’ve grown so fond of.

Is that worth the $299 price tag? It is for me. But I spent about half that on Apple’s standard Magic Keyboard alongside a Canopy. And I bought those specifically for the iPad — it’s not like I had the keyboard laying around and bought the Canopy to use with it. So I’m not above spending a bit too much money on accessories for my devices.

Considering what the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro brings to the table, I think it’s worth it. Especially if you care a lot about the typing experience and want something that offers unmatched integration with the iPad Pro and iPadOS. It’s a slick piece of tech that every iPad Pro owner should, at the very least, consider adding to their kit.

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro Available to Pre-Order Now ➝

I ordered mine earlier today and it has an estimated delivery date between April 24 and May 1. That’s much earlier than I expected given that “May” was the originally announced release date.

➝ Source: apple.com

Mac Shipments Down, Despite PC Market’s Return to Growth ➝

My immediate thought is that Apple’s unreliable keyboards are finally catching up with them. I sure hope they swiftly update the rest of their laptop line with the new scissor switch keyboards to help keep this decline from getting out of hand.

➝ Source: imore.com

‘I’m on Cloud Nine’ ➝

Marco Arment on the newly announced 16-inch MacBook Pro’s scissor switch keyboard:

Look at this glorious keyboard! An Esc key! Inverted-T arrow keys! A millimeter of key travel! Enough spacing between the keys for our fingers to accurately orient themselves! And keystrokes will probably work, 100% of the time, for years! […]

The new keyboard is very similar to the recent desktop Magic Keyboard, and I expect it to have a wide appeal, just as the Magic Keyboard does. It has slightly less travel and spacing, but the overall feeling is very similar — and it’s nothing at all like the butterfly keyboard.

I absolutely love it — not because it’s the most amazing keyboard in the world, but because it’s completely forgettable in the best possible way. It just feels normal again.

I love my 2018 MacBook Air in every way, it’s one of my favorite Macs I’ve ever owned. Except for the keyboard, which is absolutely atrocious. I’ve had the machine for about a year and have been struggling with duplicate keypresses and missed keypresses for almost that entire time.

But this new keyboard truly seems like it will fix all of the issues with reliability while also reintroducing all of the design decisions that we’ve been clamoring for. I just hope Apple very quickly adds this new keyboard to the rest of their notebook lineup.

➝ Source: marco.org

The One-Word Answer ➝

John Gruber:

I asked an Apple source last fall why it took so long for Apple to release the new MacBook Air. Their one-word answer: “Intel.”

I can think of one way they could have killed some time while they were waiting.

Things Adds Powerful Keyboard Shortcuts and Navigation ➝

From Cultured Code’s Things weblog:

For this update we had one goal: make our iPad app truly desktop-class. To achieve this, we had to substantially improve support for external keyboards – and by that we don’t just mean adding a few more shortcuts. In fact, adding more shortcuts was only possible because of one of the key features in this release: the ability to select items from the keyboard.

The ability to select items, reorder, edit, and perform actions on those items — all from the keyboard — is incredibly powerful. With this update, the folks at Cultured Code have shown that you don’t have to sacrifice power user features to develop for the iPad.

Switching to a Wired Apple Keyboard ➝

Josh Ginter, on Apple’s Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad:

For one, my Magic Keyboard has suffered from that warping everyone talked about a few months ago. Does it inhibit the ability to type? No, not directly. But it drives me nuts every time I look at it.

Second, the Magic Keyboard has four feet on the bottom to give it some sort of friction with the desk. My current desk is on the shinier, more slippery side, so this is working against the Magic Keyboard from the start. However, those feet have tended to collect dust — dust which needs to be rubbed off, otherwise the Magic Keyboard slides all over the desk when typing. I suppose I could purchase a leather desk mat to keep the keyboard from sliding around. But I shouldn’t have to.

Third, I’ve begun to notice the impact Apple’s butterfly mechanism keys are having on my fingers and wrists. Like everyone else, when I get on a roll, it becomes easy to hammer down on a key just a little too hard. Do that hundreds and thousands of times and you’re left with sore fingers and wrists. In my cold basement, I feel like that impact is only exacerbated.

He’s moved back to an old, wired Apple keyboard for the time being and you can’t blame him with the problem’s outlined above.

I absolutely adore the original, smaller Magic Keyboard, though, and use it with my iPad daily. And I plan on getting the numeric keypad version alongside my next Mac sometime this summer. Even with all the potential problems, I want to try it myself. And if I experience the same issues that Josh has, I’ll also switch to an old wired keyboard — likely the one that came with my 2008 iMac.

The iPad Has a Focus Problem ➝

Luke Kanies, writing on Medium:

Unlike touch, keyboards are inherently targeted. While touch is powerful specifically because of your ability to directly manipulate the software you’re using, keyboards must first be pointed at a place that needs text. They need focus. And here’s where the iPad falls down.

It has no concept of focus. Or rather, it obviously does, but its designers are in denial about it. Keyboard focus is littered throughout the platform, from the presence of a cursor when inputting text, to the software keyboard auto-hiding when no text field is in use. When you’re producing text, this generally works pretty well.

But the keyboard is used for far more than typing. Whether it’s command-tabbing between applications or using shortcuts within them, the keyboard is a critical control device. And it just does not work right on the iPad.

There are two major issues here — there’s no indication of which app has keyboard focus when in Split View and there’s no way to switch that focus without touching the screen.

I don’t have a great solution for visually displaying focus. Whatever they use as an indicator, it would have to change or shift each time you alternate interactions between apps. And that would almost certainly become distracting in most situations.

But I think there’s a simple solution to the problem of switching focus from the keyboard. Apple could just reuse the ⌘+` shortcut, which is used on the Mac to switch between windows of the front-most application. Long-time Mac users wouldn’t have to retrain their muscle memory and, unlike John Gruber’s suggestion, Apple wouldn’t have to change the way ⌘+tab works and risk irritating current iPad users.