Add-on physical keyboards and keyboard cases for the iPad have been around since the tablet’s inception in 2010, but the recently released iPad Pro has taken this arrangement to a new level.
The iPad Pro is much bigger than its siblings, which makes working on it more palatable for those averse to toiling on smaller screens with cramped keyboards.
Tacitly acknowledging this fact, Apple has provided a physical tablet keyboard in the form of the $169 Smart Keyboard, which is basically a Smart Cover with an integrated keypad (see “iPad Pro Shows the Promise of iOS Productivity,” 23 Dec. 2015). The Smart Keyboard is much wider, corresponding to the iPad Pro’s generous dimensions, and therefore more comfortable for lengthy work.
What’s more, the Smart Keyboard connects to the iPad Pro via a new physical Smart Connector that supplants the Bluetooth wireless connections typically employed by third-party keyboards. The Smart Keyboard also draws power from the tablet, so charging is less of a bother than with Bluetooth keyboards.
The problem? The Smart Keyboard is, for many, an acquired taste, with chiclet-like buttons that can feel clunky to use, and a lack of iPad-specific function keys typically found on third-party products. The Smart Keyboard lacks backlit keys as well, and it can feel a bit flimsy, though it actually works pretty well on a lap.
Three Alternatives to the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard published on