Federico Viticci on the iPad Magic Keyboard

Federico Viticci, writing for MacStories:

The Magic Keyboard turns an iPad Pro into a laptop, but it does so in a way that isn’t definitive — the transformation can always be reversed by the simple act of pulling the “computing core” away from it. This is also where the Magic Keyboard differs from competing accessories such as the Brydge keyboard: aside from Brydge’s poor trackpad implementation, I always found their design discouraged a constant alternation of roles — from laptop to tablet, and vice versa. It could be done, but carefully putting the iPad inside the Brydge’s keyboard clips and pulling it out was a chore. As a result, I found myself leaving the iPad Pro inside the Brydge keyboard at all times and never using it as a tablet. The Magic Keyboard feels like it was designed with the opposite principle in mind: it enables a laptop mode for the iPad, but you can always undo it and return to the iPad’s pure tablet form in two seconds. And when you’re done using the iPad as a tablet, you can just as easily re-align it with the Magic Keyboard (thanks to magnets in the case) and go back to using the physical keyboard and trackpad.

I’ve never owned a Brydge product, but Jason Snell let me use his for a quick kick-the-tires test drive at a keynote event a while back. You can see just by looking at one that they’re (a) pretty clever for Bluetooth iPad-as-laptop accessories, but (b) not as clever as Apple’s Magic Keyboard. Part of that is the Magic Keyboard’s reliance on Apple’s proprietary Smart Connector instead of Bluetooth. I’ve been using desktop Bluetooth keyboards with my iPads for years, and it adds a slight inconvenience whenever you walk away from the keyboard with the iPad in tow, but remain within Bluetooth range of the keyboard — you need to toggle Bluetooth off/on to get the iPad to switch to its on-screen keyboard. Not a huge deal, for sure. But however minor a chore, it’s still a chore — every single time you take the iPad away from the keyboard.

The other difference is Brydge’s use of clip connectors compared to the Magic Keyboard’s reliance solely upon magnets. You might think, Well, of course Apple has pulled off an accessory that makes better use of the magnets in the iPad Pro — they designed the iPad Pro. Apple’s peripherals can be designed while the products they pair with are being designed. But the 2018 iPad Pros have the exact same magnets. As I reported in my review, the 2018 iPad Pros connect to the Magic Keyboard every bit as securely as the new 2020 models. Third-party accessory makers have had one and a half years to make an iPad Pro keyboard case that magnetically snaps into place like the Magic Keyboard. I know that the Smart Connector requires a licensing deal with Apple, but there has been nothing in the way to stop a Bluetooth iPad-as-laptop keyboard accessory from being as magnetically and structurally clever as the Magic Keyboard.

Apple has a first-party advantage, for sure, but they’re also really good at designing accessories.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020