Apple really, really wants you to consider the iPad a MacBook replacement, so after adding cursor support in the latest version of iPad OS, the company reportedly has a reimagined Smart Keyboard with a built-in trackpad on deck.
According to a new report from the Information, Apple is getting ready to release the new keyboard alongside a refreshed iPad Pro this fall. When I saw the report, I immediately envisioned Brydge’s beautiful aluminum Bluetooth iPad Pro keyboards, scheduled to ship this April, which also have trackpads to take advantage of cursor support.
But one of the Information’s sources said Apple’s new keyboard would also be constructed with fabric, like the company’s iPad Pro keyboards have been for years. This is a fucking horrible idea! The fabric keyboard is awful. Typing on it feels mushy, the letters fade, and some on the Gizmodo staff have seen their keyboards wrinkle and fall apart after use. The fabric iPad Pro Smart Keyboard is bad.
The Brydge keyboards seem altogether lovely and MacBook-like (although without that laptop’s keyboard issues). I haven’t tested one yet, and they are expensive ($200 and $230 for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch versions, respectively). The aluminum hinged design makes them seem heavier than the current Smart Keyboard. The Smart Keyboard’s weight distribution allows the iPad Pro to balance upright without a Surface Pro-like kickstand, as Jason Snell noted at Six Colors. It’s unclear what approach the redesigned version with a trackpad would take.
I also hope Apple fully supports a MacBook-style cursor for the iPad without requiring users who want to use a cursor to jump through hoops to activate it under accessibility settings. I assume Apple wanted to start somewhere, and supporting Assistive Touch as an accessibility feature makes sense. But with a real trackpad comes the need for a more full-fledged cursor.
Of course, what some people actually want is a touchscreen MacBook. No way will this put an end to those rumors/speculation/fervent prayers, but it seems like Apple is pretty committed to retrofitting the iPad with tools to make it more useful. (Just please, for the love of god, don’t make those tools out of fabric.)