Smart Keyboard Folio

How About a Smart Keyboard Folio Redesign, Apple?

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Smart Keyboard Folio

Especially if it bring us features from the new Magic Keyboard

After a few weeks with the Magic Keyboard and getting past issues with battery drain and the form factor not being perfect for my use at work, I still really like it. While keyboard isn’t my favorite, it is a huge step up from the Smart Keyboard’s butterfly mechanism. Add in a backlight and a good trackpad and it is a pleasure to use, where the alternative was always a chore for me. I am doing a lot of my writing with the Magic Keyboard and using it often at home.

That said, the Magic Keyboard isn’t a great fit for me at work, so I don’t use it or keep it with me all the time. I have covered this plenty in other articles, so I won’t belabor the details here, but this accessory just isn’t a perfect fit for how I use my iPad Pro. That’s what has gotten me thinking about the Smart Keyboard Folio again.

If you aren’t a regular here, I will just say that I’m not a fan of the current Folio at all and I liked the original Smart Keyboard even less. I just hate the keyboard. The tiny key travel and the poor response aren’t worth the portability for me. I did use the Folio off and on for a while because there weren’t many alternatives for the current iPad Pro design. However, as soon as I got a Brydge Pro, my Smart Keyboard Folio started gathering dust.

One thing I will say is that the Smart Keyboard Folio is light and portable. It is both thin and light, but it still offers decent protection from drops and basic knocks and dings. It doesn’t offer the positioning options of the Magic Keyboard, but it does have other very useful advantages. You can fold the keyboard behind your iPad Pro and still use it as a tablet while keeping it in the case. This isn’t possible with the Magic Keyboard. You can also position the Folio for stable drawing with an Apple Pencil. The Magic Keyboard isn’t designed to do this, either.

As I critiqued the Magic Keyboard and read a few written by others over the past few weeks, one constant suggestion that I saw was that those of us who wanted a more mobile case that could be kept on the iPad Pro all the time should stick to the Smart Keyboard Folio. Unfortunately, that means giving up a far superior keyboard with backlight, as well as the option of a built-in trackpad. I would rather swap cases and work around the Magic Keyboard’s shortcomings than take that big of a step backward.

However, what if Apple upgraded the Smart Keyboard Folio to include a trackpad? I think that would get a lot of users to choose the more portable option, despite the differences in the keyboards. If Apple were to go the rest of the way and add a the same backlit scissor switch keyboard from the Magic Keyboard, then we would really have something. I have to be honest, as much as I like Apple’s new design, I would probably choose the more versatile Folio if this ever happened.

Is it realistic to think that Apple will upgrade the Smart Keyboard Folio with these features? This is a tough one. On the one hand, they are obviously backing away from the current butterfly keyboard mechanism. The mechanism breaking down wasn’t an issue on the Smart Keyboards because their fabric covers prevented the dirt and grit that jammed up their laptop cousins from getting in. However, it still wouldn’t surprise me if Apple would like to eliminate this version of the butterfly mechanism entirely from their hardware lineup and this is the last product left.

That said, there isn’t just the Smart Keyboard Folio to consider. The original Smart Keyboard is still being sold and is compatible with the current 10.2″ iPad and 10.5″ iPad Air. That accessory obviously can’t hold a trackpad and I doubt Apple wants to put effort into redeveloping the keyboard. In fact, they just worked directly with Logitech to help them release new Smart Connector keyboards with trackpads for the non-Pro iPads. I don’t think Apple has any interest in spending R&D resources on the lower end.

So the question is, will Apple upgrade the Smart Keyboard Folio and leave the older model to wither away? It’s possible. They certainly don’t mind having a significant feature divide between the Pro and lower tier iPads or their accessories, so I don’t think this would stop them.

There is one other potential impediment. Does Apple want to keep a bigger separation between the Folio and the Magic Keyboard? Right now, there is a significant divide between them and that will likely push many buyers toward the more expensive product. Maybe I’m cynical, but I could see Apple using this as a reasoning for not upgrading the Folio. That said, I also think they want to push their new trackpad compatibility forward. The best way to do that is to embrace it with their own iPad accessories. Because of this, I do think we will at least see a trackpad added to the Folio by next year.

However, I’m not as sure about the backlit keyboard. I can see Apple not adding that to keep a wider contrast between the Folio and Magic Keyboard. And if they do pull the trigger on an upgrade, I think we should expect the price of the Smart Keyboard Folio to increase. That’s just par for the course with Apple.

As for timeframe, I can’t see this happening before next year. Apple didn’t make a big deal about it, but they did slightly edit the design of the existing Smart Keyboard Folio to fit the new camera design of the 2020 iPad Pros. If Apple were going to significantly change the design of the Folio this year, it would have happened then. I can’t blame them for that choice either, as the current distinction between the accessories is likely driving sales of the newer Magic Keyboard.

However, I do feel like next year would be an ideal time for Apple to do this. We have heard rumors of new iPad Pros with 5G and Mini-LED displays coming in 2021. It makes sense to me that any redesign of the Smart Keyboard Folio would be released along with these new models. I know if a Folio with a better backlit keyboard and a trackpad does come, I will be ready to buy on day one. I would hate to lose the hinge of the Magic Keyboard, but I would gain a case that I can keep on my iPad Pro at all times, and that is far more important to me at work.

Would you be interested in a Smart Keyboard Folio with a trackpad and new backlit, scissor switch keyboard? Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.



James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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5 thoughts on “How About a Smart Keyboard Folio Redesign, Apple?”

  1. I’m at a loss to understand why anyone is interested in using a trackpad with an iPad. To me, a trackpad is just a clunky interface I associate with laptops. I deliberately use an iPad instead of a laptop because I find it so much more intuitive to touch the screen itself than to touch a proxy for the screen several inches away. In answer to your question, no thanks to anything that involves a trackpad.

    1. I get that, but having one on the Folio doesn’t mean you have to use it. The room is there to add it for those who do, so it wouldn’t cause a significant alteration of the product, other than a little extra weight.

      One of the great things about trackpad support on the iPad is that it doesn’t get in the way for anyone who doesn’t want to use it. It’s there for many of us who use keyboards with their iPads often. It is a timesaver if you are writing, editing and selecting text often. But if you aren’t and don’t need it, there is nothing you are missing out on by not using it.

    2. I use Logitech’s Combo Touch keyboard case for my Air 3 and I think having a trackpad is a very useful tool. Having said that, I do understand why some might feel a touchpad is pointless on a touch device but there are many functions that can be used more precisely than just using your finger. And using a touchpad can also minimize fingerprints and smears on the screen which, for me, is a big deal since I obsess over having a clean screen.

      The industry also understands that having both touch capability and trackpad functions can be beneficial for many users. Even modern laptops have touch capability on their screens but still allow the use of a touchpad.

      It’s the best of both worlds and makes plenty of sense.

      1. I’m curious what you think of your Combo Touch. My father has the Air I used to review last year and I’ve been debating getting one to review.

  2. I have used the smart folio keyboard for the last 18 months and have just got the magic keyboard. There are advantages and disadvantages of both.

    I like the smart folio being lighter, washable (don’t have to worry about liquid being spilt on keyboard) and folding back behind if required. The keys I found fine to use but the two things I do not like is not being able to use as stand with keyboard folded behind (to watch videos) as in the earlier Smart keyboard and the fact grease from keys is deposited on screen when folded. I also always wanted an illuminated keyboard, although realised that is incompatible with the fabric covering.

    I have recently got the magic keyboard, and yes love the illuminated keys, like the floating design to lift iPad when on desk, like having more variable angles of screen, like having charging socket built in. The trackpad I can live without. I mainly just use for gestures, as find moving a cursor across screen slower than just reaching up and touching screen. You have to find cursor, move and then click instead of just reaching and touch – no advantage I find in most situations. The extra weight I don’t find an issue, as usually carry in brief case and the slight extra weight is not really noticeable.

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