While I’ve had some issues with the Magic Keyboard’s limitations when using it at work, it’s just about perfect for the way I use my iPad Pro at home. My primary complaint with the Magic Keyboard so far has been with battery life. I wrote about this last week and got enough responses from others with similarly poor performance that I believe there is something to it.
I don’t think the problem I am having is affecting all, or frankly even a large number of Magic Keyboards. However, based on my testing, I do believe the issue I’m experiencing is related to the hardware.
The problem isn’t limited to a specific build of iPadOS, or running a beta version based on feedback from others. I am running the latest developer beta version of iPadOS and have tested this issue with it and the previous version. This is one of the first things I wanted to rule out. Beta builds can always have strange interactions with different hardware and software as things are worked out. However, it doesn’t seem to be the source of my problem, as everyone who reached out to me was running a release version of iPadOS 13. So the battery drain isn’t specific to any version of the OS, or running beta versions.
The second is pretty obvious- backlight vs no backlight. I expected better battery life with the backlight of the Magic Keyboard off, but it still wasn’t nearly as much of a reduction as I anticipating. During my last test, I still dropped over 25% during two hours of writing. For comparison, using the iPad Pro by itself this weekend, I burned 45% during 5 straight hours of watching streaming video with audio playing though the iPad’s speakers. I expect that sort of usage with a bigger demand on power, but it’s still reasonable. This battery drain lines right up with the overall 10 hour rated battery life of the Pro. In comparison, losing a quarter of my battery capacity simply by typing with no backlight for two hours is NOT reasonable.
Lately, I have been using the Brydge Pro+ more since I received it after the Magic Keyboard and have been trying to compare the strengths and weaknesses of the two. Then Brydge released a firmware update for it late last week, so I kept at it a while longer to test out the changes. There was obviously a significant difference between its battery demand and the Magic Keyboard’s. However, due to the fact that it is a Bluetooth device, as opposed to a Smart Connector keyboard that draws power directly from the iPad Pro, it really isn’t a valid head-to-head comparison in this regard.
That said, this testing did help me in one respect. It partially confirmed that my iPad Pro’s battery isn’t the cause of the issue. I found more confirmation of this, as well. After a little digging following my last post on Magic Keyboard battery life, I found out that there is an alternative method to test the battery capacity of an iPad, since iPadOS doesn’t include the same Battery Health feature that iOS has. The popular free Apple device management software iMazing includes feedback on remaining battery capacity, which in my case was still 94%. That’s not too bad for a 19 month old device that sees heavy usage.
A much better head-to-head battery drain comparison was to check the Magic Keyboard against Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio. Even though I don’t like the Folio very much, I can’t deny how much better it performed in terms of battery drain over a couple of hours of use yesterday. I only dropped 9% writing over the course of two hours, which is less than half the usage I saw over the same amount of time using my first Magic Keyboard. That tells me that my problem isn’t a Smart Connector issue. It’s also more confirmation that my iPad’s battery isn’t at fault.
Did you catch that bit about my “first” Magic Keyboard? The only way to finish testing my theory was to get another one and see if it yielded better results. I did that late last week and I have been testing it while finishing up this article and doing some other work over the last two days. I started off by typing with the key backlight off and using the trackpad as I go through and edit this and another article. It appears that my battery life with this Magic Keyboard is far better than my first. I only dropped only 6% in an hour of solid use. While this isn’t the same performance as the Smart Keyboard Folio, it still fits in the 10 hour battery window we expect from the iPad Pro.
So then I took the next step. I went back to the Keyboard settings and turned the backlight slider up to about 25%. I then typed around 1,300 words over the next hour and fifteen minutes drafting this and another article. My battery usage during that time was only 14%. That was 11% better than my previous Magic Keyboard’s battery performance WITHOUT the backlight on, which is telling. There is a massive difference in iPad Pro battery usage with these two different Magic Keyboards.
So this was the final nail in the coffin for me. My first Magic Keyboard was the problem and my iPad Pro’s really poor battery life was specific to it. I think my experience is solid enough confirmation that battery life can vary significantly from keyboard to keyboard and that there may be some early production issues that need to be worked out.
Based on the small number of responses I’ve gotten back expressing similar issues with excessive battery drain in comparison to positive reports on the Magic Keyboard, I don’t think this issue is widespread. I also don’t fault Apple too much, either. This is the first run of a brand new product and this kind of thing is exactly why we have manufacturer’s warranties and return policies. A small number of early devices will have issues and those issues will be weeded out and fixed after they are spotted. Apple is good at this so I think whatever is causing it will be found and addressed soon.
I don’t have any idea what is causing the variation in battery life from one keyboard to another and that isn’t in my field of expertise, so I will leave that to someone else. However, the drastically different numbers I’ve seen tell me it is quite real. My best advice to anyone else experiencing this is to exchange your Magic Keyboard for another one if you are still within the return period. Based on the ratio of complaints about battery life to good reports, your replacement is far more likely to work better. In my case, iPad Pro battery life while using it is far better.
If you got your Magic Keyboard from Apple at launch and you are already outside their 14 day return window, then just contact them about getting a warranty replacement. Even if you are covered by AppleCare+, you shouldn’t need to use it and have to pay a deductible here. If you are experiencing an excessive iPad Pro battery drain problem like mine while using a Magic Keyboard, then it’s most likely due to a hardware issue. That’s covered under the standard warranty.
I would recommend taking some screenshots from Settings-Battery showing a significant decline in battery life that is outside normal patterns for documentation. Apple should take care of you and likely won’t even ask for that. They are better than most when it comes to repairs and replacements, but it’s always best to be safe.
So it was probably just dumb luck that I got a battery hungry Magic Keyboard at launch. It happens. I won’t let it affect my overall opinion of the device, though. As long as my experience with my current Magic Keyboard continues to be as it is, I will consider my first device to be an aberration and not the norm.
Now that these battery life posts are settled, I have a couple more posts to go with some final thoughts on the Magic Keyboard.
Anyone else having battery life issue with the iPad Pro while using the Magic Keyboard? Has anyone else done similar comparisons and gotten similar battery drain results? Have any of you already exchanged your Magic Keyboards and seen improvement in your Pro’s battery life? I would love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.