One of the primary complaints with Apple’s Magic Keyboard is the lack of a row of function keys. It’s a small gripe with an otherwise very strong accessory, but it is legitimate. Most competing Bluetooth keyboards have function keys that allow users to change basics like the volume, screen brightness and backlight intensity without having to touch the screen or open Control Center. In the case of the keyboard backlight, we are talking about having to either trigger a shortcut or dig a few layers into Settings to make that change.
I do understand why Apple left the function row off of the Magic Keyboard. Because of the case’s unique hinged design, the function row would end up under the screen at it’s furthest angle. However, a dedicated function row isn’t necessary to give users access to the handiest of shortcuts. We just need Apple to either add them as key combination shortcuts, or allow us to create out own.
Well, it looks like Apple is going to give us something in the near future. While they are not enabled yet, 9to5Mac has found evidence of new shortcuts for keyboard backlight brightness in the beta version of iPadOS 13.5.5. user configurable, but they are there, at least for now. Opening this up to users doesn’t seem like the most Apple thing to do, but did add a key remap modifier feature that allows us to add an Escape key, for example. They’ve already gone that far, so here’s hoping they will go a little further and add wider shortcut customization soon. I think that more flexible solution would make more users happy.
We don’t know if Apple will keep these potential shortcuts in iPadOS or pull them back later. This has happened many times before while the company tests out new features through the beta process. And if these new shortcuts do come, we don’t know if they will arrive in iPadOS 13 or in 14, which will be announced in a couple of weeks. I think it makes sense to go ahead make them available, but with development of iPadOS 14 about to really take off, Apple may at that point when they want to focus exclusively on the future.
I was definitely happy to see this story from 9to5 because Apple adding the new shortcuts will address one of the few shortcomings of the Magic Keyboard. An easier way to manage the backlight would really come in handy. Plenty of users have reported battery life issues due to issues with the backlight staying on when it shouldn’t. I’ve heard from several people both here and on Twitter about this while discussing my own battery life issues due to the Magic Keyboard. I’m sure Apple is working on fixing this issue, but the ability to easily turn the backlight off would be a great first step. Even when Apple gets this bug sorted out, turning off the backlight when you don’t need it is still a great way to extend your battery life.