After using the Apple Smart Keyboard for months it has proven to be the most awkward Apple product I’ve ever used. That’s not normally a word associated with its products but it’s proven every single day I use it.
The Apple Smart Keyboard pairs with the big iPad Pro to form a laptop replacement. It’s the first iPad keyboard released by the company and is typical for an Apple product in every way but one.
It has a beautiful design as is typical for Apple, and is so thin it adds little bulk to the already hefty iPad Pro. It’s apparent from the design that Apple followed its common practice with mobile devices to make it as small and light as possible.
At first look the low keys covered in a fabric-like material don’t look as if they’d be good for fast typing, but that’s not the case. I’ve been using the Smart Keyboard since first released and happily found it good for fast typing from the beginning. The keys feel remarkably like “real” physical keys common for iPad keyboards.
The Smart Keyboard doubles as a Smart Cover as found on other iPads, complete with automatic on/off when opening/closing the cover. It facilitates using the iPad Pro as a tablet without a keyboard, something I find myself doing more than I thought I would given its large size. So, if the Smart Keyboard has typical nice design and flexibility for use, why do I find it awkward? It’s due to how unnatural it feels to open, set it up, and get busy writing. The process is completely unnatural to perform and it hasn’t gotten easier the longer I use it.
Apple usually sacrifices features on products to keep them easy to use, but for some reason took the opposite approach with the Smart Keyboard. The word to describe using it is “awkward”, which is so unlike Apple products. The same awkwardness is presented when going from keyboard to tablet use. You must carefully pull the iPad Pro off the connector strip, fold up the keyboard and attach it magnetically to the cover, and then just as carefully fold the cover to the back of the iPad.
Try to do it too quickly and you’ll likely have the iPad Pro pull off the magnetic hinge on the Smart Keyboard, leaving you to flip it and reattach it. Then you must repeat the opening move to use it as a cover.
Don’t misunderstand me, the Smart Keyboard is a good keyboard for writing on the iPad Pro. The problem is getting into the position to do so and then to get back to the tablet. It’s as if Apple was obsessed with design and portability and forgot about usability. The design made backlighting the keys impossible, something I miss more than I thought I would. It also dropped a top row of iPad control keys to make the keyboard as small as possible, and adding a little size would be a useful trade off to include them.
The Smart Keyboard is easily the most awkward product Apple has ever produced.