Thoughts on the Smart Keyboard

When I bought my iPad Pro, I spent about 15 minutes with the Smart Keyboard in an Apple Store. I wasn’t super impressed, and wrote off the accessory until recently, when I picked one up more or less on a whim.

My first impressions haven’t held up.

While the Smart Keyboard has dome switches under the keys that are similar to those found in the MacBook, the travel here is noticeably better than the notebook’s. I’d peg it somewhere in between the Magic Keyboard and the MacBook.

While the spacing between the keys seems too large at first, in practice, it’s not an issue. The entire keyboard is basically the width of every other Apple keyboard available these days; things aren’t all squished up like they are on many third-party keyboards available for smaller iPads.

All of this adds up to a good experience; I find it comfortable to type on, even in longer sessions. I’m more accurate and faster with it than while using the software keyboard.

That’s not to say everything’s perfect with the Smart Keyboard. It does add bulk to the iPad Pro when it’s folder up in the Smart Cover. Getting everything folded the right way can prove to be awkward; more than once I’ve have the keyboard flop down onto a table harder than I intended.

On the software side, iOS 9 just isn’t ready to be driven by a keyboard like OS X is. John Gruber covered this well:

This lack of keyboard support is prevalent system-wide. In Messages, if you start a new conversation and type the partial name of a contact, you can’t select from the list of matches using arrow keys or auto-complete the name you’ve partially typed using Tab. You’ve got to — you guessed it — reach up and touch the screen. You can use the arrow keys to select from a list of suggestions in the recipients fields in Mail, however, and arrow keys also work for selecting from the list of suggestions in the Safari location field.

I hope that Apple will address this in future versions of iOS. The iOS 9.3 beta seems to fix some issues, which is hopefully just the start.

All that said, if you can get used to reaching up and tapping the screen a good bit, using the Smart Keyboard is a much better experience than I first thought it would be.