Thoughts on an iPad Air 3 Smart Keyboard

With an iPad Air 3 rumored to be right around the corner, there’s been a lot of discussion about the new 9.7-inch iPad. Will it gain Pencil support? What about the Smart Connector?

I think the Pencil is probably a no-brainer for this device. The iPad Pro is great — I’m typing this on mine, actually — but it is big. An iPad Air with a Pencil more closely mimics keeping a paper notebook tucked under you arm if you’re just going out to sketch. I think putting the Pencil in the hands of more users is only good for the platform.

The Smart Keyboard is far more interesting to me. After initially dismissing it, I’ve ended up changing my tune on the accessory. While it is not the perfect keyboard, the tradeoffs are acceptable for the portability it affords.

One of the reasons the Smart Keyboard shines is its size. It’s just about the width of the Magic Keyboard, making for a much better experience than other tablet keyboards I’ve tried. For smaller tablets, keyboard makers that have to shrink everything down to match the iPad’s size.

Therein lies the problem. The iPad Air 2 is a good bit smaller than the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard:

Aside from the obvious weirdness of putting these two particular devices together, check out the width of the keyboard itself. To get a Smart Keyboard to fit the iPad Air’s frame, Apple is going to have to deal with the same issues other vendors have over the years.

I don’t see Apple creating some sort of crazy mechanism in which a new Smart Keyboard somehow folds out to be the width we’ve come to expect from keyboards when not tucked away. I think a new Smart Keyboard would probably have with the same downsides as other iPad Air-sized keyboards do: small keys that are too close together for comfortable typing.

While I’m sure the company has tried it, and may even be readying a smaller Smart Keyboard, I’m not sure it should. While there are good iPad Air-sized keyboards on the market today, nothing is a good as the Smart Keyboard, and I believe that has everything to do with size. Anything smaller just isn’t a great keyboard for most people.

Would Apple ship a product that is compromised like this? I’m afraid I think we know the answer.