Apple has recently filed a patent application for a new generation of Smart Keyboard that could launch alongside upcoming iPad models this year.
The patent describes a Smart Keyboard-like input device with certain added keys and functionalities. Notably, the keyboard described and illustrated in the patent features several new keys, including a “Share” key, a “Search” key, and a dedicated “Emoji” key.
The Search key, according to the patent and figures, would serve multiple purposes. A single press will bring up a search feature, likely iOS’ Spotlight. Additionally, the patent describes that an alternative input — such as a long-press or a double-press — could invoke Siri.
It’s worth noting that this is a utility patent, and not a design patent. As such, the illustrations are not entirely accurate — nor would the keyboard drawn in the figures be practical. For example, the Delete key has been replaced with the Search key, and the Caps Lock key replaced with the Emoji key. Amusingly, the “E” key is missing entirely from the patent’s keyboard illustrations.
As with all Apple patents, it’s not clear whether the features described within them will ever show up on an actual product. Considering the timing of this patent, however, it could be that we’ll see some additional functionality on future versions of the Smart Keyboard.