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.
According to the patent, the Share key seems to be a physical shortcut to bring up an iOS device’s traditional sharing options, such as the ability to share content to Facebook, Mail and Messages. The dedicated Emoji would, imaginably, bring up the iOS Emoji keyboard — although the patent or its figures never fully explain the key’s true purpose.
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.
The patent application’s timing is important, as Apple is expected launch a new trio of iPads this year, including an alleged 10.5-inch iPad Pro with an edge-to-edge, nearly bezel-free display and no home button. While not guaranteed, Apple could certainly release a so-called “Smart Keyboard 2” alongside these new iPads and an improved “Apple Pencil.”
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.