iPad Pro Users Reporting Magic Keyboard Charging and Battery Drain Problems

iPad Pro Magic Keyboard with Trackpad 1 Credit: YTCount
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For iPad Pro users who need to get serious writing work done, Apple’s new Magic Keyboard is a great accessory that’s easily worth its higher asking price, as it’s well-made, simple to use, and offers a typing and trackpad experience that’s currently unmatched by any other iPad keyboard accessory.

Apple unveiled the new Magic Keyboard alongside its new 2020 iPad Pro models back in March, and while it wasn’t expected to be available until May, Apple actually started taking orders in mid-April, and most early adopters had the new keyboard in their hands by the end of last month. Further, despite the fact that it was released with the 2020 iPad Pro, the Magic Keyboard fully supports the older 2018 iPad Pro models as well.

Unfortunately, it seems that a few users have been running into some odd problems with the new Magic Keyboard, including incompatibility with some third-party chargers and cables as well as finding that using the keyboard drains their connected iPad Pro more quickly than one would expect.

Charging Problems

Earlier this week, MacRumors reported that several of its readers had complained about the inability for the iPad Pro to charge properly through the Magic Keyboard’s USB-C port, which passes power to the iPad Pro through the Smart Connector found on the rear of the device.

Although the port on the Magic Keyboard is supposed to provide the same charging capabilities as the one found on the iPad Pro, several users in the MacRumors forums and on Reddit have reported problems when connecting third-party USB-C chargers and cables to the port.

For the most part, using the first-party Apple charger and USB-C cable that comes with the iPad Pro appears to work fine, but those who are trying to use chargers and cables from companies like Anker and Mophie have seen mixed results, with some reporting that they get a “Not Charging” message on the iPad Pro status bar, while others report no charging indications at all, with the charging sound repeating itself every few seconds.

While some of those who have contacted Apple support have been told that it’s only supported by the official Apple charger, this seems like an incorrect response as USB-C is supposed to be a universal charging standard, and certainly any USB-PD power adapter that can charge the iPad Pro directly should be able to pass the same charging current through the Magic Keyboard.

Hence the most likely explanation appears to be a defect in the Magic Keyboard itself, especially since some users — ourselves included — have encountered no problems at all, and in fact after the initial report we went through and tested a wide variety of USB-C chargers from several different manufacturers, including those mentioned in the reports, and couldn’t find one that didn’t work for us.

It’s also worth noting that the “Not Charging” indicator doesn’t actually mean that the iPad Pro isn’t receiving power, but rather indicates that it’s not receiving enough power to actually charge the iPad Pro battery at normal speeds. In some cases, the iPad Pro may still charge very slowly when this indicator is shown, while in others it may simply maintain power or discharge at a much lower rate, depending on how much demand is being placed on it. Since USB-PD can adjust to different power levels, this suggests that the problem is the result of an improper “handshake” between the iPad Pro Smart Connector, Magic Keyboard, and USB-C power adapter that’s preventing it from negotiating the proper power levels.

At this point, if you’re encountering this problem with a USB-C charger and cable that otherwise works properly when connected directly to the iPad Pro, we’d recommend contacting Apple Support to try and get your Magic Keyboard replaced, since it definitely doesn’t appear to be normal behaviour.

Excessive Battery Drain

A second problem that could be somewhat related was raised this week by some readers at 9to5Mac, who have reported that their iPad Pro battery drains noticeably faster when connected to the Magic Keyboard.

Since the Magic Keyboard doesn’t contain a battery of any kind, it draws the power it needs to operate directly from the iPad Pro, however since the most energy-hungry feature of the Magic Keyboard is an LED backlight, any extra power drain should be unnoticeable compared to the battery drain required by the 120Hz ProMotion display, A12Z CPU and Wi-Fi and, in some cases, cellular radios.

As 9to5Mac notes, however, they’ve been unable to put the reports together into any single cause, although as with the charging problem, it definitely sounds like a defect in certain specific Magic Keyboard models rather than anything that should be approaching normal behaviour.

Some signs of this are there as well, with one user reporting that their Magic Keyboard backlight remained on even when the iPad was asleep with the screen off, which could certainly amount to a higher battery drain over an extended period of time, especially if it also remained on when the case was closed. However, since the backlight is presumably managed by iPadOS, this could also be a software glitch.

The iPad Insight blog also encountered the same problem over the past couple of weeks, however it was resolved after they got their Magic Keyboard replaced under warranty, without any software or settings changes on their iPad Pro. According to their report, with the original Magic Keyboard they lost 25% during two hours of writing, even with the backlight turned completely off, which was a pretty stark drop compared to the 45% decrease from watching five hours of streaming audio without the Magic Keyboard connected.

By comparison, with the replacement Magic Keyboard, the battery decreased by only 6% in an hour of solid use, without the backlight, and 11% with the backlight on. iPad Insight adds that this is still more of a power drain than they experienced with Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio, but that it still fits within Apple’s advertised 10-hour battery life.

While 9to5Mac suggests that this could be software related, which is certainly a possibility, iPad Insight’s success with having the keyboard replaced would make us lean more toward seeing it as a hardware issue. Again, we haven’t experienced this kind of battery drain in either iPadOS 13.4.1 or the public betas of iPadOS 13.5, so it doesn’t seem to be related to the iPadOS version, at least not directly.

With most Apple Stores still closed right now, however, if you’re experiencing these problems you’re pretty much limited to either living with them or requesting a replacement online, in which case you’ll likely have to do without your Magic Keyboard for a while. The good news, however, is that the Magic Keyboard is covered by AppleCare+ if you have it for your iPad Pro, so not only may this offer some additional options such as the possibility of express replacement, but it also means you have plenty of time to deal with the problem, whether it’s happening now or even if it starts occurring in the future.

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