Apple is reportedly working on a new iPad keyboard that sports a built-in trackpad, sources familiar with the accessory told The Information.
But while that keyboard would definitely be a first, the report about its existence also reveals some potential tidbits about this year’s iPads and iPadOS update. Here’s what you should know.
iPad Smart Keyboard with Trackpad
Apple has apparently been experimenting with various iPad keyboard trackpads for a “number of years,” The Information reported.
Now, it seems, the Cupertino tech giant is finally ready to release that product later this year. Apple is preparing the device for mass production, tapping prominent supply chain partners like Foxconn.
There isn’t any word on a release date, but the report suggests that Apple could launch the new trackpad-equipped keyboard alongside iPad Pro models later this year. That could hint at a release in the fall.
Some of Apple’s prototype keyboards over the years have included capacitive keys, though it isn’t clear whether this year’s model will also include them.
One of The Information’s sources did say that the iPad keyboard will be made of similar materials to current Smart Keyboard folio accessories, which may hint at the use of fabric in its design.
What This Reveals About iPads
Adding a trackpad would, of course, be another part of Apple’s steady push toward making the iPad a capable computer replacement. But the fact that Apple is building out a first-party iPad accessory with a more traditional computer UX design hints at something bigger.
Back in iOS 13, Apple introduced support for pointing devices like computer mice and trackpads. But the feature was buried in the Accessibility settings, and the cursor is more of a touch replacement than an actual mouse pointer.
That implementation will probably change if Apple officially introduces a trackpad. In fact, it could hint at an actual Mac-like cursor for iPadOS. That would be one of the most significant UX design overhauls since the iPad was first introduced.
It could also mean that Apple is planning on bringing certain MacBook-specific or Magic Trackpad-specific gestures to the iPad, further blurring the line between macOS and iPadOS.
When Is It Coming?
The iPad trackpad keyboard is reportedly coming alongside new iPad Pro models this year. Which, unfortunately, makes its debut date a bit hard to pin down.
It’s unclear whether new iPad Pro models are coming next month in March, or if Apple will wait for its typically iPad-centric keynote in the fall. Alternatively, Apple may opt to release new iPads both in March and in October.
Based on the fact that The Information says the trackpad keyboard is coming “later this year,” it seems like the accessory may debut alongside iPad Pro models in the fall. Of course, similar products are already available for preorder.