Could Apple’s Next Magic Keyboard Make Room for the Apple Pencil?

iPad Pro Magic Keyboard and AirPods iPhone Mouse Credit: TalentlessCreative / Shutterstock
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The Magic Keyboard is a game-changing accessory for those who want to use their iPad Pro as a laptop replacement for serious work like writing, but like many first-generation Apple products and accessories, it’s not without its limitations.

Some of these are a bit esoteric, like the USB-C port being limited to charging, while others are simply a matter of design taste, such as the polyurethane material, and of course there are a few bugs that Apple still needs to work out, which are hopefully either iPadOS software issues or simply a matter of a few defective units that can easily be replaced under warranty.

However, after a few weeks of using a Magic Keyboard and iPad Pro, there’s one omission that really leaves me thinking that Apple could have addressed better, and that’s having somewhere for the Apple Pencil to go.

To be clear, the Apple Pencil docks magnetically on top of the iPad Pro (“top” being a somewhat relative term), and it stays in place reasonably well during use thanks to the magnetic connection. However, when you fold up the Magic Keyboard to take the iPad Pro with you, the Apple Pencil sits there, hanging off the side, just waiting to be sent flying off if you’re not careful.

Other keyboard accessories such as Logitech’s Slim Folio address this somewhat more elegantly by providing a strap closure that lets you leave the Apple Pencil charging on the edge of the iPad Pro while at the same time ensuring that its securely held in position. Of course, the downside for these is that they don’t use the more efficient Smart Connector, and of course there’s no trackpad.

The Hinge

It turns out, however, that Apple may be working on an even better idea, if a new patent uncovered by Patently Apple is any indication.

While the recently-granted patent doesn’t refer to the Magic Keyboard by name, since Apple applied for it in late 2018, long before it had settled on a name, there’s no doubt at all from the diagrams that it’s about the Magic Keyboard, and in fact highlights many of the features we already know about, including the magnetic docking system, the use of the Smart Connector, and the pass-through USB-C charging.

What’s particularly noteworthy, however, is that the patent shows the hinge assembly of the Magic Keyboard being used as a place to store the Apple Pencil when not in use, which is something that actually seems rather obvious once you look at it.

According to the patent, it looks like this would not only provide somewhere to store the Apple Pencil while on the go, but also include a built-in charger to keep it juiced up so that users wouldn’t have to rely on leaving it docked to the edge of the iPad Pro just to make sure it’s ready to go.

What This Means

That said, like most Apple patents, it’s not entirely clear if this was an idea that Apple already had an abandoned or something that it may still try to implement in a future version of the Magic Keyboard.

While the hinge cylinder on the current Magic Keyboard looks large enough to easily accommodate the Apple Pencil, it’s important to keep in mind that it also needs to include the hinge mechanism itself, and this needs to be strong enough to support the iPad Pro hovering above the keyboard. So it’s possible that by the time Apple designed the actual hinge there was no longer any room to accommodate the Apple Pencil without making the hinge cylinder larger, which wouldn’t really be practical due to the need to match it to the thickness of the iPad Pro when folded closed.

The fact that Apple didn’t really provide any other solution for holding the Apple Pencil could also point to this plan having been abandoned at the eleventh hour, leaving them no time to come up with any alternatives. However, that doesn’t mean that Apple has necessarily abandoned the idea completely, and it could come to a future version of the Magic Keyboard.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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