Although Apple rolled out full support for using a mouse and trackpad across all iPad models with the iPadOS 13.4 update back in March, it conspicuously didn’t provide an actual hardware keyboard and trackpad solution for anything other than its flagship iPad Pro models.
Instead, users of Apple’s 10.2-inch iPad, iPad Air, and iPad mini were basically relegated to using Bluetooth mice and trackpads to take advantage of the new feature. Of course, a few third parties like Logitech and Brydge stepped up to the plate with their own iPad keyboards, but none of them could quite match the magic of Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro.
So a new leak that suggests Apple could be bringing the Magic Keyboard to the iPad Air should be welcome news for those who want a better iPad work experience but don’t really need to (or want to) shell out for the more expensive iPad Pro.
Expanding the Magic
The latest leak comes from the mysterious @L0vetodream, whose “dreams” have proven eerily reliable in recent weeks.
In the tweet, the shadowy leaker provides only the comment that the Magic Keyboard could be “not only for the iPad Pro,” which suggests that Apple could conceivably create one for all iPad models, and not just the iPad Air, however there are a few reasons why we suspect it’s more likely the iPad Air is the next step.
Firstly, Apple’s 10.2-inch iPad is already such an inexpensive model that it’s hard to imagine anybody paying almost as much for a keyboard as for an entire iPad. There are many third-party keyboard cases available that are much less expensive, and most people opting for the wallet-friendly iPad likely aren’t looking for a premium keyboard accessory to go with it. Apple already has its $159 Smart Keyboard available for the 10.2-inch iPad, since it now includes Apple’s pre-2018 edge-mounted Smart Connector, but by all reports it hasn’t been popular among owners of the entry-level iPad.
Of course, the Smart Keyboard wasn’t actually released specifically for the seventh-generation iPad — it just happened to be compatible with it. In fact, the accessory actually dates back to Apple’s 2017 iPad Pro, which had a physical design virtually identical to the 2019 iPad Air, and very similar to the new seventh-generation iPad. The later models effectively inherited compatibility with the original 2017 accessory.
If Apple were to release a new model of the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Air as it currently exists, then it would stand to reason that it would also be compatible with the entry-level iPad in the same way that the Smart Keyboard is, but considering the rumours that are afoot about the next-generation iPad Air, we’re not convinced that this is what Apple plans to do.
The iPad Air Coming to the Magic Keyboard?
Back in April we heard a report that Apple is working on a new 11-inch iPad Air that could follow the iPad Pro design language. The rumoured new “iPad Air 4” would keep the costs down by omitting the TrueDepth camera and Face ID in favour of the in-display Touch ID technology that Apple has been working on for a while. We’ve heard numerous rumours that it could appear in a future iPhone model, but it seems that an iPad, with its larger screen, would make for a great place to pilot the new feature.
If Apple went in this direction with the iPad Air then it wouldn’t need to release a new version of the Magic Keyboard — it would just automatically be compatible with the new model. It would actually be a case of history repeating itself, following how last year’s iPad Air was able to use the Smart Keyboard originally designed for the 2017 iPad Pro.
It’s worth noting as well that Apple has pointedly avoided branding the Magic Keyboard as being for a specific iPad model. It’s simply the “Magic Keyboard” with the only reference to an iPad Pro being in the product description. Of course, such a move would still leave the seventh-generation iPad out in the cold, unless of course Apple eventually plans to redesign that one as well, but we suspect any potential for that is much farther down the road.