I’m ashamed to admit that I get a certain thrill out of “retail therapy”. You know the rush; you order something online, watch every step of the ordering process, right down to the finest of detail on UPS tracking. You check the “Deliveries” app on your phone over and over and over again, to the point you know within 30 seconds if the UPS driver has left your package down in the lobby of your building.
No? Just me?
I’ve been a proponent of making the iPad, and more specifically the iPad Pro, the main computing device of my technology experience. While it took me a few years to fall into this mindset, I’ve always loved the idea of moving away from a desktop or laptop computer experience and to something a little more like the PADD units they used on Star Trek from “The Next Generation” through “Enterprise”. (Don’t get me started on the latest series). The idea of having all of my computer power in a tablet or slate form factor, easily adaptable to any situation has always been compelling for me. I believe this is what Steve Jobs had in mind when he first came up with the iPad. It just took a few years to get there. I believe Apple got serious about the idea when they finally released the iPad Pro line.
I have a 2018 iPad Pro that I have been in love with since the first day I got it.
The thing is, as great as the iPad Pro is, it’s felt like it was only about 90% of the way there. The “Smart Keyboard Folio” Apple released with the iPad Pro works well but I’ve always found it a little lacking. The iPad bounced a bit as the case was a little too flimsy, and up until the latest version of iPadOS (13.4), Apple didn’t legitimately support mouse or trackpad use with the iPad. They wanted you to touch the screen. I wanted to touch the screen too, but there are times when I just want to use a touchpad or mouse with my tablet.
When Apple first announced their new “Magic Keyboard” for the iPad Pro I instantly knew they were filling the gap I had with my user experience. A trackpad and a full blown keyboard was just what this geek needed to embrace iPad living full-time. I made some noises of resistance for a couple of days but then decided, hey, since I’m not flying for the duration of this lockdown, I might as well use a little bit of that budget to buy myself this new Magic Keyboard. After all, it would complete my geek transition to using the iPad Pro full-time.
The Magic Keyboard arrived today. And it’s everything I hoped it would be.
My iPad Pro no longer feels flimsy when in an upright position. The iPad is solid and if I wish to use the touch interface that is native to the iPad experience, I no longer feel like I have to hold the back of the iPad to prevent the whole affair from falling over.
The keyboard is very nice. Ask my husband, I am very picky about keyboards but the Magic Keyboard has a great feel, a comfortable amount of travel and most importantly, it’s part of Apple’s return to “scissor” switches, instead of those awful butterfly switches found on their MacBook line for the latter half of the 2010s. (Though, to be fair, the keyboard on my husband’s 2018 MacBook Pro isn’t awful, though it was a little disconcerting when three keys stopped working for a bit due to one strand of cat hair on the keyboard).
Since the release of iPadOS 13.4 I’ve been using an older style Magic Trackpad to play around with mouse and trackpad support on the iPad. I’m impressed with the way the cursor is handled in this operating system. It shows itself only when it’s necessary and it’s a pleasant, translucent dot that lends itself to the touch interface traditionally found on the iPad. When hovering moving over buttons the buttons have a subtle action and the cursor snaps in place but still freely moves on if you’re intending the move elsewhere. When over text the cursor naturally moves to a text bar and like the round dot, in no way does it look out of place. I’m still getting used to the trackpad gestures; moving around with multitasking feels a little less intuitive than I’d like it to. For example, when I bring a slide over window to show two windows at once on the screen I’m still having a hard time flipping through the available applications for that window.
The Mac keyboard shortcuts works for the most part. The biggest gap I’ve noticed is the inability to close my current application and return to the home screen with a CMD-Q. This is something I do all day long on my work Mac, and not having the functionality work the same way on my iPad is a little weird. To “close” an app, you swipe up on the trackpad with four fingers.
I really like the way the iPad “floats” over the keyboard. I will admit I miss a top row of keys that would traditionally include the function keys and an Escape key. I never realized how many times I hit Escape during the day until I didn’t have that key to bang on. I suppose it’s revealing of my age and heavy use of console applications for much of my computing experience, but I instinctively hit the Escape to stop something happening on my computer. I don’t know if it does anything or if it’s just a comfort action on my part, but I’m finding myself looking for that key a lot. I miss it.
I have no doubt in the magnets holding my iPad Pro in place. They have firmly clamped onto my iPad and it feels much more stable than when I was using my Smart Keyboard Folio before this move. It does take a bit of effort to open the case up from a closed position, and the case is a little heavier than I expected it to be. But we all need to maintain a muscles, right? I am with comment but without complaint on that.
Overall, I’m very pleased with this bit of Retail Therapy and I look forward to using this case for many years to come. I’m hoping Apple with keep it compatible with future form factors of the iPad Pro, because it would be quite nice to be able to keep the keyboard and trackpad and just swap out the iPad Pro for a new one once in a while. I’m currently using a 2018 iPad Pro and it does not look out of place, even though the “hole” in the case is designed for the larger camera area on the 2020 model.
My only concern with the whole thing is the price. This new keyboard was quite expensive and I don’t see average users buying it anytime soon. I’m thinking I paid an early adopter premium with this purchase, but I’m so delighted with the quality of this bit of technology I am without complaint.
If you’re serious about using your iPad Pro as full time as you can, and you have the budget to make this purchase, you won’t regret it. I’ll continue to share my iPad Pro adventures here. My next big task is to start editing video imported from my GoPro and Garmin cameras here on my iPad Pro instead of relying on my MacBook Pro for the task.
I look forward to sharing the results of my efforts soon.