Tuesday, April 21, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Magic Keyboard for iPad

John Gruber:

What I was hoping for was something approximating the feel and experience of a MacBook — a little more top heavy, a little stiffer at the hinge to accommodate that extra top-heaviness — but basically I wanted an iPad-as-laptop that feels like a MacBook Air.

It doesn’t feel like that at all.

[…]

Once I let go of my preconceptions, I fell in love. This took all of 15 minutes. I went from that “I don’t like the way this thing feels at all” first impression to “I can’t wait to start raving about how great this thing is” in 15 minutes. The iPad Magic Keyboard is to iPad-as-laptop accessories what AirPods were to earbuds: a game changer.

[…]

At their widest viewing angles, the Magic Keyboard feels noticeably more open than the Smart Keyboard, and the MacBook Air feels noticeably more open than the Magic Keyboard.

[…]

The MacBook Air trackpad is about 120 × 80 mm. The 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard trackpad is just 100 × 50 mm — by area it’s just a hair over half the size. (The 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard is the size of a small studio apartment in comparison — 160 × 100 mm — as tall as the iPad Magic Keyboard trackpad is wide and over 3x the size by area.)

The MacBook Pro’s trackpad is way too big.

Federico Viticci:

This is Apple’s answer to users who have been asking for years for a “pro Smart Keyboard” to turn the iPad into a quasi-laptop device, and it doesn’t try to replicate all the features from the Smart Keyboard Folio or regular Smart Folio. I would have liked to see the option to fold the Magic Keyboard in the back of the iPad; I’m just not sure how that could be physically possible given Apple’s design direction for the Magic Keyboard (more on this later).

[…]

Here’s where the Magic Keyboard’s design differs from traditional laptops though: when lifting the iPad’s display, you’ll feel a first snap when the bottom hinge (the cylinder-shaped one that comes with a built-in USB-C port) has reached its open position; keep pushing on the iPad’s display, and the iPad will detach from the second hinge, which is located in the Magic Keyboard’s back cover and lets you adjust the iPad’s viewing angle. It’s the horizontal line that separates the two halves of the Magic Keyboard’s cover.

[…]

The Magic Keyboard turns an iPad Pro into a laptop, but it does so in a way that isn’t definitive – the transformation can always be reversed by the simple act of pulling the “computing core” away from it. This is also where the Magic Keyboard differs from competing accessories[…]

Tim Nahumck:

Looking at all of those use cases together, it really is apparent to me that using my iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard Folio is my best opportunity to meet all things. I can augment the experience when docked, or I can carry around the Magic Mouse 2 when I need to be mobile. It’s not always going to be the ideal experience, but it does what I need to get the job done. Also, I already have the components I need, and don’t need to spend an additional $300 on something that would be a limited use case for me.

See also: Nick Heer.

Previously:

Update (2020-04-23): Ben Lovejoy:

First – and I find it hard to believe this is true – there’s no Escape key! I’m so used to using that to exit from full-screen video viewing, it seems such a fundamental element on a keyboard, and yet it’s true: it really is missing.

Second, the lack of function keys. I hadn’t been sure how much I would miss them. I don’t often play music on my iPad, so wasn’t bothered about the lack of music controls. I find the on-screen brightness control of the iPad faster to use than keys, so didn’t mind the lack of those. I almost never adjust keyboard backlighting, so no problem there. But there was one immediate and obvious weakness when watching video: no volume controls.

Update (2020-04-24): See also: Jason Snell, Stephen Hackett, David Sparks.

Update (2020-05-20): Steve Streza:

Got the Magic Keyboard. Way too top-heavy. The keyboard is very good. The trackpad is pretty good. The texture on the sides of the trackpad are very unpleasant to the touch. Using a mouse makes an iPad much nicer to use. Turns out having a touchscreen on a tilted surface is fine.

This is really for people who use iPad on a desk. Using it on the lap is still not great.

It’s weird that the iPad now has a better keyboard than literally every laptop Apple was shipping up until about 6 month ago. The keys feel great, and travel is surprisingly deep. I can type very comfortably on this.

Joe Cieplinski:

I would like if there were a bit more of an angle of view. It’s way nicer than the old Smart Keyboard folio in terms of adjustability. But I’m a tall person. Being able to tilt back even further would be nice.

[…]

The keys are not full-sized, of course, so I still find myself, as I always have on iPad keyboards, typing with three fingers and thumb on each hand, rather than using both pinkies. I’ve gotten used to it by now, but I’m never going to be quite as fast on an iPad keyboard as I can be on my laptop. If I moved to the 13-inch iPad, this would not be an issue, of course.

[…]

It’s amazing how fast you get used to using a trackpad on iOS. It feels way more natural than I would have expected.

Update (2020-07-30): John Gruber:

One of the weird things about an iPad with Magic Keyboard is that iPadOS still runs iPhone-only apps and they are only run length-wise on the display, so, in laptop mode, they are sideways. And once on screen, everything else is sideways too: the dock, ⌘Tab switcher, everything.

9 Comments

It’s silly to compare this to a laptop (weight/size/function) because with an iPad you’re always getting a lot less on the screen due to huge interface elements, multitasking still has some oddities, etc. Especially for size and weight it’s ridiculous, for the amount of information you can put on the screen a 12.9 inch iPad is equivalent to a 10-inch MacBook (if such a thing existed).

The iPad with a keyboard is not a laptop in any way that sane people would define it. It’s just a touch device with a keyboard, and all of the limitations that such a kludge comes with.

By the way, now that turning an iPad into a “laptop” with a keyboard and trackpad is cool and acceptable and everyone appears to be saying it’s what the iPad has been missing all this time blah blah blah... how is it any less acceptable to want a touchscreen Mac or Mac OS X on a tablet form factor?

iPads are great for some things (when used as a tablet for very specific tasks, like digital illustration or watching movies), but as a primary device used as a “laptop” it’s still years behind what something like a MacBook Air can do.

I still don’t get the appeal of trying to hack it into a laptop and use it for email or word processing when everything is still so clunky and takes so many more steps (swipes and taps and weird gestures) and requires weird Shortcut workarounds to do things that have been baked into Mac OS for decades.

now that turning an iPad into a “laptop” with a keyboard and trackpad is cool [...] how is it any less acceptable to want a touchscreen Mac or Mac OS X on a tablet form factor

Because macOS is terrible to use with a finger instead of a mouse. Whereas the reverse is not true of the iPad.

I still don’t get the appeal of trying to hack it into a laptop

Not everyone uses the parts of macOS that you find more convenient, and see other parts as drawbacks. My partner uses her iPad with a keyboard cover for email and word processing and spreadsheets and more. She also has a MacBook Air that she's barely used in years because she finds the iPad much more convenient. Both the form factor & the UI.

I still find the iPad too limited both by its OS and the App Store policies. But that doesn't negate other people's preferences.

Sören Nils Kuklau

how is it any less acceptable to want a touchscreen Mac or Mac OS X on a tablet form factor?

Making macOS touch-friendly is a non-trivial, non-pretty task. One route would be the Windows 8 through 10 way, which involved multiple approaches:

a modern UI framework (of various names; now it’s just called WinUI) was created that is less resolution-independent. Obviously, this leaves many apps behind, and so far, Microsoft has had limited success convincing even its own teams to move to it. (New Edge, File Explorer, Teams, almost the entire Office suite? Not on WinUI.) And frankly, despite being far more adjustable, the information density in typical WinUI apps is just awful (compare these two screenshots: https://imgur.com/a/Dq5lm). They’re working to rectify that, but… it’s a process.
adjustments to existing UI frameworks. This is basically the route most of Office took: when it detects touch devices, it offers to change the UI to have much bigger margins/paddings. That’s… not a very Apple approach, to say the least.

The way iPadOS approaches this from the other side is it basically doesn’t. UI just stays touch-friendly. macOS doesn’t have that luxury. If it stayed mouse-friendly, you couldn’t reasonably use it with your fingers.

@Sören Nils Kuklau I completely agree that overhauling MacOS to be touch friendly is a large and invasive task and probably not a great idea. That said, while I rarely see iPads being used as laptop replacements in wild, I know plenty of happy windows users with surfaces or touchscreen laptops. They don't use these devices as tablets, but being able to drag a scrollbar with their thumb or using an app that allows for pen input obviates their need for something like an iPad.

If Apple shipped a MacBook that had some sort of non-awful hinge that could make it palatable to draw on the screen with an Apple Pencil, it would completely obsolete the iPad for me. I understand that this isn't how everyone uses an iPad, but I think there's some latitude between Apple rethinking MacOS to allow touch-first or even touch-parity design for every UI element vs. just allowing some apps to augment what they already have with touch or pen input. I think Sidecar is an admission of this.

3300 words from Guber about...a keyboard.

Sören Nils Kuklau

That said, while I rarely see iPads being used as laptop replacements in wild, I know plenty of happy windows users with surfaces or touchscreen laptops. They don’t use these devices as tablets, but being able to drag a scrollbar with their thumb or using an app that allows for pen input obviates their need for something like an iPad.

I doubt that.

Being able to touch on a laptop screen no doubt has its uses, but it’s not the same thing as an iPad-like tablet experience.

But it’s gradual. For some, the Magic Keyboard is just right to temporarily convert the iPad into a laptop-esque machine; for others, that’s clunky and they prefer something like the Smart Keyboard; others yet don’t want anything attached to their iPads at all; and yet others (I’m mostly in this camp) can’t really see themselves using an iPad for production. I have an old mini where I occasionally watch videos. I also have Tweetbot on it, and it’s interesting how uniquely pleasant reading Twitter is in that form factor: neither the Mac nor the iPhone feel quite the same way. But for producing content? Nah. As a developer, it’s a poor fit for me.

If Apple shipped a MacBook that had some sort of non-awful hinge that could make it palatable to draw on the screen with an Apple Pencil, it would completely obsolete the iPad for me. I understand that this isn’t how everyone uses an iPad, but I think there’s some latitude between Apple rethinking MacOS to allow touch-first or even touch-parity design for every UI element vs. just allowing some apps to augment what they already have with touch or pen input. I think Sidecar is an admission of this.

Right.

There is a bit of a logical disconnect between them arguing that touch on the Mac is bad because the screen is upright, and then offering a bunch of iPad accessories where the screen is upright.

I was thinking that I could live just with my iPad if I purchase the Magic Keyboard and ditch my MacBook. The iPad is fine as it is, but to write and format longer text is not a pleasure at all. Here jumps in the Magic Keyboard. My expectation was not to touch the screen when using the keyboard, but this has no Escape and no function buttons. So what now? Simple, keep the MacBook along with the iPad WITHOUT keyboard.

I dunno, I'm looking at my retina MBP screen at 1440x900 effective resolution and if this screen was a tablet I wouldn't have very much trouble at all accurately touching most of the interface elements. I sometimes feel like my iPhone requires more touch precision than would be required on this theoretical touch Mac.

But anyway that wasn't really my point -- it's simply disingenuous to argue that the iPad + keyboard and trackpad is somehow the perfect pairing, yet never mention the old and much repeated line about how "adding touch to the Mac / a touchscreen Macbook would be terrible". In my eyes, I'd probably prefer it. I like my iPad for very specific uses, but if I could get OS X as-is on an iPad Pro and just use my finger as the cursor it'd be a hell of a lot better than suffering with the dumb limitations of iOS.

I can't stand using iOS for productivity. There's always something that gets in my way and I'm *always* thinking "this would be much faster to do on my MBP" even though technically, based on specs, my iPad is faster. iOS simply puts up too many roadblocks. And no, I'm not a programmer. I do regular stuff like browse the web, watch videos on YouTube, organize data in Excel, occasionally type documents in Word, play songs on Spotify, etc. All of this is much easier and more efficient for me to do on the Mac.

And if I have to connect a keyboard + trackpad to the iPad to really make it even somewhat useful, what's the point? Even my old ass 2014 MBP is better than the iPad that I bought new last year. The iPad is good for very specific things (to me), like reading PDF documents (nice screen, lightweight) or using many of the great iOS software synthesizer apps (which really benefit from being able to interact via touching the knobs, sliders, and keys on the screen).

But every time I use my iPad even for something as simple as web browsing, I just get frustrated. Despite all of the power and RAM in iPads these days, they still can't do something which even the most bare bones PCs have been doing for at least 2 decades: keep browser tabs loaded for infinite amounts of time. It's criminal that I can load just 1 tab in iOS Safari, then switch to another app or two for 10 minutes, then go offline (no WiFi), then switch back to Safari and whatever I loaded in my tab is completely gone. Criminal! I don't see how anyone can be productive like this.

>>being able to drag a scrollbar with their thumb
>>or using an app that allows for pen input obviates
>>their need for something like an iPad.
>I doubt that.
>Being able to touch on a laptop screen no doubt has
>its uses, but it’s not the same thing as an iPad-like
>tablet experience.

It is indeed not the exact same thing, but I think it's still true that it completely removes the need for an iPad for (probably) most people, because it slots into the same uses cases.

Because iPad use cases are much more about the "tablet with pen" form factor than they are about iPad OS.

I used to use an iPad regularly. Then I got a Surface Book. Now I no longer use my iPad. Not because the two are exactly the same, but because I can do everything I used to do with an iPad with the Surface, and it's also an actual notebook with a much more powerful operating system.

It's not the exact same thing as an iPad, but functionally, it's a superset of the iPad.

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