¶ The Diversity of Apple Keyboards

As I walked through the glass doors, I couldn’t remember when I had last been in an Apple Store. The nearest one is a 40 minute drive from my home. While it isn’t exactly far away, it’s far enough that it isn’t high on my priority list to visit unless I need to.

While my iPhone was being serviced for a weird charging issue, I took the time to check out some of the new products from the past year that I hadn’t seen in person yet. Oddly enough, the fact that quite a few of these products had very different keyboards.

I checked out the MacBook, Magic Keyboard (and Magic Trackpad 2), iPad Pro (and Pencil), and the Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro.


The MacBook interests me a lot. I love how thin and light my MacBook Air is, so naturally I’ve been dreaming about the thinner and lighter MacBook since it was released. Until now I’d only seen the MacBook on Apple’s website, never in person. It’s clear from folks I follow and respect that the MacBook’s keyboard is polarizing in the “love it or hate it” kind of way.

It’s definitely not what I expected. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The key travel, or lack thereof, was much more pronounced than I thought. Those keys barely move at all. But they do give a satisfying click when pressed. That makes my ears happy, even though my fingers don’t really register that much is happening underneath them.

What I truly enjoyed was how large the key caps are. I wish all of Apple’s keyboards had large keycaps like that.

I understand why some people hate this keyboard now. It is wildly different than pretty much any keyboard out there I’ve typed on. While I was surprised at how different it is, I think it is something I’d grow to love with more use.

Magic Keyboard

I’ve been going back and forth on buying a Magic Keyboard since it was released, but I’m having a hard time justifying the cost, especially when my Apple Wireless Keyboard continues to serve me well. After trying out the Magic Keyboard in person, well, I’d really like to own this keyboard soon.

The Magic Keyboard is the happy medium between the Apple Wireless Keyboard (and the keyboard built into the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro) and the MacBook’s new keyboard. The Magic Keyboard feels familiar. It has a lot of the heritage of the Apple Wireless Keyboard, but the keys are slightly larger and a heck of a lot sturdier. They don’t wiggle like the keys on my Apple Wireless Keyboard do.

I also love the lower profile of the keyboard itself. And good riddance to AA batteries. I wish the key caps were as large as the MacBook’s. I also wish it had backlighting, but I can see why it doesn’t. I can’t wait to own the Magic Keyboard. But wait I will, because $99 is a bit steep to justify a keyboard right now.

Magic Trackpad 2

A brief aside about the Magic Trackpad 2. I love my current Magic Trackpad. I love everything about the Magic Trackpad 2 even more. It’s larger footprint is great. It has a lower profile to match the Magic Keyboard. Again, goodbye AAs.

I would absolutely need to get one of these alongside a Magic Keyboard. But at $129 it is also out of the realm of possibility right now. A combined $230 for a keyboard and trackpad makes my bank account weep.

iPad Pro

This is the device everyone is talking about. I opened Notes and brought up the on-screen keyboard, which is now pretty darn equivalent to the size and layout of a laptop keyboard. It’s easily the best on-screen keyboard I’ve used, though it did take some adjustment as I’m used to the ultra compact keyboard of my iPad mini.

I could tap out words briskly and it was fun to use. Bonus points for the new iOS 9 two-finger trackpad feature being even better on that large screen.

My favorite part of the iPad Pro’s keyboard is the Tab key. Goodness, my kingdom for a tab key on other iOS devices.


Another quick aside, the Pencil is amazing. I doodled a few things in a couple apps and it is just great. I hope this will work with future iPhones and iPad Air/mini models.

Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro

I hated the Smart Keyboard from the second I rested my fingertips on it. The keys are tiny (about the same size as my fingertip), the texture of the fabric is repulsive, and while it uses the same stainless steel mechanism as the MacBook’s keyboard, it feels squashy instead of clicky. Surprisingly I typed quite accurately on it, but I constantly felt like I was about to strike the wrong key. I just had no confidence I was actually going to press the intended key, and that made for a stressful experience.

I don’t think I can adequately describe how much I disliked the Smart Keyboard. Gross.

Final Thoughts

Between the keyboard on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro we’ve known for years, the divisive new MacBook keyboard, the Magic Keyboard being a hybrid of the preceding two, the various screen sizes of iOS devices accommodating different layouts, and the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard, I don’t think Apple has ever had a more diverse spread of keyboard styles among its devices.

I have to imagine future Mac laptops will move toward the MacBook style keyboard as Apple obsessively shaves millimeters off their thickness. Perhaps the MacBook Pro line will adopt the Magic Keyboard style, as the Pro has always retain a bit of thickness and heft to it compared to its non-Pro siblings. I think this would make a lot of folks happier.

Then again, Apple has always been one to push the envelope. Perhaps the low travel of the MacBook keyboard is preparing us for a no-travel Taptic keyboard, where we tap away on a sheet of glass that is also our trackpad.