Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro: Now localized for multiple languages!

August 3, 2016: Apple has just updated both the 9.7 and 12.9-inch Smart Keyboards to include versions localized for British English, French, German, Spanish, Korean, Italian, Arabic, Thai and others. Check your local Apple Store now!

Apple's Smart Keyboard is meant to fold out when you want a real, tactile keyboard experience to pound out text and boost productivity, and then fold up out of your way when you want to go back to full-on tablet viewing or playing. It uses the Smart Connector, so it attaches magnetically to both draw power and transfer data, which makes it more reliable than typical Bluetooth keyboards.

Composed of a single piece of laser ablated fabric, and using the same butterfly mechanisms as the MacBook, the Smart Keyboard does sacrifice that traditional, single-key clickety-clack feeling, but gains liquid resistance and maximum mobility.

I took a look at both the 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch versions, and here's what I found!

12.9-inch iPad Pro Smart Keyboard

The 12.9-inch Smart Keyboard was Apple's first iPad-specific keyboard since the original in 2010, which was little more than a Mac keyboard with a 30-pin Dock connector fused on top. It worked, if you didn't mind having your iPad stuck in portrait mode, but it wasn't flexible or portable. The Smart Keyboard is both.

It's made from a single piece of custom woven fabric—taffeta isn't just for weddings any more!—and then laser ablated to form each key. While it uses the same domes inside the keys as the new MacBook, instead of butterfly switches, the structure of the fabric itself acts as part of the mechanism.

The fabric is treated with a durable water-resistant (DWR) coating to protect against spills and stains. Because there's no space between the keys, there's also nowhere for food or dirt particles to collect, and nowhere for liquids to get in.

I've been using the Smart Keyboard at airports, coffee shops, hotels, and on airplanes, and that feature is terrific. I'm super careful with my keyboards anyway, because I travel so much, but not having to be paranoid about the Smart Keyboard is a huge stress-reducer.

Folding the Smart Keyboard into place can be awkward, though, even after you've become familiar with the process, and there's no way to control the angle. It's got one position and one position only. I'd love to have two or three options, so I could adjust for lighting, for example.

The Smart Keyboard does hold its position well, whether on a table or on your lap. The connector's magnet is stronger than the keyboard's magnet as well. So, when you want to fold it back up, the connector comes off the keyboard easily, but the iPad stays stuck to the connector.

Whether it always recognizes it's connected is another story. I often find the software keyboard fails to go away when I attach the Smart Keyboard. You can't just swipe it away either, because the minute you go to enter text, it comes back. Reseating the Smart Keyboard a few times usually gets it to go away, but it's one of those things that just needs to work.

As with the MacBook keyboard, it took me about an hour to get used to typing on the Smart Keyboard. Since then I've been using it without even thinking about it, for hours at a time. Because it doesn't feel like a traditional keyboard, though, it won't appeal tor everyone—It'll likely be even more divisive than the new MacBook keyboard.

For something with this much portability, and with this low a profile, however, it's about as good as it can be. Personally, I'm fine with the compromise. If you're not, though, there's already a Logitech keyboard for the Smart Connector that has far more MacBook-like, backlit keys, and more on the way.

9.7-inch iPad Pro Smart Keyboard

Before the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the smallest Apple keyboard I'd ever used was the 11-inch MacBook Air. Or 12-inch New MacBook. Or maybe Smart Keyboard on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I'm not fussy about keyboards, so they've all been great for me. It takes about 5 minutes for me to acclimatize and then I'm flying.

I've used plenty of third-party iPad Air and even iPad mini keyboards over the years, some less than stellar, but others surprisingly good.

That's how I'd classify Apple's Smart Keyboard for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. The laser ablated fabric Apple uses, which along with MacBook-style domes forms the structure of the keys, holds up really well, even at the smaller scale. I've been typing on it for a few days now and while I feel like I make a few more errors than I otherwise would, autocorrect fixes most of those without me having to slow down — or be slowed down.

For those who dislike the Smart Keyboard regardless of size, there's the exact same Smart Connector as the bigger Pro, which means third-party keyboards will be available as well.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • "Should you get Apple's new Smart Keyboards for your iPad Pro?" NO. It doesn't protect the back. It's a keyboard with compromise. If it was a full case (front and back) that also doubled as a keyboard, then I'd say buy it. But it doesn't do that, it's a half-assed product. It only protects half the the iPad.
  • If you want to protect the back, get the matching silicone case. That's what I did. Problem solved.
  • I wonder if u can do everyting o a smart keyboard without having to actually touch the screen at all? That would be the only useful thing to me,,,,, I still don't get the "half and half" motion... That is... some commands u can do via keyboard, while others must be done via Touch... I'd be soo confused.. which i must do with which
  • The iPad is designed for touch-screen input, the keyboard shortcuts are just a bonus, the smart keyboard will never be able to fully control the iPad
  • Well, it should! Prior to getting my 9.7" iPad Pro, I was using a Logitech Canvas keyboard with my iPad Air. It's functionality in controlling the iPad far exceeds what is offered in the Apple Smart Keyboard. Thankfully, Logitech has just released a version of the Create keyboard for the smaller iPad Pro which I've already ordered. It does add much more weight but it is also a complete protective case. It also has backlit keys and a loop for the Apple Pencil.
  • One thing not often mentioned is how the smart keyboard's proximity to the screen makes it easy to tap the undo/redo, copy/paste, word suggestions, etc as that appear above at the very bottom of the screen. You can also pretty easily scroll and tap buttons without moving your hands very far — it's similar distance to move your hands to the screen as the trackpads are on MacBooks. Also, because of how flat they are, they're very ergonomic. I picked one up for my 12.9 pro and love it. I now consider it, along with the Pencil to be essential accessories. My only real beef is how expensive they both are.
  • Flatness doesn't equal "ergonomics" though. The minimal travel of the keys, and the fact that they stick due to the rubber materials it's built with and the lack of any mechanical connection makes for an ergonomic nightmare actually. Microsoft went the other way and made a thin keyboard for the surface with actual mechanical keys that have actual travel, as well as a second model similar to Apple's that is one piece, but has no travel in the keys at all. Both of these keyboards outperform Apple's, as do Logitech's keyboards, and ALL of them are more "ergonomic" than Apple's.
  • I have not experienced any sticking. Have you tried one of these keyboards for more than 2 minutes at an Apple store? A Surface keyboard isn't going to help someone with an iPad, and the Logitech is too thick & heavy (and ugly, IMO).
  • For me, the killer feature for the keyboard cover is that it requires no separate power supply. The Smart Connector on the iPad Pro provides the power. That makes one less power source to worry about!
  • These little things make a big difference :)
  • just got my Logitech Create 9.7 in blue! super well made, fits nice and holds the pencil - Yeah, it does add some bulk, but for the functionality it gives, i'll take that tradeoff
  • You would like more positions to hold you iPad. The position I want is one I could use when I'm reading books in portrait mode. I love having a case which is a good-enough keyboard. I used to carry around a Mac keyboard (which I still use when I need to do much on my phone). (My wife and I both forward texts to our Macs and wait until we get home to reply to texts)