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Why do companies even make iPad Pro keyboards without trackpads?

Ipad Pro Keyboards Hero
Ipad Pro Keyboards Hero (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

When the iPad first started out over a decade ago, it was merely a tablet that was running the same OS as the iPhone, but just with a larger screen. At least, that's how I pretty much saw it. I enjoyed my iPad, but I never thought of it as a serious work machine — just a tablet to read, watch, draw, and play on.

But as time passed, the iPad soon evolved into something much more than a tablet. People began to use it, instead of a laptop or desktop computer, to get work done with accessories like Bluetooth keyboards or protective keyboard cases. But to navigate your way around on an iPad, you'd still have to use the touch screen with your fingers, or perhaps a stylus of your choosing. It's not a dealbreaker, sure, but it does get tiring having to lift your hand up from the keyboard to tap the screen multiple times, and it can definitely interferes with workflow.

When Apple added pointer support in iOS and iPadOS 13, it was pretty rudimentary, and also buried in the Assistive Touch setting. But it really knocked it out of the park with the more mainstream support for external mice and trackpads in iPadOS 13.4. Now, it's hard to use a keyboard or keyboard case that lacks a trackpad.

A keyboard with a trackpad unlocks the iPad Pro's full potential

Logitech Folio Touch Compare Magic Keyboard

Logitech Folio Touch Compare Magic Keyboard (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

I honestly didn't care too much when pointer support came to iPad at first because my iPad was always my secondary device to work on — my computers being first. But once I tried it with a Brydge Pro+ keyboard with my 11-inch iPad Pro (2020), I fell in love immediately, despite the fact that the Brydge was a little janky at first. Then I got the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard, and now have the Logitech Folio Touch — I simply cannot go back to a keyboard without a trackpad, like the ZAGG Slim Book Go.

There are many benefits to having a trackpad on the keyboard that you use with your iPad. I actually hate using the touch screen on my iPad Pro because for one, I don't have a second-generation Apple Pencil, and secondly, using my fingers means getting gross fingerprints all over the screen. And both of those options would involve me having to lift my hand off of the keyboard, which I find to disturb my workflow more often than not.

Having a trackpad on your iPad keyboard accessory brings your iPad one step closer to becoming a pseudo-laptop. Yeah, yeah — you may be thinking, "if you want a laptop experience, why not just use a laptop?" I find my 11-inch iPad Pro is easier to carry around everywhere than my MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, and the battery lasts much longer on the iPad.

Since I pretty much just write articles in my Markdown editor, communicate with my team in Slack, check email, research in Safari, browse social media, and send messages with Messages, I could just use my iPad instead of a laptop for these things. When I do, I prefer using either my Magic Keyboard or Logitech Folio Touch. I can quickly jump between apps via keyboard shortcuts and click on buttons to navigate my way through my favorite apps by swiping and tapping on the trackpad, never having to lift my arm to reach for the screen. It's just easier and not as disruptive to your workflow, overall helping you feel more productive.

Really though, if you have yet to use your iPad with a keyboard and trackpad combo, give it a try. It's so much nicer than having to reach out for the screen with your fingers or stylus. And once you do, trust me — it's hard to go back to a trackpad-less keyboard.

Why hinder the iPad Pro as a productivity machine?

Zagg Slim Book Go Detached

Zagg Slim Book Go Detached (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

While all iPad models currently support mice and trackpads, I want to talk specifically about the iPad Pro, because that's what I use and might be what most people would want to get as a laptop replacement.

The iPad Pro is the most feature-packed model of iPad and the one that people turn to as "for professionals" due to the features. And with such great mice and trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4 and later, why are companies even bothering to release keyboards and cases that lack a trackpad?

This issue came up for me recently as I was testing out the ZAGG Slim Book Go. Honestly, this is one of my favorite Bluetooth keyboard cases — the keyboard is detachable, the keys are backlit and have seven different colors, and it's a dream to type on. I loved it! But I was shocked to see that it had no trackpad, even though there was plenty of space to put one. At first, I thought maybe it's because it's Bluetooth, and doesn't connect via the Smart Connector like the Magic Keyboard and Folio Touch. But then that can't be it, because the Brydge Pro+ is Bluetooth and also has a trackpad.

The lack of a trackpad was so upsetting to me. Once you get used to a trackpad, it's hard to go back. You'll find yourself reaching for a trackpad that's not there. I had to break my flow by reaching for the screen with my fingers, due to lack of Apple Pencil. And looking at a few keyboards on the market, it's clear that some of them do have the space for a trackpad underneath the keys, but they don't implement one, resulting in wasted space. After all, when are you going to be placing your wrists in the bottom center of a keyboard's rest area? I suppose that the reason some keyboards don't have a trackpad is because they're designed for multi-device support, but still — why hinder the iPad's productivity?

It's just a little silly and counterproductive to continue to make keyboards and cases for the iPad Pro, the most powerful iPad for being productive on, without a built-in trackpad. After all, for some people, the iPad Pro is a laptop replacement, and how can you do that without a trackpad?

Do you require a trackpad on your iPad Pro keyboard?

I've gone through my fair share of iPad keyboard cases, but the addition of a trackpad is a real game-changer. So it's surprising that there are still keyboard accessories coming out for the latest models of iPad that lack a trackpad when more people are using iPads as laptop replacements for their needs. I want to see more big-name brands releasing keyboards with trackpads in the future.

What are your thoughts? Would you still buy an iPad keyboard without a trackpad these days? Let us know in the comments.

Christine Chan
Senior Editor

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.

5 Comments
  • Me, I still default to sitting on the couch, iPad Pro in portrait orientation against my belly, to type in my lengthy comments on the screen keyboard (including this short one). No use for the hardware keyboards nor the Pencil that I have within reach. (I do have several hardware keyboards with built-in trackpads (like the Rapoo 6700 and a Logitech).
    Oh, my fingerprints will definitely show in certain lighting. Guess I could wipe them off.
  • The cure for "gross fingerprints" is washing your hands. 🙄 Your keyboard and trackpad must be a mess.
  • Seem like everyone just wants a Laptop. That should not be the purpose of the Ipad
  • If I’m using a keyboard with my iPad, I want it to have a trackpad. But usually for most professional apps on the iPad, I use the touchscreen, because those apps are very much optimized for the touchscreen, and if they have trackpad support at all, it’s very much an under-utilized feature.
  • I thought long and hard before investing stupid money into the Magic Keyboard but I have to say it hasn’t been a purchase I have regretted for a second. The keyboard itself is a pleasure to type on and the trackpad changes the way I have used my iPad Pro. My work is in digital marketing - but I have a team now who do most of the heavy lifting and my work has become (sadly) more administrative. That means I’m working more in email, Teams and Zoom - and in a browser. I do find that I can perform an ever larger part of my job using just my iPhone or iPad and can always use Parallels Access to get into my Mac if I need to. If there were such a thing as ‘business trips’ any more I would be quite confident to just take the iPad - unless it were a longer trip or one where I was expecting to do some local dev/design work.