Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

L’Affaire du Magic Keyboard

Nicolas Furno, writing for iGeneration last week and translated by Google:

While the 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro is broadly similar to the 2018 and 2020 models, the new tablet stands out on one point: it’s thicker, at precisely 0.5mm. It might not sound like much, but it’s enough for Apple to adjust its Magic Keyboard, the iPad Pro’s dedicated trackpad keyboard. And according to the documentation provided to the Apple Stores that we have been able to consult, the old Magic Keyboard is not compatible with the large iPad Pros of 2021.

Documentation apparently supplied to Apple Stores and independently confirmed by the Verge indicated that the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro would be incompatible with the Magic Keyboard released last year. The new iPad Pro is just a hair thicker — or, if you want to be precise, somewhere between six and twenty-eight human hairs thicker.

Predictably, there was much frustration about this, and why not? The Magic Keyboard is a $350 accessory that makes a huge difference in the functionality of an iPad Pro, so you would expect it to last longer than a single generation of product. Plus, one of the advantages of making the keyboard separate from the computer — unlike, say, a laptop — ought to be that you can make major upgrades to one part while not making the keyboard redundant. On the other hand, if the difference in thickness has such a significant effect, why would Apple sell a poorly-fitting Magic Keyboard for a year? And how many people upgrade their iPad Pro every year anyway?

Well it turns out that many of those frustrated posts were in vain, as an Apple support document spotted by Chris Ball today made clear:

The first generation of the Magic Keyboard (A1998) is functionally compatible with the new iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation) with Liquid Retina XDR display. Due to the slightly thicker dimensions of this new iPad Pro, it’s possible that the Magic Keyboard may not precisely fit when closed, especially when screen protectors are applied.

Last week, Matt Birchler tried to understand how much of an impact the size and weight difference of the new model may have on his 2020 Magic Keyboard:

To test out the difference, I took a few sheets of printer paper, which happen to be almost exactly the size of the 12.9” iPad Pro, and stacked 7 of them on top of each other, closed the Magic Keyboard, and checked the fit.

The thing closed perfectly, and frankly didn’t feel any different from what it feels like without the additional thickness.

I guess we will see how true this is when reviewers get their hands on the new iPad Pro but, if you are one of the rare few upgrading your last-generation model immediately, I do not think there is cause for concern. The white one sure looks nice, though.