Currently, giving the iPad Pro a keyboard works in one of two ways. Either the keyboard attaches to the “smart connector” to send inputs to the attached tablet and receive the power it requires to operate, or you use a discrete battery-powered keyboard that attaches via Bluetooth or a cable. But Apple’s thought up another way.
A patent found by Apple Insider, granted to Apple by the USPTO on March 5, details a new design for an iPad keyboard that clamps onto the touchscreen of the tablet and sends its data through a “remote capacitive interface”.
The keyboard attaches to the iPad via a sliding mechanism that prevents excessive force being used. The press of a key activates its two respective contacts, causing them to press the display in a way that the iPad recognises as a specific input. The tablet itself would perform the processing, allowing the keyboard to work without an internal power source, which would hopefully translate to a cheaper manufacturing cost and price in-store.
Since the iPad supports multiple touches at once, it therefore seems reasonable that it would be able to recognise multiple key presses at once with this method. It would mean one could use keys like shift, control or caps lock in the way you’d expect, a must-have basic feature for a keyboard, even if it’s a new variety like this would be. The contacts would mean you may sometimes be unable to use a finger or stylus to navigate the screen at the same time as holding a key, but hopefully that wouldn’t interfere with normal use too much, if at all.
Patents are still patents though. Even if Apple decides to sell this exact design, which it may well not do, it could be several years before we’re able to buy the finished product due to all the testing and refining that would need to happen to the keyboard first. But all the same, this is a smart idea.
Real-life use of this patent would allow for keyboards that are compatible with multiple tablets and can be produced cheaply due to a simple internal design. Some users would likely still prefer the multifunctional design of Apple’s current Smart Keyboard covers that also protect the display when not in use, but an increased choice of products is a good thing for consumers.