Apple’s next Smart Keyboard for iPad could mimic backlighting, according to new patents. Unlike the more expensive Magic Keyboards, the Smart Keyboards have always lacked the feature and until recently it looked like they always would.
The issue has previously been that backlighting normally requires holes in the keyboard, which would negate the Smart Keyboard’s clean design and add space for dust and dirt in between the keys.
However, the new patent reveals that this smart keyboard could use “fabric items with thermally imprinted light-emitting regions” rather than more traditional LEDs. Apple highlights some issues with its design though, saying “if care is not taken, fabric-based items will not have visually appealing illumination, will be too complex to manufacture, or will not have desired patterns of illumination.”
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As with all patent news we have to take it with a pinch of salt. It’s very possible this design will never see the light of day - especially if it is hard to pull off. But it shows us that Apple is looking at ways to improve its iPad keyboard offerings. Perhaps this is linked to the new iPad Pro’s M1 chip putting it on par with some top laptops on the market.
Can Apple do more to improve its smart keyboard?
Backlighting on the next Smart Keyboard would be a huge advantage for future iPad users, especially those who want to use it later into the evening, though it’s not all the add-on was missing.
For one we’d like to see a trackpad introduced. This could either be an actual trackpad or through the use of vibration sensors detect your movements on a solid surface - and have been rumored for the Magic Keyboard. Currently the Smart Keyboard doesn’t have a trackpad and so navigation isn’t the most intuitive, as you have to use the screen and keys simultaneously.
Our other gripe is protection. We’d like a keyboard case that succeeds better at being a protective cover for our devices. The current options aren’t likely to help you out if your iPad falls, so finding better ways to keep everything in one piece is vital.
We’ll have to see what Apple introduces with its next Smart Keyboard offering, and it might not be too long before we see it.
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Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.