Apple announced the new iPad Pro 2020 models with as much of a song and dance as you can muster through an online newsroom post, with the big selling points being both the LiDAR sensor on the front of the devices, and compatibility with the new Magic Keyboard, which comes with a trackpad, turning your tablet into a pseudo-laptop.
The Magic Keyboard joins the Smart Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil in the roster of peripherals you can buy for your premium slate, and while I’m not sold on the thing (iPad Pros sit in that sweet spot between smartphone and laptop, the Magic Keyboard skews that balance), some people might find it useful.
However, I’ve been using the iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) daily for almost a year now, complete with the Smart Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil to really round off the experience, and there’s a big issue with the former addition which the Magic Keyboard doesn’t look set to fix – the issue of protection and durability.
A case study
The Smart Keyboard Folio – and, by the looks of it, the Magic Keyboard, although we haven’t tested it yet – works like a case, wrapping around the iPad Pro when it’s closed, and acting as a stand when in action.
As a case, though, the folio doesn’t function very well at all. From less than a years’ use, my one boasts a plethora of injuries, ranging from scuffed edges and various marks to several noticeable areas where the outer layer has bubbled up, like a blister on the material. It’s not exactly a good-looking case any more.
In addition, the iPad Pro hasn’t come away unscathed – some of the edges are marked, especially the buttons, there are some marks on the back that have no obvious cause, and the screen itself has faint but recognizable smudges in the shape of the keys from the keyboard (as the keyboard is pressed against the display when closed).
This wear and tear is despite me being fairly gentle with the tablet – it’s not like I’ve been climbing mountains or skiing with the thing, just putting it in a bag daily for work, and on adventures to coffee shops and cafes now and then.
The Magic Keyboard isn't magic
A little natural damage is expected when you’re using a device frequently, but the Smart Keyboard Folio didn’t protect our device as a case would have done, despite this being one of its two functions – and it doesn’t seem like the Magic Keyboard is set to change that.
Judging by pictures of the thing online, the Magic Keyboard offers no protection to the sides of the iPad Pro 2020, even less so than the Smart Keyboard Folio, which was a touch bigger than the tablet at the edges.
On top of that, it seems like the Magic Keyboard might be prone to wear and tear of its own, since it has a complicated scissor mechanism, lights, a USB-C port and more. Instead of protecting your new iPad Pro, the Magic Keyboard might open your gadgets up to a whole plethora of new problems.
A tablet isn’t a computer – you’re not going to leave it on a desk, visiting it when you need to do a task, play a game or just surf the web. It’s more like a phone that you’re going to carry everywhere with you, even more so than a laptop, as the iPad Pro is smaller and lighter than your average laptop.
If I’m to use my iPad remotely to work, I’m going to want it to be safe to move about, but I’m not sure I could recommend the Smart Keyboard Folio as adequate protection if you’re hoping your tablet will last you for a long time.
The Magic Keyboard doesn’t look set to fix these problems, and might even add some of its own, so instead of encouraging me to take my iPad Pro even more places with me to work, it’s actually making the good old pen-and-paper combo look more tempting.
After all, if I’m being asked to choose between ‘a highly functional iPad Pro that’s prone to damage’ or ‘a well-protected iPad Pro that’s missing some core functions’, I’m not going to pick either.