Just to be precise, I’m talking about the separately sold Bluetooth Magic Keyboard that comes bundled with an iMac. It’s slight, light and very reliable as a keyboard, with the keys being almost perfect for long-form writing.
I use one regularly in my iPad Pro/Canopy setup. With added mouse/trackpad support, the experience is even better now. But the keyboard lacks two things that I think would be relatively trivial for Apple to add.
One change that just about everybody in the Mac-verse is requesting is the inverted-T configuration for the arrow keys. Even after several years of use, I frequently fumble around trying to hit the right key only finding myself having to look at the keyboard to accomplish the task. It’s not a big deal, and frankly, I’ve lived with it for many years now — especially since my MBP 13-inch has the same arrangement — but it is such a flow-breaker, that it feels like a punishment and not an encouragement to type.
The keyboard exists, as evidenced on the new 13” MBP released yesterday and on the previously released 16” MBP a short time back. It should be a simple re-tooling of the production line to incorporate the changes and ramp up production. To be fair, there may be a fair bit of inventory that needs to go before a full ramp-up is ordered, but that shouldn’t take long as this old design is included in all iMacs, and they’re selling quite well at the moment according to the latest financial results and subsequent investors call. Tim Cook made comments on the health of Mac sales due to increased WFH and that Apple is bullish on Mac sales going forward.
The second change, a backlight keyboard, is a modification that would be the icing on the cake. I don’t know if it’s feasible or if it would be too much of a battery drain or not. Having it would materially improve life with one of these keyboards in low light working conditions.
Current keyboards are charged via the lightning port and have really long battery life. I’m writing on my iPad with one at the moment, and I can’t even remember when I last charged it. I’d probably better check. The question then is, would a bigger battery be necessary to have acceptable battery life and backlighting.
I think I’d be prepared to accept that kind of trade-off towards slightly heavier to have backlighting. In doing so, it might require charging the keyboard more frequently as a result too. Again, I’m willing to accept that on the face of it. To be fair, I’m charging pretty much all the devices like the iPad nightly as it is. The other side of the argument is manifest in the way AirPods are just so much more enjoyable to use because you don’t have to think about charging nearly as much. But I’d argue that this is incomparable.
When you think about Apple’s products in their entirety, you tend to see that AirPods (and to some extent the Apple Pencil) have accessory devices that keep their charge topped up when stowed away. The AirPods have their case that can be charged separately and independently, and the Apple Pencil charges directly on the iPad. The beauty of that design being that those devices are always ready for use.
Keyboards and Mice are not in that category. They are standalone devices with no accessories to suck power from. And yes, while writing this, a thought popped into my mind about the now-infamous AirPower. A mouse may have been in development to be able to charge wirelessly overnight on the pad. I’m guessing a keyboard too. It’s not a power question, it’s more of a design and usefulness trade-off.
For now, I would just like to see those two ameliorations and dream of a future with fewer wires. Tomorrow I guess.
5 May 2020 — French West Indies