Last year’s $329 iPad was targeted at schools for educational use, but it still ironically didn’t support Apple’s Smart Keyboard. The 2019 iPad aims to rectify that with the inclusion of the Smart Connector that acts as a single access point for both data and power for compatible keyboards. Paired with the now-compatible Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil, the iPad 10.2 is coming off as a complete package.
A section of the userbase still doesn’t prefer the Apple keyboard for it is less than ideal for extended typing and even the added smart connectivity options couldn’t make up for the fact. Below mentioned are some great alternatives to the Apple Smart Keyboard for the 7th-gen iPad. But before that, let’s know everything about the Smart Keyboard itself.
The iPad 10.2 and its Smart Connector
Alongside this year’s iPhones, Apple announced an update to its cheapest tablet, simply called the iPad. Among its major upgrades was the size bump that gave it the footprint of the $499 iPad Air 2019 along with a display of 10.2 inches, up from 9.7 inches of the 2018 model. Besides borrowing the Air’s dimensions, the 7th-gen iPad also adopted its Smart Connector which serves a couple of purposes.
The connector is proprietary to Apple and looks like three dots that are placed on the left edge of the iPad when it’s oriented vertically. With its magnetic attachment mechanism, a compatible keyboard will snap into the right place and will automatically pair with the iPad without you having to lift a finger. This eliminates the need to do manual pairing before each use or charge the keyboard, as well.
Apple Smart Keyboard
The purpose of increasing the tablet’s size was to make it compatible with the existing Smart Keyboard that Apple has been offering since the days of the iPad Pro 10.5. The keyboard now works with both the iPad Air 3 and the iPad 7. With its foldable design, it forms a stand for the tablet, although its angle remains fixed.
Even though Apple’s keyboard offering makes the entire process before beginning to type effortless, the typing experience itself seems lacking. The Smart Keyboard is fine for some casual use or occasional professional use, but it cannot match a real keyboard. Moreover, it’s priced at $159 which is a little under half of the iPad’s retail price itself.
Some Keyboard Alternatives
All Apple products enjoy a rich third-party accessory market that churns out thousands of products that you can pick from. There are a handful of keyboard options for the budget Apple tablet that have consistently given a superior typing experience in our testing and cost way less than the Smart Keyboard.
However, make sure to go for a keyboard accessory that is compatible with the iPad 10.2 specifically and not the iPad Air 10.5 since they both differ in thickness. These are our recommendations for the best Smart Keyboard alternatives for the Apple iPad 10.2.
Logitech’s 2019 Range
Soon after the iPad 10.2 was made official, Logitech upgraded its existing best-selling Slim Folio to fit the new device. It still costs $99.99 on the company’s official website and uses Bluetooth, instead of the Smart Connector, to pair with the iPad. The case properly protects the tablet from all its sides and has a tactile keyboard for an improved experience. You can slide the Apple Pencil into a convenient holder placed on the side.
Besides this upgrade, the company announced a new Rugged Folio for the new iPad 7. Despite its rugged moniker, the case isn’t all that thick while it keeps the tablet secure from all sides, even from the front. A kickstand is included that can be positioned at any angle. It uses the Smart Connector for its connectivity and power needs. The keyboard deck folds back when not in use and is spill-proof. Its magnetic closing mechanism can also hold the Apple Pencil. You can grab one of these for $140.
Brydge is another popular brand in this space that has queued up to bring its own keyboard case for the iPad lineup. It has established itself as a brand that (almost) turns your iPad into a computer, in a way that even Apple couldn’t do despite a humongous marketing budget, with its MacBook-style keyboard cases. The one made for the 7th-gen iPad is simply called Brydge 10.2 and is priced at $129.99.
The keyboard has sturdy clips on both its sides to hold the tablet and give it that laptop-esque density while folding. With a silver deck and black keys, the keyboard takes inspirations from MacBook models. It can color-match your tablet while having a 12-month battery life. Yes, it connects over Bluetooth 4.0. On a brighter side, you’re getting backlit keys that have 1.2mm of travel.
The Logitech K380 has been our favorite keyboard for nearly all tablets, thanks to its universal compatibility via Bluetooth, and we’ve recommended it several times in the past. Its capability to connect with 3 devices simultaneously keeps it ahead of the crowd. Logitech has priced the K380 well under $50 and our testing has found the typing experience to be much superior to similar offerings.
It requires AAA batteries to run and is not the best keyboard for traveling, given the fact it’s thicker than the Smart Keyboard. If your use case includes occasionally moving away from your desk, then the K380 should be your choice of keyboard.
Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard
Microsoft’s long-forgotten Universal Mobile Keyboard is still in use here at MyNextTablet and it continues to be our go-to choice when traveling. The keyboard has a flap that lays flat when open and features a ridge to hold a tablet or a phone. While keys aren’t the most spacious, they definitely aren’t mushy and get the job done when you’re on the move. It connects over Bluetooth for universal compatibility, justifying its name.
- Bright display
- Solid performance
- Full metal body
- iPadOS with great multitasking
- Apple Pencil support
- Official keyboard cover support
- Long battery life
- Integrated fingerprint scanner
- Old design
- Display not laminated
- No stereo separation
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