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Smart Connector on iPads: What is it & Compatible Accessories

Learn about Smart Connector on select iPad models along with the accessories that are compatible with it.

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What is the Smart Connector

Apple added an innovative feature called the Smart Connector to select iPad models in 2015. The Smart Connector is a magnetic port with three dots located on the side of the iPad. It enables seamless connectivity and communication between the iPad and compatible accessories. This innovation allows users to enhance their productivity and creativity by connecting a variety of accessories without requiring wireless technologies such as Bluetooth. In this guide, we will explain what is a Smart Connector, its functionalities, and explore some of the most popular Smart Connector compatible accessories for iPads.

What is a Smart Connector and how does it work?

Apple’s iPad Air and iPad Pro models have a port called Smart Connector, which can be found on the left side or lower back of the device depending on the model. The Smart Connector uses 3 metal contacts that are flush with the surface and are held in place magnetically, similar to the MagSafe power adapter. The Smart Connector can supply power to the peripheral or draw power from the iPad to charge it. Apple’s Smart Keyboard was the first accessory to use the Smart Connector. Apple has made the specifications of the Smart Connector open so that other hardware developers can also adopt it.

iPad Smart Connector

The purpose of this port is to provide power and a data connection to accessories such as keyboards. Apple has made Smart Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio accessories for this port that do not require batteries and can receive updates through the iPad. Third-party companies like Logitech are also allowed by Apple to create accessories that utilize the port.

Smart Connector was first introduced in September 2015 when the first iPad Pro was launched. It was later added to the 3rd-generation iPad Air and the 7th-generation iPad, but the iPad mini is the only model without it. Apple’s Smart Keyboard was the only device that used this connector. However, Apple has released the specifications of the Smart Connector to third-party developers to encourage them to implement it into their products.

However, in November 2018, Apple made a controversial decision to reposition the Smart Connector to the back of the new 3rd-generation iPad Pro models (both the 12.9-inch and 11-inch variants), which received criticism for deviating from the standard usage location. At first, there were only a few major manufacturers, such as Logitech and Brydge, producing accessories for the Smart Connector. However, many third-party companies were unhappy with the expensive and time-consuming proprietary components, which made it difficult for them to create compatible accessories.

In a subsequent development in October 2022, Apple once again relocated the Smart Connector, this time to the back of the 10.9-inch 10th-generation iPad. Unfortunately, this change rendered existing accessories for 10.9-inch iPad Airs and 11-inch iPad Pros incompatible with the new iPad, despite adopting an otherwise similar form factor. This move stirred further discussions about the impact of such changes on the accessory ecosystem and the user experience.

Overall, the Smart Connector has been a significant feature in select iPad models, providing a convenient and efficient way to connect peripherals without the need for Bluetooth or other wireless technologies. However, the changes in its positioning have brought both opportunities and challenges for accessory manufacturers, and the future evolution of the Smart Connector remains a topic of interest and speculation among the Apple community.

Apple has been working closely with Logitech to develop more Smart Connector accessories, giving the accessory maker advanced notice of new products. This has resulted in Logitech being able to release a Smart Connector keyboard on the same day that the first iPad Pro was launched in 2015, a Smart Connector charging base less than a month after the 9.7-inch iPad Pro was released in March 2016, and a new Smart Connector keyboard alongside the launch of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

Which iPads have a Smart Connector?

Smart Connector is designed to improve the productivity and functionality of iPads by allowing them to easily connect with a variety of accessories. There are several accessories that can be used with the iPad through the Smart Connector.

The following iPads have a Smart Connector:

  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation or later)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later)
  • iPad Air (4th or 5th generation)
  • iPad (7th, 8th, or 9th generation)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st or 2nd generation)
iPad ModelSmart Connector Location
iPad Pro 9.7-inchSide
iPad Pro 10.5-inchSide
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generation)Side
iPad (7th, 8th, and 9th generation)Side
iPad Air (3rd generation)Side
iPad Pro 11-inch (1st and 2nd generation)Back
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd and 4th generation)Back
iPad Air (4th and 5th generation)Back
iPad Models with Smart Connector

iPad Smart Connector accessories

As the Smart Connector gained popularity, many compatible accessories were developed to cater to different user needs. Let’s explore some of the most notable ones:

Apple Smart Keyboard

Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad 7

Smart Keyboard is a popular accessory made for iPad Pro models with a Smart Connector. It’s both a full-sized keyboard and a protective cover, which is great for turning your iPad into a productive device. Additionally, the Smart Keyboard doesn’t require charging or batteries as it draws power from the iPad. It has a lightweight design and is easy to carry with you while you’re on the go. Lastly, the keyboard’s keys are comfortable for typing.

Apple Smart Folio

iPad Pro 2020 with Keyboard Folio

The Smart Folio is a protective cover for iPad Pro models that works like the Smart Keyboard. It is slim and has an adjustable stand for different viewing angles. It attaches securely to the Smart Connector, and it won’t move during use. The Smart Folio protects the screen and helps to save battery life by automatically putting the iPad to sleep when the cover is closed and waking it up when opened.

Logitech Base

Logitech base

Logitech Base is a charging stand made for certain iPad models that have the Smart Connector. It functions as a charging dock and a stand, enabling users to charge their iPad while using it at a convenient viewing angle. Because of the magnetic attachment, users can use their iPads in portrait or landscape mode while charging and be assured of a secure connection.

Logitech Combo Touch

Logitech combo

Logitech Combo Touch is a keyboard case designed for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro as well as the iPad Air (4th and 5th generation). It has a detachable keyboard, a trackpad, and a built-in stand. The backlit keyboard, trackpad, and stand make it a great choice for students and professionals. The keyboard can be removed so you can use it as a protective case or a traditional keyboard.

Zagg Rugged Pro Connect

Zagg Rugged Pro Connect

Zagg Rugged Pro Connect is a keyboard case that comes with a detachable keyboard and built-in stand. It can be used with the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation), as well as the iPad Air (4th and 5th generation). The case has an IP42 rating, which means it can protect your device from spills. Additionally, it has a designated space to store your Apple Pencil. With its durability and versatility, the Rugged Pro Connect is an excellent option for users in search of a keyboard case.

MIDI Controllers

Musicians and music enthusiasts can use MIDI controllers that connect to the iPad through the Smart Connector. This direct connection allows for better communication between the instrument and the device. With these controllers, users can play virtual instruments, record music, and control music production software with greater accuracy and responsiveness.

Other Third-Party Keyboards

In addition to Apple’s own Smart Keyboard, other manufacturers have created keyboards that are compatible with the Smart Connector. These keyboards offer different designs and features to suit different user preferences and needs. But there are not many third-party manufacturers that are making smart connector compatible accessories for iPads. 

In order to use the Smart Connector in their accessories, manufacturers must become a part of Apple’s Made for iPad program. This program offers testing tools, product certification, technical information, and support, but involves paying a royalty fee whose exact amount is undisclosed. The market for iPad Pro accessories is currently limited due to the royalty fees and the small number of iPad Pro users, especially during this time of economic and social instability. Another restriction to consider is that the technology requires the use of specific components, which can only be obtained from Apple or select partner companies, meaning there is proprietary hardware involved.

Many accessory manufacturers prefer Bluetooth as a more suitable option for their iPad keyboard designs, offering greater flexibility than the Smart Connector. Additionally, advances in Bluetooth technology have led to longer battery life, with some smaller batteries now capable of lasting for several months rather than just a few weeks.

Can iPad be charged through smart connector?

If you own an iPad Pro (first or second generation), the 10.5-inch iPad Air, or the 10.2-inch iPad, you can charge it using the Smart Connector. However, the charging process will be very slow. The Smart Connector is an interesting feature that allows you to connect accessories that draw power directly from the tablet. This eliminates the need to charge accessory batteries separately. It’s fascinating to see how much the smart connector can do with the example of the official Smart Keyboard. Additionally, you can use the connector to charge the iPad as well, if that’s what you prefer.

Why is my iPad Battery draining so fast

However, there is an issue with the Smart Connector. Although it has its benefits, it charges the iPad at a noticeably slow rate, similar to using a 5W wall adapter. The only saving grace here is that it keeps charging while being attached to an external smart accessory. 

The main point is that the Smart Connector can charge the iPad, but it may be a slow process. Surprisingly, there are currently no accessories that fully utilize its potential. Although it is possible to have a battery case for the iPad, this is not a recommended option and manufacturers have not explored this route yet.

Smart Connector and Bluetooth are both wireless technologies that can be used to connect accessories to your iPad. However, there are some key differences between the two technologies.

Smart Connector vs Bluetooth: Which is better?

Smart Connector and Bluetooth are wireless technologies that allow accessories to be connected to your iPad. Nonetheless, there are important distinctions between these two technologies.

Smart Connector provides a more dependable connection compared to Bluetooth, resulting in fewer interruptions or delays when using a Smart Connector accessory. Nonetheless, the availability of Smart Connector accessories is limited compared to Bluetooth ones, and as the Smart Connector is found on the side or back of the iPad, it may not be possible to position your accessory optimally.

On the other hand, Bluetooth has a greater variety of compatible accessories and allows for more flexible placement. However, it is not as dependable as the Smart Connector and you may encounter delays or disconnections. Additionally, connecting a Bluetooth accessory requires pairing it with your iPad and installing relevant drivers.

Choosing the best wireless technology depends on your needs and preferences. For a dependable connection and easy setup, go for the Smart Connector. However, if you want more accessory options or flexible placement, Bluetooth would be a better fit. The most effective way to determine which wireless technology suits your needs is to test out both options and determine which one you like best.


We hope this guide helps you in understanding what a smart connector and finding the compatible accessories for your iPad with one. Smart Connector has improved the user experience of the iPad by providing a simple and dependable way to connect different accessories. It can transfer power and data at the same time, without requiring pairing or charging. The Smart Connector is helpful for tasks like productivity work, creative ventures, and leisure activities.

The Smart Connector ecosystem has experienced substantial growth, with many third-party manufacturers introducing creative tools like MIDI controllers, as well as productivity-focused accessories like keyboards and stands.

While there are some restrictions and difficulties like limited compatibility, the Smart Connector still has a bright future ahead. As Apple keeps improving its iPad range and accessories, we can expect the Smart Connector to undergo further advancements and upgrades, establishing it as an essential part of the iPad family.



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