Budget 2019 iPad needs to include Apple Keyboard [Opinion]

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A budget iPad with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil would be tough competition for a Chromebook.
A budget iPad with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil would be tough competition for a Chromebook.
Photo: Apple

Details  on an upcoming pair of iPad models are already trickling out, and today came word that these tablets might support an Apple clip-on keyboard. At least one of these models is expected to target the classroom, making the release of a Smart Keyboard for it a very welcome addition.

This change might help Apple regain some of the ground it’s lost in education.

Unconfirmed details of the 2019 iPad

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith was the first to discover references to a pair of upcoming iPads in the next iOS version.  He found device codes not names, but these make it clear that these products will be tablets. 

Today he turned up new details. Troughton-Smith reports “It seems like both iPad sizes support a Smart Keyboard and Pencil.” Though he admits he’s “not 100% sure on any of this.”

He also says it seems both models will have Touch ID, implying they’ll use Apple’s old tablet form factor, with a Home button and no edge-to-edge screen.

An Apple 2-in-1 for the classroom 

iOS 12.2 supposedly has clear references to two iPads, but nothing specific about screen size has been revealed. Still, it’s quite likely one of these is a replacement for the low-cost 9.7-inch iPad created for students, as rumors of new budget tablets have been circulating.

If there is a new education-oriented slate in the offing, and the information about a Smart Keyboard for this model is also true, this is great news for anyone who want to deploy iPads in the classroom. The budget 2018 iPad was a big step in this direction, as it supports the Apple Pencil, but students want keyboards. iOS tablets have to compete with Chromebooks, and those Chrome OS laptops have the text input method most people prefer.

An iPad with a removable keyboard and pressure-sensitive stylus is more versatile than any Chromebook, able to function as both tablet and laptop.  Students can use the same computer in art class and history class. Or gather science data in the field then write up a report on it without switching devices.

There are already plenty of Bluetooth keyboards available for 9.7-inch iPad models, but the Apple Smart keyboards communicate with the tablet via a small port rather than a wireless connection. That simplifies setup for a few dozen students in a single classroom, as there are no hassles with pairing devices. Also, Apple’s own iPad keyboards are spill- and dust-proof.

As mentioned, the Apple Pencil can already be used with the 2018 iPad, so it’s no surprise that its successor apparently can as well. Whether this will be the original version of this stylus or the improved replacement that came out in the fall isn’t known. The newer version is a bit better, but it’s also more expensive: $129 vs. $99.

iPad vs. Chromebook prices

The current 9.7-inch iPad is $229, and it costs even less when purchased by schools and educators. The replacement needs to be equally affordable, as the reason so many schools switched to Chromebooks is their low cost.

Any Apple Smart keyboard for this tablet also needs to be inexpensive. The version for the 2018 iPad Pro starts at $179, which is vastly more than a school is able to pay. Having it actually bundled with the tablet is probably too much to hope for, though it would make this iPad an even stronger Chromebook competitor.

The other tablet Troughton-Smith found mentioned in iOS 12.2 could be the iPad mini 5 that’s been the subject of recent rumors. This is supposed to be the first small slate with support for the Apple Pencil and an Apple Keyboard… which just might give it a role in the classroom too.