Teardown of iPad Pro Smart Keyboard shows conductive fabric, MacBook-based key design

Posted:
in iPad edited November 2015
A teardown of Apple's Smart Keyboard accessory, published on Tuesday, shows some of the advanced technology underneath including conductive fabric, and a key design borrowed from the 12-inch Retina MacBook.




The device uses multiple layers of fabric and plastic to keep it water- and stain-resistant, repair firm iFixit noted. This includes microfiber, plastic, and what iFixit calls a nylon layer -- in marketing, Apple refers to it simply as polyurethane.

The keys themselves use the same switches found in the 12-inch MacBook. Some other touches include a stiffening weight in the spacebar -- ensuring an even press -- and small vents that allow the air pressure generated by typing to escape.




The most important layer in the product is Apple's conductive fabric strips, which link the keys to the Smart Connector on the outside of the case, and provide two-way power and data. iFixit suggested that these should be more durable than regular wires or flex cables, something also advertised by Apple.

The firm lastly remarked that while the product is tough, it is impossible to repair, since opening it up and replacing anything effectively destroys it.

Apple shipped the Smart Keyboard roughly two weeks ago alongside the Pro, selling it for $169.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    What is there to repair?
  • Reply 2 of 52
    With Apple's products getting smaller and smaller, thinner and thinner, I think this apparent penchant for "repairability" is getting rather silly.

    I, frankly, couldn't care less.

    For example, last year, I bought an iPhone 6+ under AT&T's Next 12 program. And this year, I happily turned it in for a 6S+.

    I want the latest and greatest, and I want to benefit from the new features, both hardware and software.

    Let Apple deal with any repairs they wish to make. Or let them recycle parts and materials. And let me always get Apple Care in case something malfunctions at my end.

    I'm really salivating over this iPad Pro and looking forward to using both keyboard and Pencil along with Adobe's iOS app offerings. The "iPad as graphics tablet" idea is also intriguing, bypassing the whole Wacom thing.
  • Reply 3 of 52
    msanttimsantti Posts: 1,377member
    The profit margin on that thing has got to be epic.
  • Reply 4 of 52
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    While it's cool to see the tech inside this stuff these repairability scores are a joke. I don't understand why iFixit doesn't just do away with the score for those items that aren't repairable. No one is buying an Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard assuming they'll be able to repair it if something goes wrong.
  • Reply 5 of 52
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    msantti wrote: »
    The profit margin on that thing has got to be epic.
    Still probably less than the margins on the $139 Smart Cover & Case.
  • Reply 6 of 52
    msanttimsantti Posts: 1,377member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post





    Still probably less than the margins on the $139 Smart Cover & Case.

    True but probably not far off.

     

    Truthfully, their margins on iDevices and Macs pretty fair compaared to their accessories which are insane.

  • Reply 7 of 52
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,472member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     

    Many people also grumble that Apple making devices thinner and lighter does not add value.  They would rather have a thicker/heavier device with a larger battery.

     


     

    No, no they don’t. People want longer use between charges. Instead of larger batteries the industry should be hell bent on better batteries. In fact there should be a Manhattan Project style program to advanced power technology. 19th century technology is holding back 21st century progress. In the real world we still have paper cones attached to magnets to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy, i.e. sound. Same goes for power technology, a chemical reaction that moves electrons down a wire.

  • Reply 8 of 52
    msanttimsantti Posts: 1,377member
    sog35 wrote: »
    Apple's company wide profit margins are less than 25%.  That's significantly lower than Microsofts and Google's profit margins.

    If that's too rich for your blood feel free to buy some cheap chinese knock off crap at Alibaba.

    The ADF is real strong here.

    Sorry for whining about pricey accessories. Did not mean to offend you.

    I own a 21.5" iMac, an older 13" MacBook, two iPhone 6s Plus's, Two Apple TV 4's, and an iPad Air 2.

    So I am in the Apple camp. But I am willing to call Apple out from time to time.

    I don't need to be part of the defense force:
  • Reply 9 of 52
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

     

     

    No, no they don’t. People want longer use between charges. Instead of larger batteries the industry should be hell bent on better batteries. In fact there should be a Manhattan Project style program to advanced power technology. 19th century technology is holding back 21st century progress. In the real world we still have paper cones attached to magnets to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy, i.e. sound. Same goes for power technology, a chemical reaction that moves electrons down a wire.


     

    There has been billions and billions of dollars invested in battery technology over the last 15 years.   The same advancements that allow for better batteries is needed in everything from motorcycles, automobiles, buses, and mobile computer devices.  Just because you want something does not mean they will adhere to any timetable....   In the interim they try to deal with the problem in many different ways.... like better efficiency (displays have progressed considerably during the last 5 years), processors, etc..... The other way to solve it is to make charging the devices easier and more natural during the day.... like placing induction charging in restaurant, bar, or coffee tables.  Adding induction charging to office desks etc.  The public often says one thing but reality is quite different.  They say they want bigger / longer batteries, but they favour lighter devices.  Apple for one generally aims at a sweet spot that keeps a majority of it's users satisfied.... aiming for average use full day charges (of course if you play games or spend 8 hours a day on the phone or use it for portable wifi -- it might run out earlier).  For those people that really need it and don't mind the bulk there are things like portable batteries, or battery cases that wrap the device with additional storage and a thicker device.   

  • Reply 10 of 52
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,035member
    iFixit says it's nylon, and the article says that Apple calls it polyurethane, for marketing reasons? That's really odd. I would think that Apple knows what material it uses, whether it's nylon or polyurethane, and that iFixit is just quessing.
  • Reply 11 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by msantti View Post





    The ADF is real strong here.



    Sorry for whining about pricey accessories. Did not mean to offend you.



    I own a 21.5" iMac, an older 13" MacBook, two iPhone 6s Plus's, Two Apple TV 4's, and an iPad Air 2.



    So I am in the Apple camp. But I am willing to call Apple out from time to time.



    I don't need to be part of the defense force:

    You can whine all you want about Apple being pricey... but it won't amount to a hill of beans.  Apple charges what they think their products are worth and what people are willing to pay for them....   The Apple keyboard may be pricey, and if you feel that feel free to chose one of many competing products like the one just introduced (likely the first of many) from Logitech - save $20.  For some that $20 will be worth it, or the additional "keyfall" on the logitech keyboard might also be worth it to some.... but I have no doubt (without empirical evidence) that the Apple keyboard is likely a better build quality.    Simply put, if it is worth it to you buy Apple if not buy something else.  (I use apple products, but even for my mac at home I use the Microsoft ergonomic keyboard and logitech mouse).

  • Reply 12 of 52
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,175member
    melgross wrote: »
    iFixit says it's nylon, and the article says that Apple calls it polyurethane, for marketing reasons? That's really odd. I would think that Apple knows what material it uses, whether it's nylon or polyurethane, and that iFixit is just quessing.
    More accurately iFixit says there are multiple layers of various compositions comprising the cover. One of those, the plastic layer, could be the "polyurethane" Apple refers to so both descriptions could be correct. Wouldn't polyurethane need to be bonded to "something" to create a fabric?

    "This includes microfiber, plastic, and what iFixit calls a nylon layer -- in marketing, Apple refers to it simply as polyurethane."
  • Reply 13 of 52
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,035member
    What is there to repair?

    Nothing. It's sealed and watertight. People need to remember that iFixit's business is selling tools and parts. When they can't do that, they're unhappy.

    Unfortunately for them, mobile products that are less repairable aren't made that way to thwart users. They're made that way because it's cheaper to build, it weighs less. It's thinner. It's more reliable and has better performance.

    There a new Android phone out that's 100% fixable. It's bulky, weighs more, and costs about $100 more than a comparably equipped Android phone. My guess, from looking at the enternals, is that it will break more easily, requiring more repairs than other products.The adhesives, which most people disparagingly refer to as glue, have many advantages to screws, which most people seem to like the idea of.
  • Reply 14 of 52
    The cavemen with screwdrivers have judged this product unrepairable by cavemen with screwdrivers.
  • Reply 15 of 52
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,175member
    melgross wrote: »
    Nothing. It's sealed and watertight. People need to remember that iFixit's business is selling tools and parts. When they can't do that, they're unhappy.

    Unfortunately for them, mobile products that are less repairable aren't made that way to thwart users. They're made that way because it's cheaper to build, it weighs less. It's thinner. It's more reliable and has better performance.

    There a new Android phone out that's 100% fixable. It's bulky, weighs more, and costs about $100 more than a comparably equipped Android phone. My guess, from looking at the enternals, is that it will break more easily, requiring more repairs than other products.The adhesives, which most people disparagingly refer to as glue, have many advantages to screws, which most people seem to like the idea of.
    Simply for reference:
    https://www.ifixit.com/smartphone-repairability
    Not yet included in that list is iFixit's score for the most recent Nexus phone, the 6P. It's gets a 2 for repairability.
  • Reply 16 of 52
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,035member
    gatorguy wrote: »

    Nobody cares.
  • Reply 17 of 52
    msanttimsantti Posts: 1,377member
    bkkcanuck wrote: »
    You can whine all you want about Apple being pricey... but it won't amount to a hill of beans.  Apple charges what they think their products are worth and what people are willing to pay for them....   The Apple keyboard may be pricey, and if you feel that feel free to chose one of many competing products like the one just introduced (likely the first of many) from Logitech - save $20.  For some that $20 will be worth it, or the additional "keyfall" on the logitech keyboard might also be worth it to some.... but I have no doubt (without empirical evidence) that the Apple keyboard is likely a better build quality.    Simply put, if it is worth it to you buy Apple if not buy something else.  (I use apple products, but even for my mac at home I use the Microsoft ergonomic keyboard and logitech mouse).

    Like I said about defending Apple.

    I have not called their devices and computers pricey.

    I just think some of their accessories are.

    Some people get in a twist over nothing.
  • Reply 18 of 52
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,175member
    melgross wrote: »
    Nobody cares.
    You obviously did since you mentioned why repairability reports matter. Seems pertinent to the point you were making doesn't it? No reason to be dismissive of it IMHO.
  • Reply 19 of 52
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,035member
    msantti wrote: »
    The ADF is real strong here.

    Sorry for whining about pricey accessories. Did not mean to offend you.

    I own a 21.5" iMac, an older 13" MacBook, two iPhone 6s Plus's, Two Apple TV 4's, and an iPad Air 2.

    So I am in the Apple camp. But I am willing to call Apple out from time to time.

    I don't need to be part of the defense force:

    The problem is that we really don't how much it costs to make any of this stuff. I can make a fair estimate with electronics, since that was my business for a number of years, but something like this keyboard is tough. My thinking is that Microsoft is subsidizing their keyboards as they so often do with their hardware. Though a few people here have dented it, a keyboard is a serious accessory for a Surface Pro tablet, and Microsoft wants to encourage people to buy it. Apple is more ambivalent. They also don't have loss leaders. It's likely they do make a good profit on it.
  • Reply 20 of 52
    melgross wrote: »
    Nothing. It's sealed and watertight. People need to remember that iFixit's business is selling tools and parts. When they can't do that, they're unhappy.

    Unfortunately for them, mobile products that are less repairable aren't made that way to thwart users. They're made that way because it's cheaper to build, it weighs less. It's thinner. It's more reliable and has better performance.

    There a new Android phone out that's 100% fixable. It's bulky, weighs more, and costs about $100 more than a comparably equipped Android phone. My guess, from looking at the enternals, is that it will break more easily, requiring more repairs than other products.The adhesives, which most people disparagingly refer to as glue, have many advantages to screws, which most people seem to like the idea of.

    I've heard weak arguments from the habitual forum naysayers that claim unrepairable Apple products = landfill. This bothers me when 1) you can recycle electronics, and 2) most electronics I've recycled are obsolete but still fully functional because they made well enough to last the life of the product. In my mind, glue and low "repairability scores" from the likes of iFixit have little impact to what goes into landfills. A public awareness campaign to recycle EOL electronics will have a greater net positive impact to the environment than making electronics "repairable" by the minority of the population that is DIY inclined.
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