Apple says more Smart Connector products for iPad Pro are coming

Posted:
in iPad edited August 2017
A recent conversation with manufacturers mostly points the finger at Apple for slow rollout of Smart Connector peripherals, but Apple itself says that vendors have products in the pipeline using the technology.




FastCompany recently spoke with Incipio, Brydge, Zagg, and other vendors to get to the bottom of the paucity of Smart Connector devices. The picture painted is one of Apple control of the technology potentially leading to slow adoption, and Bluetooth's wide acceptance creating an environment where it's easier to ignore the port than to implement it.

"With an iPad Pro keyboard on the market already, we are evaluating the market's appetite for another iPad Pro keyboard and identifying if there are any gaps that we can fill," Incipio spokesperson Kelly McElroy told FastCompany. "So we are developing with having a point of difference in mind rather than developing to be quick to market."

However, Incipio's Director of Product Development Carlos Del Toro had a different story for FastCompany. Initially, Del Toro said that the company was waiting for testing standards from apple and the testing components weren't available -- but backed off those claims and acknowledged that it hadn't finished a product.

"They're very cautious with what they do, and they want to make sure they get it right," Del Toro said. "It's one thing to develop with a partner that is custom, and another thing to develop a platform so that others can use it."

Another unnamed source said that getting components to use the connector took "close to six months" to deliver very expensive components.

Not a perfect port

There may be more to the slow adoption than cost or unavailability of components. Brydge's CEO Nicholas Smith believes that the implementation is problematic, and limiting for accessory vendors.

"The thing with the pogo pin design, in particular with the way that Apple's implemented it on the iPad, is it's incredibly limiting," Smith said to FastCompany. "Looking ahead, there is no reason why the Smart Connector wouldn't be considered for future Brydge products -- if the application is right."

Bluetooth isn't under Apple's thumb

Another possibility for the lack of Smart Connector products is that Bluetooth is far better than it was in early incarnations, and battery technology has surpassed early limitations on devices.

"One benefit of the Smart Connector is that it allows users to power their keyboard from the tablet's power supply," Jeff Meek, a senior product manager for Zagg, said to FastCompany. "But where our keyboards have up to a two-year battery life onboard under average use, we don't see power as a significant pain point to solve through the connector."

Apple isn't silent on the matter

Apple uncharacteristically responded to the FastCompany piece. While a specific spokesperson was not named, Apple confirmed that "multiple companies" are in the process of cranking out Smart Connector accessories. No timeline was given, nor were any companies named.

Apple's Smart Connector debuted with the iPad Pro in the fall of 2015. At present, the connector is seen on the entire iPad Pro line, including the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro. It has yet to debut on the iPhone, despite being rumored for inclusion in the iPhone 7.

The only peripherals for it at present are made by Apple itself, or Logitech.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,476member
    Maybe Brydge's CEO company lacks the imagination to make a product, not that Apple implementation is limiting. I think this is really code for, apple solution does not allow them to make one product for everyone.
    williamlondonlolliver
  • Reply 2 of 18
    The smart connector would be ideal for a payments terminal, which would detect removal of the device from its cradle and permit iPad to be continually charged without having anything plugged into the lightning port. Plug-ins are awkward at a payments terminal, where movement and jostling are common.
    edited August 2017 lolliver
  • Reply 3 of 18
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 169member
    maestro64 said:
    Maybe Brydge's CEO company lacks the imagination to make a product, not that Apple implementation is limiting. I think this is really code for, apple solution does not allow them to make one product for everyone.
    The casing is different for each iPad, so they really can't make just one product for everyone anyway. Bumping the smaller iPad Pro to 10.5" pretty much killed the "only-one" design concept.

    That said, I'd love for Apple to bring back the original iPad Keyboard concept, updated for the Smart Connector.
  • Reply 4 of 18
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,789member
    I'm glad to hear this...IMO, this is really a very underutilized connector that would benefit everyone in the end and make the iPad that much more functional. 
    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 18
    I'd love to know about the tech behind this port. What is it capable of? Can the new accessories have ports on them? How fast is the data possibilities? It'd be awesome if you did an article on the tech of the Smart Connector. Thanks
    bonobobwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 18
    Zagg's comment is telling, but ignorant. They still have to incorporate a battery in the keyboard currently, which they wouldn't have to do, saving space/weight at the very least. I love their folio keyboard case, it's a perfect product (and some of its other lines) in which to support the Smart Connector.

    More so however, I wonder what other *types* of products *could* or *might* take advantage of this port. Have we seen any specs regarding throughput and speeds? A dock which connects to many peripherals might be interesting such as a bigger screen, keyboard, pointing device (if iOS ever supports it of course), power to charge from the one dock, that might be interesting for lots of types of users.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 18
    Aside from keyboards, what other products are there that could attach via the Smart Connector? External storage seems like a 'no', and I imagine would need to use its own app to work. I get that people have different needs but I have a 256GB iPad Pro and currently have 214GB available, for me storage isn't an issue.

    As mentioned above, payment terminals could work, too, but that market may be much smaller than the keyboard market.

    Is there anything that makes the Smart Connector more attractive than using the Lightning port to connect, from a get-this-to-work standpoint? It's obviously better for the keyboard to connect at the SC, but for instance, the Camera Connection Kit wouldn't really benefit over the LP.  

    And there aren't that many accessories that connect via the Lightning port.  Off the top of my head I can think of just a few: extended batteries (iPhone), cameras (iPhone), Camera Connection Kits (iPhone, iPad) and bar code scanners (iPad). Aside from keyboards I don't see a benefit to any of the rest to connect at the SC than the LP.  There may be more but my original question remains.
    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 18
    bb-15bb-15 Posts: 250member
    From the article;

    "Another possibility for the lack of Smart Connector products is that Bluetooth is far better than it was in early incarnations..."

    An important point. I use a Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad. I would not consider a Smart Keyboard if I had a Pro because of the on screen keyboard issue. With the Smart Keyboard and the Smart Connector, the onscreen keyboard does not come up unless the keyboard is disconnected. Logitech has a version where their Smart Connector keyboard can be switched more easily with the onscreen keyboard. 
    Still imo that's an inconvenient solution compared with a Bluetooth keyboard. 

    With Bluetooth keyboards the physical keyboard and onscreen keyboard are available at all times. 
    The onscreen keyboard is very useful in iOS 10 as a trackpad to give precision cursor pointing on a capable iPad. 
    edited August 2017 williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 18
    Still don't understand why no one has seriously mentioned a link to external drives. Given the number of awkward work around solutions out there, a demand is apparent. But it seems this is an Apple point of principle vs what folks want. 
    williamlondonmike54
  • Reply 10 of 18
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,617member
    I can't see how the smart connectors would become popular until there are more uses that a keyboard.  Pointing devices, nightstand chargers, additional storage, display linkage/transmission etc.

    also, it is restricted to landscape.  To be really flexible you need it for portrait as well, adding to design and space costs.  And it never arriving on the iPhone is telling.

    I think wireless solutions will overcome the smart connector.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,157member
    I'm not a visionary, so I see the Smart Connector limited to— keyboards, which is why Apple designed it. With it, you don't need a powered keyboard.

    As to what additional uses the SC would be useful, let alone superior, I haven't a clue.  


    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 18
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,476member
    hmlongco said:
    maestro64 said:
    Maybe Brydge's CEO company lacks the imagination to make a product, not that Apple implementation is limiting. I think this is really code for, apple solution does not allow them to make one product for everyone.
    The casing is different for each iPad, so they really can't make just one product for everyone anyway. Bumping the smaller iPad Pro to 10.5" pretty much killed the "only-one" design concept.

    That said, I'd love for Apple to bring back the original iPad Keyboard concept, updated for the Smart Connector.

    I mean for the android guys, ie Bluetooth does not matter what is connected to. Apple's solution is only for Apple if you going to make something for Apple everyone else does not get to benefit from it.
  • Reply 13 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,840member
    Still don't understand why no one has seriously mentioned a link to external drives. Given the number of awkward work around solutions out there, a demand is apparent. But it seems this is an Apple point of principle vs what folks want. 
    I think we're getting there, since iOS 11 brings a far more comprehensive means of file management. Maybe in another year or so?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 18
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,399member
    entropys said:
    I can't see how the smart connectors would become popular until there are more uses that a keyboard.  Pointing devices, nightstand chargers, additional storage, display linkage/transmission etc.

    also, it is restricted to landscape.  To be really flexible you need it for portrait as well, adding to design and space costs.  And it never arriving on the iPhone is telling.

    I think wireless solutions will overcome the smart connector.
    ... the SmCon hasn't arrived to the iPhone yet. There's no reason to at the moment, not as long as the iPhone has a Lightning port. If Apple removes the Lightning port to finally waterproof the iPhone, then the SmCon could be an alternate charging port, or even a wired audio port, for those who still need one. The SmCon has the potential to be Apple's link to the wired world, which is something that may be necessary for some time to come before wireless devices truly can substitute for all devices and situations.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,274member
    The problem with the port, as I see it, is that it's taken by either a regular cover, or a Smart Cover, roughly 100% of the times, rendering the port inaccessible for anything else. So any other use than keyboards and cases is hard to imagine the practical solution for, since the port is already covered.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    How about just more frickin' smartconnector-based keyboards, for starters. The ones currently available are less-than-mediocre (e.g., Apple) or heavy (e.g., Logitech) or look ugly (e.g., Apple with its butt-ugly grey, or Logitech which covers the back of the iPad).
    Tuubor
  • Reply 17 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,840member
    Was really hoping to see some MIDI instruments, especially control surfaces and keyboards, adopt this hardware connector. It would be perfect for musicians, not to mention some kind of video editing workstation for on-scene editors.
    Tuubor
  • Reply 18 of 18
    If/When a Smart Connector appears on an iPhone, do we know if that could be used (instead of the Lightning port) for peripherals such as game controllers? Might that be a use for the port and would it be useful or better than either Lightning or BT for such a peripheral? Just curious.
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