Apple has destroyed the potential of the Smart Connector on the new iPad Pro

Posted:
in iPad edited November 27
Apple moved the Smart Connector in the latest iPad Pros that debuted this fall. Many blushed over the change, but this is not only bad for the iPad Pro now, but has also hurt future expansion in this space.

IPad Pro and Smart Keyboard
iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard Folio


The Smart Connector on the iPad Pro had a lot of promise that wasn't fully realized. Located along the long-axis of the iPad, it allowed for some very conventional use cases with a similar footprint to that of a laptop. Advertising for the iPad Pro with this connector was probably the origin of Apple's latest push to use the device as a laptop replacement.

There are two primary issues with the port on the new iPad Pro -- one that can be at least partially overlooked, and the other is going to be a show-stopper.

Moving the wrong way

The location shift of the Smart Connector is workable, but isn't a great call.

2018 iPad Pros
2018 iPad Pros with relocated Smart Connector


Apple most certainly had its own reason for this change, but it's bound to be a thorn in my side. We saw some of the ramifications of this when we examined the redesigned Smart Keyboard Folio. The biggest criticism of the case was the requirement of having a full back cover that added unnecessary bulk and weight on an otherwise slim device. I'd have preferred a two-piece design that allows for a removable keyboard with an optional back cover.

As it stands, you are stuck with both a keyboard and a back cover, or neither. If you wanted to remove the keyboard but keep the back, sorry, that's too bad.

By removing the port from the edge of the device, not only does Apple's Smart Keyboard Folio require a back panel, any future third-party keyboards will as well. This leaves those of us who don't want or need that rear protection stuck with lackluster Bluetooth options that don't use the Smart Connector.

We also have no chance of docking stations for the updated Pros. Unless the dock is exceptionally wide to reach all the way to the Smart Connector -- which would be different for the 12.9-inch versus the 11-inch model. They could be docked in portrait mode, but iOS and iPad software as it stands today has far more utility in landscape mode, particularly when docked. We've used it as a picture frame, HomeKit control panel, and a second monitor all in landscape.

More keyboards, more options

Second is the poor adoption we've seen from outside companies, which the shift will not help. Apple touted at launch that third-parties could make use of the port, and they even reiterated strong support with products in the pipeline just last year. Now that the port has completely moved, anything in the works based on the previous port location is dead-on-arrival.

Since the original incarnation, only Logitech has put accessories on the market. They've launched multiple versions of their popular Slim Combo Keyboard (review) as well as a simple charging dock, the Base, which we also examined.

Logitech Base
Logitech Base


These accessories were well received, building on what Apple had already put forth. Logitech includes both function keys and backlights to their keyboard -- aspects Apple frustratingly omits. With the new Smart Keyboard placement, both of these products wouldn't be possible.

A bleak outlook

The biggest issue we heard third-companies voice unhappiness with was the pogo-pin implementation, but that design remains the same. Apple opting to move the port and not fix common complaints made by those who rely on it for their own products outside of themselves doesn't seem like the best move.

IPad Pro back
11-inch Space Gray iPad Pro


At the moment I don't have high hopes for Apple's once-promising port. Apple has made compromises on their own Smart Keyboard Folio and handicapped hopes of other third-parties running with the technology.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 88
    If this were the only shortcoming of the new iPads there would be reason to get upset. As it stands, Apple's walled garden has shut out the iPad Pro from the pro market. iOS is seen as a toy operating system. It makes it impossible to do so many things that pros need to do like manage thousands of files or compile code or manage a network or ...
    edited November 27 williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 88
    With the old connector the weight of the device when upright would push against the pins and make contact, and there would be little possibility for damage on either the pogo-pins or the iPad as it wouldn't be possible to shear the pins. Now, the iPad could be scratched by the pins when inserting it into a dock, or the pogo-pins could be damaged if the bottom of the iPad hit the pins as you placed it into the dock.
    coolfactorwilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 88
    FUD

    Where there is money to made from Apple's newest and most popular iPad, the third-parties will borrow from Apple's design and add functionality and affordability to this new configuration.
    StrangeDayspumasaladrepressthislkrupprazorpitredgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 88
    Nobody used the smart connector because it offers limited functionality and the iPad Pro market is not very large compared to the non-pro iPad market or the iPhone market. If you are a company that makes accessories for iOS devices, are you going to dedicate your time and attention to a niche market or the mass market? Moving the connector is Apple's acknowledgement that the port is primarily just for Apple.
    randominternetpersonkpomdysamoriashrave10n2itivguyredgeminipa
  • Reply 5 of 88
    Nobody used the smart connector because it offers limited functionality and the iPad Pro market is not very large compared to the non-pro iPad market or the iPhone market. If you are a company that makes accessories for iOS devices, are you going to dedicate your time and attention to a niche market or the mass market? Moving the connector is Apple's acknowledgement that the port is primarily just for Apple.
    Exactly.  "Since the original incarnation, only Logitech has put accessories on the market."  Seems like this change will have minimal real impact.
    StrangeDayscoolfactorkpomrepressthisbanchocornchiprazorpitn2itivguyredgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 88
    If this were the only shortcoming of the new iPads there would be reason to get upset. As it stands, Apple's walled garden has shut out the iPad Pro from the pro market. iOS is seen as a toy operating system. It makes it impossible to do so many things that pros need to do like manage thousands of files or compile code or manage a network or ...
    Huh.

    https://venturebeat.com/2018/09/24/salesforce-brings-mobile-sdk-to-ios-for-iphone-and-ipad-enterprise-apps/
    https://www.ibm.com/mobile/mobilefirst-for-ios

    StrangeDayscoolfactoraaronsullivanJWSCbanchosupadav03n2itivguyredgeminipawilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 88
    I disagree Andrew.   The placement of the connector is not particularly important - a floating connector (could be magnetically connected with the newly added magnets on the Pros) is possible, as are cases with embedded pogo-pins.   I've already contacted Totallee (I use their minimal iPhone Xs case) about this for a minimal iPad case that could still allow for the magnetic attachment of the Apple folio keyboard.

    The problem isn't with the placement, its with Apple's decision to severely restrict and limit access to the port(s) (Including Watch).  Many of my maker friends and artists gravitate to Android because they can easily access and program controllers (Rasberry Pi, Arduino, boards).   Apple has made a grave mistake in NOT allowing and supporting these creatives.
    amazingrugs318watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 88
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,281member
    Nobody used the smart connector because it offers limited functionality and the iPad Pro market is not very large compared to the non-pro iPad market or the iPhone market. If you are a company that makes accessories for iOS devices, are you going to dedicate your time and attention to a niche market or the mass market? Moving the connector is Apple's acknowledgement that the port is primarily just for Apple.
    I see a lot of promise for the smart connector in terms of a versatile port. It could be used for charging, data, and analogue audio, assuming Apple eventually opens it up. This would be especially useful as a physical connection method on the iPhone which seems destined to become portliness in a few short years. Moving it to the bottom location on the iPad isn't really a problem, and would be an ideal location for expanding use to other peripherals -- other than possibly for those using it in Landscape mode who don't want the added bulk of a case back as the article describes, though it doesn't seem like an insurmountable problem.
    edited November 27 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 88
    "Apple has destroyed" - heavens! 

    "isn't a great call" - if only Apple had someone to warn them they were about to make a bad call. ("It was a bad call, Ripley.")

    "
    If you wanted to remove the keyboard but keep the back, sorry, that's too bad." - why would you want to do this? Keeping a cover on the *backside only* has got to be a fringe case. Nobody is going to not improve something for a fringe case. And based on what I've heard on The Talk Show podcast w/ Gruber and Merlin, it's much improved. 
    edited November 27 randominternetpersonelijahgAndy.Hardwakewilliamlondonkruegdudewatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 88
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,442member
    If this were the only shortcoming of the new iPads there would be reason to get upset. As it stands, Apple's walled garden has shut out the iPad Pro from the pro market. iOS is seen as a toy operating system. It makes it impossible to do so many things that pros need to do like manage thousands of files or compile code or manage a network or ...
    I see. 

    If only there was some other profession outside network management, it might have a chance. 

    What we need are alternative professions, like people who make other people better when they get sick, or people who help other people with legal problems, or people who make pictures move to entertain or inform other people, or people who collect words on a page to entertain or inform other people. 

    🙄
    StrangeDaysGeorgeBMacauxiopumasaladanomeaaronsullivanJWSCrandominternetpersonmontrosemacssupadav03
  • Reply 11 of 88
    If this were the only shortcoming of the new iPads there would be reason to get upset. As it stands, Apple's walled garden has shut out the iPad Pro from the pro market. iOS is seen as a toy operating system. It makes it impossible to do so many things that pros need to do like manage thousands of files or compile code or manage a network or ...
    It is neither a toy nor consider one by any non-hater. Tablets have many use cases, including professional, which are different than desktops or laptops. Not performing desktop or laptop use cases doesn’t make it a toy. That’s nonsense. At Shell we had an app for viewing offshore platform piping in 3D models, which inspectors used during walkthrus to make notes and do other review. Is that a toy? Nope. It’s a tool, and one that a desktop or laptop could not replace. Different use cases. 

    Likewise I’ve used mine for reviewing documents and conducting business in the field. Managing thousands of files or compiling code are use cases I perform on my desktop, a different tool. (And even a laptop is a poor tool for enterprise software development use cases, lacking twin 27” monitors at ergonomic positions, etc.)

    Neckbeards gotta get it thru their heads — different form factors, different use cases. 
    edited November 27 firelockmike1anomeaaronsullivanpscooter63macpluspluszoetmbRayz2016n2itivguywilliamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 88

    emoeller said:
    I disagree Andrew.   The placement of the connector is not particularly important - a floating connector (could be magnetically connected with the newly added magnets on the Pros) is possible, as are cases with embedded pogo-pins.   I've already contacted Totallee (I use their minimal iPhone Xs case) about this for a minimal iPad case that could still allow for the magnetic attachment of the Apple folio keyboard.

    The problem isn't with the placement, its with Apple's decision to severely restrict and limit access to the port(s) (Including Watch).  Many of my maker friends and artists gravitate to Android because they can easily access and program controllers (Rasberry Pi, Arduino, boards).   Apple has made a grave mistake in NOT allowing and supporting these creatives.
    Look up what “grave mistake” means. Losing minor sales to tinkerers ain’t it. iOS sales are legion and historic, nothing grave about them. 
    edited November 27 bdkennedy1002randominternetpersonmacplusplusthtRayz2016n2itivguywilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 88
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,078member
    If this were the only shortcoming of the new iPads there would be reason to get upset. As it stands, Apple's walled garden has shut out the iPad Pro from the pro market. iOS is seen as a toy operating system. It makes it impossible to do so many things that pros need to do like manage thousands of files or compile code or manage a network or ...
    Huh.

    https://venturebeat.com/2018/09/24/salesforce-brings-mobile-sdk-to-ios-for-iphone-and-ipad-enterprise-apps/
    https://www.ibm.com/mobile/mobilefirst-for-ios

    Huh.

    Not relevant at all.
    shrave10williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 88
    Another connection Apple won’t get behind. What do they need it for anyway when there’s Bluetooth and the W2 chip?
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 88
    I gotta admit, I've never seen the purpose of the smart connector anyway -- or anywhere...

    The Bluetooth Logitech keyboard Apple sells for the 6th Gen iPad works fine.   Its thick and bulky, but that's just its design, not the fault of being bluetooth.

    Yes, the smart connector can supply power.  But, to what purpose?  The Logitech BT lasts several years on a single battery as it is...

    Apple is not known for adding unnecessary ports and connectors (quite the opposite actually, they seem to be committing port & connector genocide.

    So, what am I missing?  Aside from (unnecessary) power, what does the smart connector add?
    elijahg
  • Reply 16 of 88
    It was was truly a "Smart" connector, they would have two of them... one in the old location and one in the new, and the first one to make contact wins out. That way they would not be alienating existing accessories.

    mac_128watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 17 of 88
    If this were the only shortcoming of the new iPads there would be reason to get upset. As it stands, Apple's walled garden has shut out the iPad Pro from the pro market. iOS is seen as a toy operating system. It makes it impossible to do so many things that pros need to do like manage thousands of files or compile code or manage a network or ...
    Oh, this *never* gets boring to hear, even after 8 long years.
    StrangeDaysaaronsullivanrandominternetpersonmac_dogpscooter63cornchipwilliamlondonwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 18 of 88
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,920member
    Rayz2016 said:
    If this were the only shortcoming of the new iPads there would be reason to get upset. As it stands, Apple's walled garden has shut out the iPad Pro from the pro market. iOS is seen as a toy operating system. It makes it impossible to do so many things that pros need to do like manage thousands of files or compile code or manage a network or ...

    If only there was some other profession outside network management, it might have a chance. 
    And if only the way people work could change over time.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to feeding punch cards into my mainframe...
    StrangeDaysstompyanomeaaronsullivanJWSCpscooter63n2itivguyraoulduke42watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 19 of 88
    I think over the 3 or so years I had iPad Pro 1 and 2, I counted two (2) accessories (edit: other than Apple Smart Keyboard) that used the connector: Logitech dock and Logitech Slim Combo case. Am I mistaken? Was there a third?

    If this is a close estimate, then what, really, hath Apple killt? Not much. 
    edited November 27 StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 88
    The new Smart Keyboard gives the new iPad much more stability and stiffness when in “laptop” mode. It is much easier to use when actually on my lap and generally it has a much more premium feel than the old Smart Keyboard. The old one always felt like it was about to fall off, and frequently did if picked up wrong. It also wore fairly quickly. I recently sold my 10.5” on eBay, but the cover was looking pretty worn for wear after a little over a year of heavy use. I’m pretty certain that will not be the case with the new Smart Keyboard, but I guess I’ll find out next year for sure.

    That said my new 11” iPad Pro with keyboard does feel SIGNIFICANTLY heavier than my old 10.5” 2017 model. Thus I find myself frequently taking the iPad off of the cover when I don’t think I’m going to need the keyboard. That is not something I felt like I needed to do with my old 10.5” Pro. It is very easy to take the iPad out of the cover and replace it, so this has not been an issue really. Overall I’d say I am very pleased with Smart Keyboard / iPad Pro 11” combo, but it would be nice if they could figure out a way to reduce the weight while keeping the same premium “laptop-like” feel.
    aaronsullivankpomGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
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