Apple burns early iPad Pro adopters, loyal customers with Magic Keyboard incompatibility

Posted:
in iPad edited April 23
In making the $349 2020 Magic Keyboard incompatible with the 2021 iPad Pro just a year after it launched, and not offering early adopters a reasonable upgrade path as an alternative, Apple risks burning its most devoted -- and highest spending -- iPad users.




The first Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro first became available in in April of 2020. Notably, although they were announced together, the keyboard went on sale separately from the 2020 iPad Pro refresh -- the Magic Keyboard was released more than a month after the iPad Pro got in the hands of consumers in March of last year.

The Magic Keyboard offered compatibility not only with the 2020 iPad Pro lineup, but also the 2018 models, which featured a largely identical form factor.

Given the hefty $349 price of the Magic Keyboard, and its on-sale date being staggered from new iPad hardware, plus compatibility with the 2018 models, many buyers likely assumed that the optional accessory would have a long shelf-life and future compatibility. After all, $350 for a keyboard and trackpad is a significant investment.

Perhaps, then, it's no surprise that Apple opted to very quietly -- on a Friday, when it's an ideal time to drop bad news, and days after the 2021 iPad Pro was announced -- confirm that the 2020 Magic Keyboard is not compatible with the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro.




This only applies to the larger 2021 iPad Pro, which features a mini LED Liquid Retina XDR display. Packing that screen into a svelte tablet makes the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro ever so slightly thicker than its predecessors, by just a half a millimeter.

Apple on Friday confirmed that half a millimeter is enough to make the original Magic Keyboard incompatible with the 2021 iPad Pro. Anyone looking to upgrade will need to buy the latest keyboard. That'll be another $349, plus tax, please.

Listen, I get it. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. No one can argue with that.

Apple's new mini LED display requires more space, and Apple couldn't defy the laws of physics. Sometimes progress is costly. In this situation, it's a cost for early adopters and Apple devotees.




But a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $1099, and now you can tack on another $349 for the 2021 update to the Magic Keyboard. At minimum, it's a nearly $1,500 investment for anyone looking to buy this year's model.

At $349, the Magic Keyboard -- which, again, is basically just a keyboard and trackpad with an additional charging port -- is more expensive than the $329 entry-level iPad. For $30 less, you can get a full tablet that works on its own and runs the same apps. A far cry from $1,500.

While Apple couldn't defy the laws of physics in building its latest iPad, they could earn some goodwill by catering to their early adopters and making the situation less costly. I'm not suggesting that Apple needs to give away free Magic Keyboard upgrades or anything like that -- the truth is, Apple doesn't owe anyone anything.

But for a company so proud of its customer satisfaction numbers and brand loyalty, even a Magic Keyboard trade-in program, offering a discount for those who bought the accessory in the last year, would be better than nothing. It's just the right thing to do.




To be fair, those who have a 2018 or 2020 iPad Pro and the 2020 Magic Keyboard can continue to use their hardware without any issues. And the problem doesn't affect those on the 11-inch model, which didn't get an XDR display this year. This isn't planned obsolescence, or a product going end-of-life.

The sky is not falling and Apple has not lost its way. The trillion-dollar corporation will be just fine. But as with the return of the Apple Silicon Developer Transition Kits earlier this year, where Apple shortsightedly planned to nickle-and-dime its loyal developer community, this move is a mistake.

In the case of the Apple Silicon DTK, Apple made it right and gave developers $500 promo codes to use at its online store.

The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro and its Magic Keyboard don't ship until the second half of May, and they aren't even available for preorder for another week. That should be plenty of time for the company to put together a plan to support its most loyal iPad users and provide a suitable compromise for those who already have a Magic Keyboard. The company already takes trade-ins of previous-gen devices, including iPads -- why not initiate a Magic Keyboard trade-in program too?

In an interview with CNBC in 2019, Apple CEO Tim Cook identified three things he believes are most important to the company. One was innovation. The other two? Customer satisfaction and loyalty.

"I want the customer to be happy," Cook said. "We work for them."

I don't know how much a Magic Keyboard trade-in program would move the needle on customer satisfaction and loyalty for Apple, but for $349, I'm betting it might budge more than a half a millimeter.
dysamoriaelijahgh4y3s
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 109
    Well dang. 
    edited April 23 chemengin1kkqd1337
  • Reply 2 of 109
    entropysentropys Posts: 2,886member
    It just works. /snark

    After all, $350 for a keyboard and trackpad is a significant investment.

    I love droll statements. Touché!

    While Apple couldn't defy the laws of physics in building its latest iPad, they could earn some goodwill by catering to their early adopters and making the situation less costly. I'm not suggesting that Apple needs to give away free Magic Keyboard upgrades or anything like that -- the truth is, Apple doesn't owe anyone anything.
    I agree there should be some consideration. By doing so Apple could also get a fair bit of good press and media coverage of the magic keyboard for little cost considering the small cohort this actually impacts. But as you say, these changes are probably impacting Apple’s most loyal customers, you can only bite people a few times before they react. They have paid USD$350 plus tax for a keyboard, after all.
    edited April 23 nhughesboboliciouselijahg
  • Reply 3 of 109
    Probably good news for the new Brydge keyboard that’s $100.00 less that Apple’s Magic keyboard.
    InspiredCodepulseimagesnarwhalkkqd1337
  • Reply 4 of 109
    Just sell the keyboard along with your old iPad Pro. 
    dewmeRayz2016thtlollivermacplusplusjeffzachariasdee_deecaladanianwilliamlondonMisterKit
  • Reply 5 of 109
    Not the first time something like this happens.  I remember buying an iPad 3 on launch day only for the iPad 4 with Retina display launching a few months later.

     No-one offered me a trade in.
    dewmeInspiredCodemariowincozklauszpulseimagesDnykjpRfC6fnBswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 109
    kkapoorkkapoor Posts: 22member
    Define 'incompatible'. I wager the new 12.9" iPad will work just fine with the old keyboard. This is just Apple being Apple with their standards with regards to tight engineering tolerances.
    edited April 23 macpluspluscaladanianrandominternetpersonpulseimagesnarwhaljas99spock1234watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 109
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,533member
    As a designer you have to make the call.

    Do I hobble my new product to maintain compatibility with an accessory (an expensive one) designed for the last version of the product, or do I design the new product with as few compromises as possible?

    I don't suppose the iPad designers were given a constraint to maintain compatibility with the old accessory. Perhaps Apple should have designed the old Magic Keyboard so it could be used with future iPads that would be slightly thicker. In my mind, constraining the new iPad to having to work with the old keyboard would be the tail wagging the dog, but that's just my opinion.

    When we are in that hot seat we'll get to make the call and learn to live with our decision.

    Apple's constant quest to move the needle on innovation has led them to a decision that they will have to live with. They must feel as though the groundbreaking changes made to the newest iPad Pro, and the fact that it defines a new class of iPad, far outweighs the extra costs and Apple forum blow back they'll likely receive due to the lack of forward compatibility of the old keyboard with the new iPad Pro 12.9".

    Pragmatically speaking, the immediate previous version of the iPad Pro 12.9" was no slouch, not by any stretch of the imagination. Those folks who own the previous generation iPad Pro and decide that they can no longer live with it because the new Pro is simply irresistible are making an informed decision that is probably not contingent on their ability to bring their old keyboard with them. After all, these things exist in a very rarefied segment of the tablet buyer market that is not as price sensitive as say the base iPad or iPad Air.

    rundhvidDave Kapskippingrocklarryjwnarwhaljas99crossladspock1234uraharafastasleep
  • Reply 8 of 109
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,699member
    Just sell the keyboard along with your old iPad Pro. 
    Exactly

    Or more likely, Apple knows that no one who bought the last generation iPad Pro is going to be looking to buy another one just yet. 
    lolliversdw2001macplusplusjeffzachariasskippingrockdee_deen2itivguyMisterKitcpsronarwhal
  • Reply 9 of 109
    ITGUYINSDITGUYINSD Posts: 250member
    I wish Apple would clarify WHY they deem the 2020 MK incompatible.  I've added sheets of paper to my iPad Pro 12.9 to add 0.5 to 1.0mm of thickness and it still closes fully and there is not issue I could see.


    Oferqwerty52caladanianjas99byronlcrossladspock1234watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 109
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 758editor
    Rayz2016 said:
    Just sell the keyboard along with your old iPad Pro. 
    Exactly

    Or more likely, Apple knows that no one who bought the last generation iPad Pro is going to be looking to buy another one just yet. 
    And what about those who bought the 2018 iPad Pro? 
    elijahgbrertechkkqd1337gatorguy
  • Reply 11 of 109
    ITGUYINSDITGUYINSD Posts: 250member
    Just sell the keyboard along with your old iPad Pro. 
    You mean "just lose more money"?  Can't sell my MK for what I paid, so I lose money there.  Then have to buy the new MK at full price.  

    It's bad enough paying the ridiculous prices for the iPad Pro.
    nhugheselijahgbrertechkkqd1337gatorguywilliamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 109
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,803member
    Who buys iPad pros in back to back years?
    dee_deefred1dysamorianarwhaljas99crossladpscooter63glennhwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 109
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 758editor
    Just sell the keyboard along with your old iPad Pro. 
    As someone who has gone through the hassle of selling on Craigslist, Facebook, etc. many times (and was once victim of a Venmo scam, see link below), I can tell you that the market for resale accessories is not very good. People will happily pay for the hardware, but they don’t care about the accoutrements. You’ll get hosed selling on your own. 

    To be fair, Apple will hose you on a trade in as well, but at least it’s convenient and safe while you’re getting ripped off. 

    edited April 23 dysamoriabrertech
  • Reply 14 of 109
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 758editor
    jungmark said:
    Who buys iPad pros in back to back years?
    The Magic Keyboard works with the 2018 iPad Pro. 
  • Reply 15 of 109
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 758editor
    ITGUYINSD said:
    I wish Apple would clarify WHY they deem the 2020 MK incompatible.  I've added sheets of paper to my iPad Pro 12.9 to add 0.5 to 1.0mm of thickness and it still closes fully and there is not issue I could see.


    I’m guessing it has to do with the balanced cantilever design. The Smart Keyboard (which doesn’t “float” the iPad) works fine even with the 0.5mm difference, according to Apple. 
    Ofer
  • Reply 16 of 109
    If you can’t offer a premium keyboard for under $199 as a company that delivers it as an accessory to its main product, you have failed with the product.

    $349 is an insult.
    nhughesITGUYINSDrundhvidOferdysamorian2itivguyelijahgcaladanianbrertechkkqd1337
  • Reply 17 of 109
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,101member
    This is the next “gate”. Calling it now haha. 
  • Reply 18 of 109
    Sorry but I don’t think a person can reasonably expect a fitment-specific accessory designed to for generation A to also fit generation B.  Doesn’t matter how expensive it is.

    When I buy a case for an iPhone it’s with the understanding that it’s (likely) only going to 100% fit the iPhone I’m buying.
    edited April 23 thtaderutterviclauyycskippingrockdewmerandominternetpersonnarwhaljas99folk fountainmjtomlin
  • Reply 19 of 109
    Sorry but I don’t think a person can reasonably expect a fitment-specific accessory designed to for generation A to also fit generation B.  Doesn’t matter how expensive it is.

    When I buy a case for an iPhone it’s with the understanding that it’s (likely) only going to 100% fit the iPhone I’m buying.
    It's not a $350 case.  It's a $350 keyboard and trackpad.  It's also only one year old.
    Oferelijahgbrertechwilliamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 109
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 803member
    Rayz2016 said: Apple knows that no one who bought the last generation iPad Pro is going to be looking to buy another one just yet. 
    Not so fast on speculating
    I will be upgrading from the current to the new, but will be going from 256 GB and WiFi to 1TB and 5G. I think at this point I will be getting out of the laptop space (MacBooks of any type) and just using desktop Macs and an iPad Pro.
    dewmewatto_cobra
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