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iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Durability: Really, Apple?!

[fa icon="calendar"] 21-Jan-2016 08:30:00 / by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie Vassallo

As readers of our blog will know, we spent a rigorous testing period last month with the iPad Pro to help assess whether Apple's purported 'laptop replacement' could indeed put our beloved 12-inch MacBook on the shelf for good.

We approached this from a new angle - that of a software professional/senior manager out and about and away from his desktop machine using only the iPad Pro to make client presentations, take notes, perform daily email tasks, and of course manage heavier duties such as uploading app builds, editing spreadsheets, and writing up lengthy Word documents.

And the iPad Pro came through with aplomb - becoming perhaps our favourite tech gadget of 2015. And given the number of devices that pass through our hands here at Entropy, that's pretty high praise indeed!

Unfortunately, however, I have a bit of an annoying iPad Pro update to report - and sadly that has to do with the durability of Apple's Smart Keyboard.

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As you may know, there are really only two significant keyboard options to consider when using the new dedicated dock adaptor. There's the weighty and over-clunky Logitech CREATE Keyboard for iPad Pro, which elevates the iPad Pro to MacBook Pro dimensions (which kinda defeats the entire reason of carrying just an iPad) - and there's the Apple 1st-party 'Smart Keyboard', a rather svelte and elegant solution to combining smart cover and keyboard. We chose the Smart Keyboard, and I instantly fell in love with the super clicky keys, fabric feel, and amazing size which assumes only a slightly larger profile to the basic smart cover (without keyboard). In fact, the Smart Keyboard has fast become my favourite typing experience away from iMac - it's *that* fun and effortless to use.

So imagine my surprise (and extreme disappointment) when the key symbols on the Smart Keyboard began rubbing off and eroding after only 1 month of use! Yep - kinda shocking that an Apple product - especially one under such scrutiny as the iPad Pro keyboard, could be so poorly constructed as to begin effectively wearing away after only a few weeks of standard use.

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OK - these things happen, right? New product, new accessories - I get it. Not the first time, and I'm open to giving Apple some degree of latitude here - after all, I absolutely love the iPad Pro and have been gushing about it nonstop for weeks. What's a little keyboard wear in the larger scheme of things??

I felt sure the good folks at my local Apple Store would be just as aghast at the apparent premature ageing of this 1-month old accessory. And here's where things got even weirder. Not only did they refuse to swap me for a new Smart Keyboard on the spot - but they claimed that since I bought the keyboard from a non-Apple Store location (since...well...the Apple Store NEVER has them in stock), it was not officially covered by Apple Warranty so I was effectively 'SOL'.

Really? Not covered by warranty?!

I'm not sure if I got a dozy pair of Apple employees, or whether this holds true at all Apple Stores - but this was definitely the worst Apple Store experience I have had to date. And I've had a lot of them (or to put it another way, I have purchased tens of thousands of products from Apple over the past decade and have come to expect better). Even faulty iPhones or MacBooks we have purchased via partner resellers or even on eBay have always been covered under warranty - and exchanged for brand new products whenever we have encountered issues within the warranty period.

So I'm not sure whether to be more upset about the durability of the Smart Keyboard, or the apparent disinterest from Apple employees on the entire affair. Regardless, I can't be the first person to see this erosion problem on the keys of the Smart Keyboard. And for a £139 accessory - it's simply not acceptable.

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And to be honest, the timing couldn't be worse for our feedback...as over the last few weeks we have been testing out Google's new Pixel C tablet + keyboard, and coincidently also had an issue with the first keyboard we were delivered. It was a relatively simple issue - as the 'alt' key on the Pixel C keyboard was sticking occasionally and although we could have easily survived with it as-is (I'm a bit pedantic about these things as the above clearly demonstrates), we decided to send it back for a replacement.

And the experience could NOT have been smoother - taking about two minutes to fill out an online form - and within 36 hours we had a a brand new and perfect Pixel C keyboard in our hands working brilliantly.

In fact, I've been typing this post exclusively on the new Pixel C keyboard - as frankly, the Smart Keyboard (and Apple Store) experience has left a bit of bad taste.

I suppose you can't end a post with a more illustrative comment than that. 

Topics: iOS

Eddie Vassallo

Written by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie is Founder & CEO of Entropy, former Head of Mobile for Discovery Channel, regular Guest Contributor on GigaOm and has been featured on Daring Fireball, CNN, and Strategy Eye.