My iPad Experience with a Bluetooth keyboard

On an impulse, I decided to buy the Bluetoothed Apple Wireless keyboard for use with the iPad. I felt there were times where I would want to create content without wanting to pull out my laptop and still have the flexibility of putting the keyboard away to enjoy the usual benefits of the iPad.

I'm sitting in the middle seat of a six-hour flight home and thought, "this would be a good time to give this a try"— especially with blog post ideas popping to mind.

As it turns out, the experience is quite nice. It, of course, takes up much less room than the full laptop which is quite handy when in an economy seat and the person in front of you feels the need to recline. Typing on an actual keyboard feels more comfortable than trying to peck away at the onscreen keyboard, too.

I'm impressed that many of the keyboard hot keys like brightness, volume, and iPod controls continue to work as you'd expect them to—just like on a regular computer.

When the new iOS4 comes out, I'd love to see greater integration including Command-Tab support that could bring up the pop-up doc to switch applications. It would also be handy if Command-Q brought you back to the home screen. Likewise, applications should recognize the keyboard and tie in extra shortcuts. Command-T in Safari would be handy for opening a new "tab"—at least in the way that Mobile Safari handles tabs. Or hitting Command-N to create a new note in Notes or document in Pages.

The most surprising thing was context switching. I found myself jumping back between applications such as Notes and Things and having to interact with the touch screen to do so. Switching between the keyboard and the touch interface felt comfortable. It felt natural. So much so, that I wonder when Apple will release touch screen MacBooks.

The only hiccup to using the keyboard with the iPad on a more regular basis will be having a convenient way of propping up the iPad while typing on the keyboard—you know, like a laptop. On the plane, I had the iPad resting against the seat in front of me and was prevented from sliding by the keyboard. In researching options, the Apple iPad Case seems like a decent accessory to add to the list, with its ability to rest upright or just slightly inclined. Time to add something else to the wish list.

Having used the keyboard and iPad together for a couple hours now, I believe that I will end up using my iPad even more than I did before—which was already quite a bit. And on the upside, maybe I'll even blog more!

Published October 04, 2010
Categorized as Review
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Roberto said on October 04, 2010

When iOS 4 came out I paired my wireless keyboard to my iPhone 3GS and it worked pretty much how you describe. I found switching modes to touch the screen much more difficult, though, but that may have been because the iPhone's screen is much smaller.

However, the thing that impressed me the most is that the keyboard kept the Spanish language layout I had set in my Mac! That's great because I could type in Spanish without having to remember weird key combinations.

Sadly the iPhone 3GS was stolen shortly after my tests :(

But that wasn't the keyboard's fault. I think.

jen said on October 04, 2010

My experience with the bluetooth keyboard & my iPad was similar. I contacted the Apple Store, thinking I'd purchased the wrong keyboard, as there is one with a dock connector, but it isn't wireless. However, you can just use the iPad dock as a iPad stand, too, for $29.

Matthias said on October 04, 2010


Have you already tried „iA Writer“ with this keyboard?

I like this app, but almost all of the screen gets eaten up by the virtual keyboard. Would be great if you could get rid of it by using a wireless keyboard…

Jonathan Snook said on October 04, 2010

@Matthias: I haven't tried iA Writer. For me, Pages or even Notes comes with very little distraction. Pages is just a blank white page and a toolbar. If you're distracted by a toolbar, maybe writing isn't your thing. :) The last two blog posts were written in Notes and then cleaned up and revised on my laptop before posting to the web.

Jeff L said on October 04, 2010

I've got the Apple iPad case, and have been pretty happy with it. The ability to easily prop it up that inch or so makes a big difference sometimes.

Jen said on October 04, 2010

I have tried iA Writer with the keyboard + iPad. It's awesome! Pleased as punch.

Robert Nyman said on October 04, 2010

Have you tried Command + Shift + H to go to the home screen? That works in the iPhone/iPad simulator at least.

Jonathan Snook said on October 05, 2010

@Robert Nyman: I just tried it and, alas, it did not work. Too bad.

Inge said on October 06, 2010

Already own the iPad and I think it is time to add an other accessory to the collection. A good thing my birthday is coming up.

Sarah jones said on October 08, 2010

Nice experience. Good post. I own an iPad myself and would like to add some necessary accessory.

Toronto Marketing Company said on October 09, 2010

GOOD Post and having a more experience.I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Johan said on October 10, 2010

Last week I have seen a Ipad in the flesh for the first time. I cannot stop thinking when using this device it was initially meant to be a book format device, to ie. read books
on it, an answer to kindle. But it does so much more, it is almost a net book without the keyboard. Now you need to use a keyboard, this means that touch screen typing is not ideal in many cases, not so.

mark said on October 12, 2010

the ipad is amazing and has changed the way I use a pc forever. it needs more development but it will happen in time.

Stephanie Hobson said on October 18, 2010

Having seen a toddler interact with my Mac Book, I think a touch screen laptop would be super intuitive.

Star knows how to use the keyboard, and he loves pounding on it, but he also pokes regularly at the screen rather than reaching for the mouse.

That reminds me to look into using my keyboard with my iPhone.

Luke Barker said on October 19, 2010

Hi Jonathan

hey for a convenient rest / stand for the ipad that packs compactly, you should check out the Twelve South Compass. Very elegant design (unlike many of the accessories imho) - It just came out in UK but has been out for a wee while in the US. I bought one for my iPad owning brother and he loves it (so he says!) it is arguably the best stand for iPad but also can be easily transported. I am not sure how the keyboard would be comfortably placed with the Compass in use - you would need to try that obviously.

Questions on your keyboard - would it work with iPhone apps too? I imagine it does (iphone 4 only maybe)? Is the keyboard you used much better than the standard mac keyboard that works with iPads, too?

I love your web design insights (css rotation etc ) and also the design of your website - thanks for such a quality blog!

Kevin said on October 24, 2010

Just brought my iPad and have been considering the keyboard. Might give it a try!

Brad Grier said on October 24, 2010

Well, I've got the keyboard, got iA Writer, and am testing it out. Literally, right now. Haven't done much yet, but am wondering if the 'special' screen keys (word, etc) will map to the BT Keyboard...we'll see.

Josh said on November 21, 2010

Doesn't bluetooth emit pilot killing death rays?

Jonathan Snook said on November 21, 2010

@Josh: Hah! I actually showed a flight attendant my setup and she totally didn't say a thing. Come to think of it, I've shown a couple flight attendants now. Nobody seems to care once you're over 10k feet.

Dave Fowler said on December 08, 2010

Hi Jonathan, thanks for posting this review, you've gone into a lot more detail than many reviews I've read, enough so that it is now (almost - see below) on my shopping list. I can vouch for the iPad case; it's very discrete, adding very little bulk but it gives excellent protection when carrying the iPad around in your bag. More importantly, it allows the iPad to stand at an angle that would make using a separate keyboard perfectly sensible. I've also seen a case-cum-keyboard combo that looks a good compromise and it's not that much more expensive. I've seen no reviews, tho', have you any thoughts on these as an alternative?

Davidoff said on December 15, 2010

I want to know just what Rodger says about that!?!


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