Apple Smart Cover, Apple Magic Keyboard, Adore June Keeb Sleeve
and Smatree Pencil Holder Case. A review by MacJim
Some time ago I bought an Apple Smart Keyboard for my iPad Pro 9.7”. While I was quite happy with this new device, I did think the keyboard was on the cramped side but, over time, I got used to it. The Apple Smart Keyboard worked fine for a while and had become my main cover for my iPad, but over time I began to get problems with it, as I would see intermittent error messages saying ‘this device is not compatible with this device’.
So, a journey into Apple (Buchanan Street, Glasgow) was made to see an Apple genius who confirmed there was indeed a problem. Having bought it in John Lewis, I had to go to see them for the replacement, which they did without quibble and I left happy… for a while.
Then, ten months later, the same problem reappeared with the error messages returning. At least I knew that this was another faulty keyboard rather than thinking it was the iPad, and a return to John Lewis was made. This time, I asked if I could have a refund as, on this and past experience, I wasn’t filled with confidence that another replacement would last any better… happily they obliged.
So what to do? I could live without a keyboard and just use the virtual keyboard – not really an option as it’s only just about okay. A third party offering could be a choice but again, on past experience, I decided not. So, an old friend was the one to go for, or at least, the latest version of an old friend; and that is the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard.
Yes, the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard which is meant for iMacs and other Mac computers, it works just fine. The advantages are a much increased real estate due to the larger size, but the disadvantages are… the larger size – meaning I needed to carry it in a case of its own and not as part of the iPad. In exchange I gained a better keyboard – as the keys have a nice depth to the way they travel, no more of the shallow hard stop with every keystroke. It also meant I could place the keyboard and iPad at a decent distance apart rather than have the iPad almost in my face when working at a table. Plus the angle the iPad sits at is much better than the upright stance the Smart Keyboard forces it to be at, but that also means I need space to place both devices on a surface to work on… fold down airline seat-back tables are a no-no (truth be told its probably the same with the Apple Smart Keyboard too but you might just manage it).
Another difference is in the way these two devices connect to the iPad. The Smart Keyboard uses a ‘smart connector’ built into the iPad and the keyboard, a three pin connection aided by a magnetic coupler to the case, but with the Bluetooth Keyboard it’s via Bluetooth, as the name would suggest. This can be problematical at times, or at least, that is my experience. Sometimes, it connects quickly and others, frustratingly not. This is more due to Bluetooth than anything else and can force you to choose to ‘forget this device’ to fix the problem. Then another attempt to connect can force both devices to see each other.
With the move to a separate keyboard rather than the Apple Smart Keyboard, this brings up the problem of how to carry the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. A search on Amazon brought up a few choices but some were on the expensive side, or at least, were more than I was willing to pay. So I went with the Adore June Keeb for Apple® Magic Keyboard case. The price suited my needs but, as they say, you get what you pay for.
The Adore June Keeb for Apple® Magic Keyboard case (bit of a mouthful) is workable. There little in the way of padding (read none) to protect the expensive Apple Bluetooth Keyboard but its simplicity works for me. Maybe over time I might regret the purchase but for now I’m okay with it. It’s a simple case, a soft (very soft) material with a fleece interior. The closure is via two velcro strips which will over time, become as useful as any other velcro fastening, but the biggest problem is the lack of any cushioning to save the keyboard from bashes and squeezes that it will suffer when carried in a bag with other items. Fit and finish: 4 out of 5.
The Apple Pencil is an unusual product. It’s typically Apple, beautifully finished and at an Apple price point – expensive, but like many Apple products, it’s a bit underestimated.
I have the iPad Pro 9.7”, now superceded by the iPad Pro 10.7”. This means it is a little less responsive when working with the Apple Pencil, but only a little. It really depends on the App that you use the Pencil with but on the whole, I’m quite impressed with this item. My only real issue with it is it’s a little slippy to grip, but it does feel like a real pencil to hold. It’s just about right size-wise and feels comfortable to hold. It is the best stylus that I’ve used, period.
So, how to transport the Apple Pencil? You need something that will protect this expensive device. Again, a search on Amazon revealed many options and a varied price range, but one case caught my eye right away, and that was the Smatree Pencil Holder Case for the Apple Pencil – yet another mouthful of a product name. Again, this product jumped off the iPad screen when I searched on the Amazon store. The price was reasonable and it looked just right. Inside, there were cutouts for the Pencil, Lightning adapter and the spare tip for the Pencil, but there was also a mesh holder where I could store the Apple Pencil Lightning to USB cable.
The finish impressed, with its semi-hard shell and leatherette finish. It has a twin zip closures and a loop for a clip for attaching to a bag (carabiner not included). A foam insert with cutouts holds the Pencil, Lightning adapter and the spare tip via pullout plugs, which allows you the option to take all the extras, or not. I’d say, the Smatree product is the better value item and worth your consideration if you have the Apple Pencil.
To summarise, as nice as the Apple Smart Keyboard was, it really didn’t come up to expectations for an Apple product, and after two developing the same problem, deserved returning. The Apple Bluetooth Keyboard is a minor compromise, as it’s not really meant as a portable keyboard for the iPad. The size is larger, but not too much, as it could be a good match to the iPad Pro 12”. The travel of the keys is much better than the Apple Smart Keyboard and it works fine via Bluetooth too. The Smatree case is a ‘wee stouter’ and a real bargain in my mind but the Adore June case is, really just a stop-gap product for now. Yes, it’s ethically made and an honest product but it could do with being a bit better when it comes to protecting the keyboard.