iPad keyboard attachments are no match for Surface Type and Touch Cover

iPad keyboard attachments are no match for Surface Type and Touch Cover

Summary: It's a breath of fresh air to use the Surface Pro 3 and new Type Cover after trying many iPad keyboards over the years. Apple doesn't provide adequate support in iOS while the Surface is optimized for keyboard use.

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iPad keyboard attachments are no match for Surface Type and Touch Cover
(Image: Microsoft)

There are a ton of third-party keyboard options for the Apple iPad and I have owned many of them. No matter how good they are, they can't compare to the utility and functionality of the Microsoft Surface Type and Touch Cover options and this is primarily due to Apple's limited support of these keyboards.

While using a stylus on your tablet is a great way to take notes in meetings (a much less rude experience than having people hiding behind displays) and while walking around (I see tablets in the medical arena all the time), nothing beats the efficiency of a good hardware keyboard. Unfortunately, Apple hasn't yet embraced these external keyboards in iOS so the experience is a disjointed one comprised of two-handed typing mixed in with finger taps on the display.

On the other hand, Microsoft's Surface and Surface Pro devices are optimized for external keyboard input and Microsoft makes a couple great options for consumers. The Surface platform is so well integrated with keyboard support that I think Microsoft needs to start including at least one variation with each Surface purchase. Surface owners should not have to pay an additional fee to buy a keyboard and including one would address many of the complaints we hear from potential buyers.

Our ZDNet tablet guru, James Kendrick, has tried more iPad keyboards than I have and is able to be quite productive with them. In terms of writing, I agree that you can be productive with an iPad keyboard and a good text-editing app like IA Writer or Pages. But try doing much more than writing, controlling media playback, or launching just a few apps via shortcuts and you quickly see that the iPad keyboard experience is limited.

I assembled a post on Surface keyboard shortcuts last year and these all still apply today. In addition, the new Surface Pro 3 touchpad is vastly improved and provides you with an excellent cursor/mouse controller right on the keyboard. I can actually do everything on my Surface Pro 3 with the keyboard without ever having to touch the display, which is definitely not something you can say about the iPad.

While the iPad can be used by some people for their specific work tasks, I still find it to be much more of a media consumption device. The Surface 2 provides you with many of those same media experiences in addition to advanced keyboard support with Office and more. The Surface Pro 3 has no limits and provides you with the ultimate portable keyboard solution.

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Topics: Mobility, iOS, iPad, Microsoft, Windows, Microsoft Surface

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29 comments
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  • Surface keyboards are better

    because the iPad doesn't want to be a laptop.
    Englishmole
    • Apple may not want it, but consumers do

      There is a popular 3rd party market for iPad keyboards so obviously people want to use their iPad as a laptop. It is with this understanding that I posted my opinion.

      The Surface 2 is also not a laptop and is designed as an iPad alternative. I wrote about the keyboards available for both the Surface (RT) and Surface Pro.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • My iPad keyboard makes a great Apple TV controller.

        I thought I would use it with the iPad but I never do. It is just too easy to go to the laptop or desktop. My iPad is productive but I find I don't need a keyboard.
        rfoto
      • Yes there are

        The point is that it's irrelevant enough not to be very important.
        iOS is not very well prepared for mouse and keyboard, but window 8 it's terrible for touch (or at least many parts of it).
        Sales of both devices show what majority of consumers want - cheap laptops with windows, light tablets with good and enough apps offering a great touch experience.

        Having said that, I think Apple should release an iOS device with detachable keyboard and with a screen between 11 and 13''.... Obviously iOS must be revised.
        AleMartin
        • What you are saying is

          apple should copy Microsoft. Got it. Windows 8.1 is just fine for touch, I actually prefer the touch when using it on a laptop or tablet. Where it isn't useful is on my 30" monitor or for people in our office with dual 24" monitors. In that case just use a mouse and keyboard.
          hoppmang
          • What I'm saying is that Apple should release

            .... A convertible bigger iPad that can work a bit better like a laptop.
            AleMartin
    • Mine is...

      Since January I've been using my iPad 2 with a Clamcase Pro cover. I donated my old laptop to a tech charity. Note that I wasn't doing much with the laptop to being with, but with the keyboard I can do most light tasks. For real work the desktop machine still wins, of course.
      MikeR666
  • That's because

    Apple isn't positioning the iPad as a laptop.
    Rogifan
  • What Englishmole and Rogifan said....

    If Apple and the partners of Android really wanted to do it, they could make a better keyboard. It's just as the others have said, the iPad doesn't pretend to be a laptop.
    VictorWho
  • Shrug, and neither one is a a match

    for the keyboard on a clamshell laptop. What of it?
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • There are good reasons not to bundle the keyboard with the SP3

    if a retailer was to carry only ONE of the five Surface Pro models bundled with each colour of the keyboards, they would have $28,960 of inventory sitting on the shelf.

    Buy selling the keyboard as a separate SKU, a retailer could have TWO of each of the five different Surface Pro 3 models on hand, and two of each of the four colours of the Type Keyboard on hand for only $14,222. Restocking the thinner, lighter keyboard as a separate unit to meet demand depending on each stores needs is also considerably cheaper and more flexible as well. For Best Buy alone that means 16 million dollars not tied up in stock on their shelves. That's better for the retailers and better for the consumer. And while most Surface Pro's will be bought with keyboards, not all of them will. Finally, starting at $799 looks a lot more attractive in advertising than starting at $929.
    gwydionjhr
    • Thanks for the great response

      Thank you for the well thought out explanation. It looks like I jumped on the popular opinion rather than thinking things through all the way.

      I actually purchased the Best Buy blue keyboard since that is my favorite color and am glad some default black keyboard was not included.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
    • Then don't bundle the keyboard, include a voucher instead

      That way the retailers can still keeping the existing SKU and stock management while customer can pick whatever colour they wanted. Problem solved.
      Samic
      • Because there are other keyboards

        The SP we had here I used with the Microsoft Sculpt keyboard, which I much prefer to the type cover.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • Good explanation

      But let's be fair. Nobody (or close to that) buys a surface without the keyboard.
      Why not separate the items as it was said but do something like - "you take the surface and you have the right to chose the color of your keyboard".

      Reality is that surface 3 is expensive and keyboard makes it even less interesting.... but surface pro 2 has a great price with current discount I must admit.
      AleMartin
      • Let's use the right names for stuff

        MS doesn't include the keyboard to make surface look cheaper... maybe there are some advantages, but for sure they are side effects of the main reason.
        AleMartin
  • Wait a minute. You mean it's a PITA

    to have to constantly touch a screen when it's oriented like a laptop or desktop? The MS metro UI design team and their various defenders on these forums would like to have a word with you to get your mind right. Touch on laptops and desktops is computing Nirvana.
    baggins_z
    • You NEVER have to touch the screen on the Surface if you don't want to

      Might want to read what I wrote again. The Surface keyboard allows you to avoid touching the display if you want. Microsoft did a fantastic job there.

      With an iPad and keyboard you DO have to touch the screen since the keyboard is a 3rd party accessory that is not well supported by Apple.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • There are several reason Microsoft may not want to include a keyboard:

    1. Marketing: Not including the cover allows a lower list price for the device. 2. Simplicity: The SP3 is already available in 5 variations of CPU, memory and storage. Adding a cover greatly complicates the options that must be made available. 3. Choice: I paired the SP3 with my Microsoft Wedge Keyboard and a mouse. As clever as the Type Cover is, there are better, more conventional keyboards in the Windows ecosystem that will work fine with the SP3. Users shouldn’t have to buy a keyboard they don’t want or need. 4. Ecosystem: Not including a cover allows accessory makers to provide aftermarket options such as a customizable covers that attach to the magnet connector, covers for specialized software (the “blades” we’ve heard about), and so on. 5. Legal. The Surface Pro 3 is a tablet. Microsoft calls it a tablet (albeit one that can, when properly accessorized, replace your laptop). It is considered a tablet for purposes of airport security screening and use in flight. If it was sold with a keyboard, I’d expect someone would challenge Microsoft’s claim that the SP3 is a tablet.
    cantbeme
  • Apple should stick to their guns and never ever properly support keyboards

    Apple's obstinance will pay off for Microsoft. Long live the Surface! :-)
    greywolf7