Almost since the iPad debuted, people have been trying to use keyboards with it. Third-party keyboard case makers have been only too happy to oblige. Over the years, there’s been a landslide of cases and other contraptions designed to make it easier to do keyboard input on the iPad.
With a few exceptions, almost all the keyboard peripherals for the iPad have involved Bluetooth. There’s no actual physical tether between the iPad and the keyboard, just wireless radio transmission.
In practice, this can create a few problems for the unsophisticated user. Bluetooth isn’t perfectly reliable — devices occasionally unsync and need to be resynced, and that’s a process that’s surprisingly difficult unless you’re familiar with the Settings app and how it works. Also, wireless devices need to be recharged, which means keeping yet another charging cable handy and remembering to do so when the battery runs low.
Ultimately, Bluetooth is a maintenance hassle and a pain point for the average user.
When the iPad Pro debuts in November, it’ll be the first iOS device to feature a new peripheral interface called the Smart Connector. The Smart Connector fixes these issues.
The Smart Connector gives Apple’s new Smart Keyboard, another iPad Pro-specific creation, a place to attach. It’s a three-conductor interface on one side of the iPad Pro. So the new Smart Keyboard doesn’t use Bluetooth to communicate with the iPad. What’s more, it doesn’t need a separate battery for power — it will draw off the power of the iPad Pro itself.
Bluetooth remains a ubiquitous and important technology for the iPad. The Smart Connector is only on one iOS device to start, but Apple will distribute it to work on other future iPads as well.