Introduction

Apple has launched the next phase in their master plan to replace all personal computers with iPads. Apple's Smart Keyboard is an iPad Pro accessory designed to bring even more functionality to the table(t). But does it bring repairability? With teardown on our minds, we decide to find out just how smart this keyboard really is.

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This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your Smart Keyboard, use our service manual.

Check out these smart specs! Smart Connector for power and data connection 64 Key, QWERTY keyboard
  • Check out these smart specs!

    • Smart Connector for power and data connection

    • 64 Key, QWERTY keyboard

    • Water and stain-resistant

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The bottom flap is home to all the regular suspects—regulatory markings, country of origin, and a new model number: A1636. Hamburger? Hot Dog? With all these folds, the Smart Keyboard definitely breaks the record for the most confusing combination keyboard/case  ever. Seriously, this thing has so many sections, Apple even included a handy "guide" on how to fold it correctly.
  • The bottom flap is home to all the regular suspects—regulatory markings, country of origin, and a new model number: A1636.

  • Hamburger? Hot Dog? With all these folds, the Smart Keyboard definitely breaks the record for the most confusing combination keyboard/case ever.

    • Seriously, this thing has so many sections, Apple even included a handy "guide" on how to fold it correctly.

  • We finally get the Smart Keyboard to bend to our will and lay mostly flat (not taking into account the 4 mm depth of each individual key). It looks like the perfect symmetry we found in the iPad Pro doesn't carry over to its accessories.

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On the left, an iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard. On the right, a Surface Pro 4. We're pretty sure anyway, the differences are pretty slight at first glance. The most marked difference between the key layouts is of course the Surface's trackpad. iPads just want to watch the world burn... We know, iOS doesn't support any mouse-type input, so a trackpad here wouldn't really work. Still, with the rapidly growing number of iPad applications, we are hopeful...
  • On the left, an iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard. On the right, a Surface Pro 4. We're pretty sure anyway, the differences are pretty slight at first glance.

  • The most marked difference between the key layouts is of course the Surface's trackpad. iPads just want to watch the world burn...

    • We know, iOS doesn't support any mouse-type input, so a trackpad here wouldn't really work. Still, with the rapidly growing number of iPad applications, we are hopeful...

  • The Smart Keyboard features some iOS hallmarks, like the keyboard swapping globe button, and rounder key edges.

    • However the iPad Pro also seems to be taking some notes from its notebook cousins, the Smart Keyboard has control, option, and command keys.

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  • In order to make the Smart Keyboard water and stain-resistant, Apple encapsulated the entire accessory inside some high tech fabric.

  • Finding no viable entry points, we turn to our Tech Knife for sage wisdom.

  • We slice and dice the microfiber lining of the keyboard as we burrow our way towards victory.

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We peel up the top layer of mysterious fabric (we think it's nylon—our teardown engineer notes that it feels like a windbreaker) to find blank keys. Perhaps Jony Ive was worried about your keyboard getting get too cold? Moving past the fabric, we begin prying out the individual keys and get our first glance at the dome switches underneath.
  • We peel up the top layer of mysterious fabric (we think it's nylon—our teardown engineer notes that it feels like a windbreaker) to find blank keys.

    • Perhaps Jony Ive was worried about your keyboard getting get too cold?

  • Moving past the fabric, we begin prying out the individual keys and get our first glance at the dome switches underneath.

    • As Apple stated during their keynote, these switches are the same as those found in the 2015 Retina MacBook.

  • One design choice we like is the placement of a stiffening weight in the spacebar.

    • The addition of this bar means the spacebar key can register a push no matter where you tap on it. No wobbly spacebar woes here.

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  • We call upon our iOpener to heat the microfiber lining, allowing us to delve further into the multiple layers of the Smart Keyboard cover panel.

    • We're starting to feel like archeologists, digging through the ages...

  • Underneath the soft display cover we find... nothing really.

  • Time for a brief message from our sponsors: We're excited to announce that we've just released a completely redesigned Pro Tech Toolkit, complete with all of the tools you need, and none that you don't.

  • With this tough plastic layer blocking further keyboard inroads, we're going to need one of those tools...

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Like a plastic opening pick. We crack open the clam and the pearls keycaps come cascading out. We now have the pleasure of viewing the entire underlying circuit board, replete with 64 dome switches.
  • Like a plastic opening pick.

  • We crack open the clam and the pearls keycaps come cascading out.

  • We now have the pleasure of viewing the entire underlying circuit board, replete with 64 dome switches.

    • But not much else, no LEDs, or batteries or fancy fans needed here!

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Another one bites the dust. We pull the keycap frame away for a closer look. There are some interesting intestinal squiggles in this plastic frame, what's up with that?
  • Another one bites the dust. We pull the keycap frame away for a closer look.

  • There are some interesting intestinal squiggles in this plastic frame, what's up with that?

  • Closer inspection shows these channels lead to tiny vents at the top of the keyboard.

    • We assume this keeps the Smart Keyboard from becoming a pressurized balloon every time a key is depressed.

    • Let's hope these holes don't let water in...

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Time to peel up yet another layer! In fact, it's that tough plastic backing we encountered earlier. It's aggressively glued, so we aggressively, well, ripped in in half... Finally, the true keyboard is revealed—a plane of switches and chips! The brains of the operation is Apple's latest go-to microcontroller for peripheral input devices:
  • Time to peel up yet another layer! In fact, it's that tough plastic backing we encountered earlier. It's aggressively glued, so we aggressively, well, ripped in in half...

  • Finally, the true keyboard is revealed—a plane of switches and chips!

  • The brains of the operation is Apple's latest go-to microcontroller for peripheral input devices:

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Peeling up the last of the Smart Keyboard's pelt reveals three interesting fabric strips. Turns out, these are made of Apple's mysterious "conductive fabric." These connect the keyboard to the Smart Connector and allow for a "two‑way flow of power and data."
  • Peeling up the last of the Smart Keyboard's pelt reveals three interesting fabric strips.

  • Turns out, these are made of Apple's mysterious "conductive fabric." These connect the keyboard to the Smart Connector and allow for a "two‑way flow of power and data."

    • We're excited about this design feature, as these fabric strips should be more durable and fail-resistant than wires or traditional flex cables.

    • Apple even states "unlike traditional wires, the conductive fabric can withstand a lifetime of folding." Sweet!

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The Apple Smart Keyboard repairability 0 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair): While durable, the keyboard is impossible to open without damaging, meaning no internal components can be replaced without destroying the device.
  • The Apple Smart Keyboard repairability 0 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair):

    • While durable, the keyboard is impossible to open without damaging, meaning no internal components can be replaced without destroying the device.

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Dante Mazzanti

Member since: 07/13/2015

24,458 Reputation

94 Guides authored

15 Comments

Another disposable product from Apple, if it ever goes wrong, that is =)

I am not surpised

Marhowl - Reply

I'm not either. I think that's going to be the norm (if not already) as devices become smaller and more complex. Not only from just Apple. I think the need to repair rather than replace will get less and less. I think this is a good thing, but it means scores like 'reparability' when reviewing or tearing down will continue to mean less and less to consumers over time. For myself, I already think it's a pretty glorified/meaningless statistic when reviewing a product I'm going to buy. As long as it's quality, and/or the manufacturer has a good warranty program, it's much more convenient for me to go that route. I can't remember the last time I needed to fix or pay to get fixed one of my electronic devices who isn't the manufacturer.

Nick - Reply

well, at some point of time maybe even you will grow up, take responsibility and try not to waste our beautiful planet with one-time, throw-away products..

Guido Boehm -

i suppose most products of companies have a limited warranty of, let's say, 2-3 years maximum.

what happens if after the warranty ends and the keyboard fails to work?

since you can't repair it your self, you can only use it as a placemat for your dinner.

alexios -

Guido, there's this thing called recycling, perhaps you've heard of it?

rpe33 -

I guess it would be acceptable if it was the only one around but the limited orientation and instability mean there will be far better options. I'm sure the Clamcase will blow it out of the water. http://clamcase.com/?gclid=CjwKEAiAstCyB...

hamesken - Reply

you guys forgot something, it's just a keyboard, i know it's a bit special but just a keyboard

have you ever had to repair a keyboard? i mean a casual one, not your special custom cherry mx one, the one for an accountant or receptionist?

Dezso Fater - Reply

"it's just a keyboard"

yeah, a $170 one...

no way -

I've never had to worry about tearing a hole in the fabric wrapped around my keyboard, no.

Steve -

Have you ever seriously tried to repair a keyboard? Other than minor repairs, like replacing a key cap or hinges? The things are irreparable except mechanical keyboards with independent switches, and often expensive on a laptop.. There's not much to fix if anything goes wrong anyway.

Desktop keyboards are usually also irreparable, especially the typical desktop keyboard (where repairing damage to the contacts/membrane is uneconomical, and replacement parts are usually difficult to come across). On the other hand, a new membrane keyboard is $20.

Elizabeth Myers - Reply

And this one shown here $170

Kalvinjj -

This is a really good tear down of the product. After reading it, was inquisitive to know, how do they connect the keyboard part to the rest of the fabric/fold part. Feel, there has to be some mechanism to connect the two, like a hinge or something.

Raghu Ram - Reply

In Step 3, I don't get your remark, "iPads just want to watch the world burn..." A bit unprofessional and unnecessary don't you think?....and weird. Then you say you're hopeful for a trackpad in the future. Why? It's not a question of new apps. No app will ever need a trackpad because...well, because iOS and touch screens don't require them.

johnleestjohn - Reply

I am curious about the signaling. Is the typing info transmitted wirelessly or using some of the three pins?

Li Jin - Reply

Would love to also see a teardown of the microsoft surface keyboards!

Nigel Geh - Reply

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