After five years of daily usage, the keyboard that came with my 2017 iMac Pro started to show its age. I mean, there is nothing wrong with it — just that the keys have become too soft. It has developed a certain patina — which is great on leather accessories but not as appealing on a keyboard. Or at least that’s the excuse I am using to justify spending a whopping $149 on the new Magic Keyboard with TouchID.

The new keyboard(s) is designed to work with devices powered by the M1 chips, and you need the latest version of Apple’s operating system. You can use the new Magic Keyboard with the Intel-based Macs, but the Touch ID doesn’t work with those machines. Also, instead of getting one with a numeric keypad, I ordered a smaller non-numeric version. Why? I wanted something that would work well with my home machine and my M1-powered 12.9 iPad Pro. Incase you were wondering, the TouchID doesn’t work with M1 iPad Pro, but it works as a lightweight replacement for my retiring V1 Magic Keyboard.

I prefer the standalone Magic Keyboard with my iPad versus the heavier, more expensive $350 Magic Keyboard for iPad. For a while, I have used my older Apple Keyboard — the one that used AA batteries. Sadly, it is being relegated to the retirement drawer.

For me, that was one of the best-designed keyboards — the battery compartment gave it a slant at a nice comfortable angle and allowed you to type for long periods. The subsequent version of Magic Keyboard got rid of the battery compartment and instead replaced it with an internal battery. It was sleeker and more angular, but it wasn’t my favorite. The new keyboard has more rounded edges and has a more contemporary look. It has lost a bit of its heft and height, and as a result, it feels a bit cramped.

The keys are quieter. The keys do feel much more comfortable when typing. As a personal preference, I like stiffer keys, as I have a heavy hand when typing. The keyboard is no paragon of ergonomic excellence, but then I intentionally opted for the compactness. I want the option to slip this into my bag with my iPad when I resume my work travels.

The Magic is TouchID

The main (and most important) reason I wanted to upgrade is the “TouchID” feature — so all the minor shortcomings are worth living with the new keyboard.

Setting up the TouchID is pretty simple. First, charge the keyboard. Then turn it on. Pair the keyboard with your computer. And then restart the computer. Go to the control panel, and click on the TouchID panel. Set up your ID. It should all take about five minutes. So far, I love using TouchID to sign into various services and websites. The only quibble, if I have any — the TouchID itself is very small, and sometimes you have to reposition the finger to get it working. That said, the convenience of using it for logging into websites, other services, and Apple Pay is worth this minor annoyance.

Bottomline: If you want to use this with your M1 iPad Pro when on the go and can’t live without the TouchID, then I say go for it. If you suffer from finger syndrome or indulge in long stretches of typing, I would say there are better options.

The last time I bought a new iPad Pro was at the end of 2018, and I have been patiently waiting to order the new model with the M1 chip. Despite waking up very early on the April 30th morning to buy one from Apple’s website, I will still have to wait a few months to actually hold my new device. It looks like delivery is going to be sometime in late June 2021 or early July 2021. Whether it be for work or entertainment, I almost always prefer to use an iPad, so the wait is going to feel agonizingly long.

By the way, while shopping around, I noticed something a bit surprising about my new purchase. It turns out that the fully loaded 12.9-inch iPad Pro is currently the most expensive M1 portable computer you can buy. You pay more for the fully specked out 12.9-inch screen iPad Pro than you do for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Both have the 8-core M1 chip with 16 GB memory and 2 TB of storage, but with the iPad you get a 5G modem and an XDR display. And a much better camera for Zoom calls.

The MacBook Pro is $2,299. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro is going to cost you $2,399 — and that’s before you shell out about $450 for a keyboard and a pencil.

If you include those additional (and necessary, I would argue) items, then the iPad Pro’s final price tag — $2,877 — is higher than any other M1 machine. It’s more expensive than even the new iMac, the fully loaded Mac mini, and MacBook Pro. The Mac mini with the same M1 chip and specs (and 10 Gb Ethernet) costs $1,799. The new iMac is going to set you back $2,499, but that includes a keyboard and a mouse.

iPad, sure has come a long way! 

This got me thinking about the day Steve Jobs first showed off the iPad on stage. I was deeply impacted by the release of the iPad. It brought up fond memories. My first aha moment with the iPad was when I gave one to my mother, nearly a decade ago. It made me realize that for once we had a device that delighted grandparents as much as their grandkids. And that’s what made the iPad special. It has been more than a decade and my iPad has been a constant companion through the years.

For some odd reason, there is a perception that, when it comes to Apple’s line-up of products, the iPad is the runt of the litter. This may not come as a surprise at this point, but I think this line of thinking is incorrect.

Just take a look at the numbers! 

Earlier this week, Apple reported earnings for its quarter ending March 31, 2021. The iPad brought in a revenue of $7.8 billion, up 79% versus the same quarter in 2020. In comparison, the Mac division (which benefited from a new M1 chip launch) saw revenues of $9.1 billion, up 70% over the same three months in 2020. The iPad is inching up on the Mac!

Strategy Analytics, a market research firm, noted in a recent research report that Apple’s share of the tablet market during the first three months of 2021 was 36.7%, up 6.6% compared to the first three months of 2020. During the same period, it shipped 17.8 million units, a jump of 75% from 9.6 million units in the first quarter of 2020. 

That means iPad took market share from both Android and Windows-based tablets during the first three months of the year. Researchers from Strategy Analytics seem to suggest that this demand for tablets could be more sustainable. They seem to believe that tablets are a beneficiary of the shift towards working-from-home, a trend accelerated by the pandemic. 

Another factor working in favor of tablets in general, and iPads specifically, is how quickly and seamlessly they can go from being a device for work to a device for fun. 

I use my iPad to watch baseball, cricket, and Formula 1 races. I use it to read long articles and even Kindle books.  And nothing compares to watching YouTube on my iPad. As someone who uses Adobe Lightroom Cloud to store his raw photos, I use the iPad for most of the cataloging work — from rating photos to deleting the ones that don’t make the cut. And I do that while streaming music to my home music system.  

Could I do all of these things on my laptop? Of course, I could. But the iPad has a better screen, better audio, and — most importantly — an easily detachable keyboard that lets you literally cut loose and leave work mode behind. 

So, while I may have been a bit surprised to find myself buying the priciest M1 computer available when I went to upgrade my iPad, I can confidently say that it was money well spent. If only it would get here already!