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Teardown Shows Off the Guts of the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Following teardowns of the Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro itself, iFixit today completed a disassembly of Apple's new first party Smart Keyboard accessory. The teardown of the keyboard doesn't provide much in the way of surprising internal revelations, but does give those interested a closer look at the accessory's conductive fabric, dome switches underneath the keys, and underlying circuit board powering the device.


iFixit first noted the "high tech fabric" lining the outside of the Smart Keyboard, guessing that the fabric could be nylon due to its tactile similarities to a windbreaker. Once peeled back, the stripped away fabric reveals a row of dome switches beneath, along with a stiffening weight placed in the spacebar for a more reliable return each time a user hits the rectangular key.

Once the Smart Keyboard is cracked open, iFixit discovered the circuit board at the center of the device, but with no added flourishes like LEDs, batteries, or cooling fans due to the accessory's slim size. Once the keyboard frame was pulled away, the site noticed "intestinal squiggles" lining the plastic casing that direct toward small vents on the topside of the keyboard, most likely used to release air pressure each time a key is pressed, according to iFixit.


Lastly the teardown revealed the "brains of the operation" in the form of an ARM-based microcontroller from STMicroelectronics, along with a final layer of three fabric strips at the base of the keyboard. Made of Apple's "conductive fabric" that connects the accessory's smart connector (where the iPad Pro is placed) with the actual keyboard, the fabric allows for a "two-way flow of power and data" that should be able to withstand a lifetime of unfolding the Smart Keyboard.


Overall, iFixit gave the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard a repairability score of 0 out of 10, meaning once it was torn down the accessory is impossible to repair. The site noted that while the Apple-made accessory is quite durable, it must be damaged to gain entry and none of its internal components can be removed and replaced without causing fatal harm to the device.

Article Link: Teardown Shows Off the Guts of the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard
 

Popeye206

macrumors 68040
Sep 6, 2007
3,148
836
NE PA USA
I can't wait to see if someone thinks this product should be able to be repaired vs just replaced if its broken.
 

ouimetnick

macrumors 68030
Aug 28, 2008
2,739
2,849
Beverly, Massachusetts
Assigning a "repairability score" to small devices like a keyboard, mouse, pencil, earpods etc is just stupid. Yes, I want to repair my $30 earphones. I think iFixit gets upset because they know they can't sell parts for it and make money. If something is cheap like a keyboard or mouse, I'll get it replaced under warranty or buy a new one if it's out of warranty. I'm not wasting my time fixing something that's not meant to be serviced.
 

nymetsfan25

macrumors newbie
Jun 2, 2015
22
183
Assigning a "repairability score" to small devices like a keyboard, mouse, pencil, earpods etc is just stupid. Yes, I want to repair my $30 earphones. I think iFixit gets upset because they know they can't sell parts for it and make money. If something is cheap like a keyboard or mouse, I'll get it replaced under warranty or buy a new one if it's out of warranty. I'm not wasting my time fixing something that's not meant to be serviced.

The $169 price tag is a little different than the $30 headphone example you used.

But anyways, the point of the article was to let people know that they shouldn't waste their time trying to fix something that's not meant to be serviced...

People will complain about anything.
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
8,937
4,784
0 out of 10? I feel like that's a new record. The Apple Pencil got a 1 out of 10, at least.

iFixit should figure out if a diamond is fixable. I feel like they would give it a -1 out of 10, finding it impossible to tear down (using only the tools they sell) in the first place.

Anyways, I just bought a kit from iFixit last week. Sometime in the next day or two I'll be upgrading my MacMini from 1 GB of RAM to 2 GB - hoping that should help speed it up a bit with browsing the web and streaming videos to my TV.
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
8,937
4,784
Why does fixit even give a score for these types of peripherals. No matter who makes them (Apple, MS, etc) these smart cover type products were never designed to be "repaired"

A lot of Apple's products weren't designed to be repaired (thus their low scores). That doesn't mean that they can't be.

The real reason the scores seem like a waste of time is how inexpensive the products are. When a product only costs $99 in the first place, who is going to go through the effort of buying a $50 kit and then spending an hour returning it to a refurbished state? You'll spend less time and money plus end up with a product in a better state just by buying a new one.
 

navaira

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2015
3,812
5,025
Amsterdam, Netherlands
These 'tear-downs' and rating for repairabilty are so ten years ago. Honestly, who cares?
Me. Fascinating to see how it's built. As for the scores I think FixIt give EVERYTHING a score. No need to get overexcited about it. There's probably an actual apple being peeled in the FixIt archives, and getting a 1/10 score because you can superglue it together afterwards but eatability suffers.
 

odedia

macrumors 65816
Nov 24, 2005
1,023
134
I can't believe they charge 169$ for this thing. Apple, 169$ keyboards and 250$ watch bands will get even the most die-hard fans like myself feeling ripped off. Get your act together.
 
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H2SO4

macrumors 601
Nov 4, 2008
4,704
5,775
Assigning a "repairability score" to small devices like a keyboard, mouse, pencil, earpods etc is just stupid. Yes, I want to repair my $30 earphones. I think iFixit gets upset because they know they can't sell parts for it and make money. If something is cheap like a keyboard or mouse, I'll get it replaced under warranty or buy a new one if it's out of warranty. I'm not wasting my time fixing something that's not meant to be serviced.
I remember cleaning my white Apple Pro keyboard after looking at a teardown like this. I appreciate them even if you have the money to waste. What’s ironic is you are probably one of those people that laud the EPEAT/Energy Star ratings and how Apple use lots of renewable energy, then in the same breath spout the crapola above about throwing things out like you just did.
 

solipsism

macrumors 6502a
Jan 13, 2008
507
287
These 'tear-downs' and rating for repairabilty are so ten years ago. Honestly, who cares?

It's quite simple. iFixit sells replacement components (new and sued) and the tools in which to repair innumerable consumer electronics. To help market their product they make and give away the instructions for each repair on their site.

While you may be one that wouldn't want to replace an aging battery, a bad fan, a cracked screen, whatever, many people do, hence the market they serve. If have no such inkling to understand how electronics work or to do a repair then I have to wonder why you're reading the article in the first place.

Now, at this point I'm guessing your thinking, "But the Smart Keyboard got a 0 out of 10 so it can't be repaired," and you'd be correct, which means iFixit won't be selling any Smart Keyboard components, iFixit readers that may consider fixing one will see that it's not possible, and those that see some questionable website selling "genuine" Smart Keyboard components will know something is up because of iFixit's efforts to dissect CE for our benefit.
 
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macduke

macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
11,167
15,133
Central U.S.
You know what this thing reminds me of? That crappy Apple case I had on my first-gen iPad. Too thin, too tight and difficult to get in/out of, rough/sharp edges, tipped over easily and no magnetic screen latch with sleep/wake. Basically it was a first gen product and you didn't quite realize how crappy it was until Apple came out with the subsequent versions. I have a feeling the same will be true for this keyboard. They've gotten better over the years, but this is still a first gen product. Is it terrible? Far from it—but hindsight will be 20/20.

My biggest problem is that it seems overpriced for what you get. No butterfly mechanisms, no interesting input methods like swiping across the keyboard to activate gestures on the iPad. Apple could have developed something different and unique to the iPad but at the end of the day it's just a slim, overpriced keyboard with cheap dome switches. It just is. As much as I hate to say it, I see nothing in this case that warrants $150. And if you think I'm just some cheap Apple hater who doesn't understand their premium pricing or what have you, just click the button below in my signature.

Considering the (current) sorry state of keyboard support in software on iOS, IMO I don't really see the point in investing in something like this. They've got some work to do. Many shortcuts just don't work. You can't even use the arrow keys to scroll websites in Safari. You have to do what Steve Jobs said is dumb, which is hold your arm up to the display. Overall, when it comes to the iPad Pro, I look at the iPad vs the iPad 2. That was a massive improvement across the board in a short time, so for something this pricey ($949 + $149 + $99 = $1197), I think I can be forgiven for waiting to see what comes next.
 

Rogifan

macrumors Core
Nov 14, 2011
22,089
27,665
Again with the repairability score. No one is going to want to "open" this thing up.

However, I did try one out today and it's a lot nicer than the reviews had me believing.
In Jason Snell's iPad Pro review he said the iPad Pro didn't exist to provide comfort to Mac users. I take that into account when reading reviews of the MacBook and iPad Pro from long time Mac users. They like what's familiar and comfortable to them.

I can't believe they charge 169$ for this thing. Apple, 169$ keyboards and 250$ watch bands will get even the most die-hard fans like myself feeling ripped off. Get your act together.

How can you feel ripped off by something that's completely optional?
 
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brofkand

macrumors 6502
Jun 11, 2006
478
921
Even the IBM Model M would get a low repairability score by iFixit, and people have been able to repair those things and keep them going for north of 20 years now. They rarely break down, but when they do they aren't particularly simple to repair and need special screwdrivers to disassemble.
 
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