Once again, Apple is changing the way we communicate. The new Smart Connector, launched in the iPad Pro last November, utilizes two-way conductive communication that creates an instant connection.
Apple’s recently released iPad Pro is changing (once again) how we communicate. The built-in 12.9-inch Retina display is not the big news. The real excitement is Apple’s first-ever Smart Connector, which enables third-party accessory makers to create their own products for the iPad Pro. In fact, Apple is so committed to the new Smart Connector that it worked with several companies, including Logitech, to produce accessories in time for the iPad Pro launch this past November.
Prior to the iPad Pro, connectors in iPad products were very different. The new Smart Connector is a proprietary Apple interface that utilizes two-way conductive communication. The Smart Connector creates an instant connection with any accessory attached to it. The Apple Smart Keyboard, which connects to the iPad Pro through the Smart Connector, works with the conductive fabric forming its foundation in order to transmit your keystrokes while providing power to the Smart Keyboard at the same time.
Apple designed the Smart Connector with the user in mind; it could not be easier. The alignment is seamless, and, just as a Smart Cover works with other iPads, this one serves three purposes – protect the iPad, serve as a power switch, and enable two-way communication between the iPad Pro and the user.
Make no mistake, Apple’s Smart Keyboard is one of the biggest Apple accessory launches in years. First, it works like a Smart Cover but unfolds into a full-size keyboard, gaining power from the Smart Connector port. A competitive keyboard, The Create for iPad Pro by Logitech, also uses the Smart Connector. This full-size keyboard, designed in collaboration with Apple, enabled Logitech to launch its keyboard in a speedy fashion. Like the Smart Keyboard by Apple, the Logitech Create never needs to be charged because of its Smart Connector-based connectivity. It is more of a traditional keyboard than Apple’s version, but it does get the job done.
For third-party vendors, there are challenges created by the Smart Connector. For example, when turning the iPad Pro, because of its size, the Smart Connector connection may not always be flush. The solution: Either create accessories that pivot to keep the tight connection or possibly add a second Smart Connector port to future iPad Pro versions. While many keyboard vendors are standing firm with Bluetooth connections, make no mistake that the Apple Smart Connector and Smart Keyboard were designed to reduce the typical power drain associated with multiple connections.
The opportunities for connectivity won’t stop at keyboards. The Smart Connector opens up a world where third parties are already testing docking stations for the iPad Pro through the Smart Connector. The benefit to the user? No more Lightning cables for charging means a simpler way to use the iPad. For the businessperson, this means that the iPad Pro could, theoretically, replace your desktop or laptop and bring a whole new generation of iPad users to the forefront. While all of this seems fantastic, one can assume that Apple will place restrictions on the “officially sanctioned” uses for the Smart Connector over time.
The only true competitor to the iPad Pro with the Smart Connector today is the Microsoft Surface. Lacking the ability to add a cellular connection to the Surface means it is much harder to take on the road. With no Smart Connector-type connection, the Microsoft Surface becomes a stand-alone product designed for very specific use, regardless of how it is marketed. How, then, does Apple “out-Surface” Microsoft?
With the Smart Connector and the Smart Keyboard, the new iPad Pro is already a Surface on steroids. Imagine the iPad Pro 2 in which there is an additional Smart Connector for video/audio inputs plus power and data. This would create a tablet experience that leaves any competition in the dust. In this scenario, through the magic of the Smart Connector, iPads could become MacBooks with a simple connection, while users would get the best of both worlds 100% of the time.
In the final analysis, it is important to grasp that the way we communicate is changing. Mobile computing, and communication in general, is becoming faster and more effective through Apple’s new Smart Connector. For those that want a laptop-like experience with a readily portable feel, there really is only one solution on the market that fits the bill. The memory in the iPad Pro (which is more than twice that of any other iOS product) and the ability to utilize the Smart Connector in a myriad of ways makes for the most efficient, cost-effective, and reliable connection we have seen yet.
Author Brooke Greenwald is the president of Cornerstone Communications Ltd.