The iPad Magic Keyboard accessory has been widely praised for its responsive multi-touch trackpad, backlit keyboard, and clever counterbalancing magnetic stand. Apple debuted the accessory alongside the 2020 iPad Pro update and the iPadOS 13.4 software, which added rich support for cursor input on iPad.
However, a number of users are now airing their frustrations about battery life issues. A slice of Magic Keyboard owners are noticing that their iPad’s battery drops quickly when using the keyboard with the backlight enabled, and some reports indicate battery drain problems arise even when the iPad is idle and not in use.
Remember, the Magic Keyboard does not have its own separate battery and uses the Smart Connector to get power from the battery of the connected iPad Pro.
Unfortunately, Apple does not release official battery life statistics on how much the Magic Keyboard is expected to affect battery life, so what should be considered ‘normal behavior’ is somewhat debatable in itself.
However, common sense suggests that a keyboard, trackpad, and simple backlight should not use that much power — and any effect should be easily dominated by the battery draw of the iPad’s lavish ProMotion Retina display, A12Z chip, and internal radios.
Based on the reports we have been getting from readers, it’s hard to hone in on one root cause. Perhaps the keyboard backlight is especially power-hungry in some models, perhaps the keyboard itself is drawing more power than it needs to sometimes.
Some readers have said that they have seen their Magic Keyboard’s backlight stay lit up even though the iPad itself is idle and asleep. If the backlight is turning on erratically, this could possibly explain the instances of battery drain when the iPad is not in use.
It’s not clear if this is a software or hardware issue, or a combination of the two. The iPad Insight blog has been covering this problem for the last few weeks and found success by getting their Magic Keyboard replaced under warranty.
With the original Magic Keyboard unit:
The second is pretty obvious- backlight vs no backlight. I expected better battery life with the backlight of the Magic Keyboard off, but it still wasn’t nearly as much of a reduction as I anticipating. During my last test, I still dropped over 25% during two hours of writing. For comparison, using the iPad Pro by itself this weekend, I burned 45% during 5 straight hours of watching streaming video with audio playing though the iPad’s speakers. I expect that sort of usage with a bigger demand on power, but it’s still reasonable. This battery drain lines right up with the overall 10 hour rated battery life of the Pro. In comparison, losing a quarter of my battery capacity simply by typing with no backlight for two hours is NOT reasonable.
But changing out the Magic Keyboard — and keeping the same iPad Pro — resulted in battery life numbers that seem more in line with what you would expect.
The only way to finish testing my theory was to get another one and see if it yielded better results. I did that late last week and I have been testing it while finishing up this article and doing some other work over the last two days. I started off by typing with the key backlight off and using the trackpad as I go through and edit this and another article. It appears that my battery life with this Magic Keyboard is far better than my first. I only dropped only 6% in an hour of solid use. While this isn’t the same performance as the Smart Keyboard Folio, it still fits in the 10 hour battery window we expect from the iPad Pro.
In fact, the blog found that they lost only 14% battery life across an hour and a quarter typing session using the new replacement Magic Keyboard, with the backlight set at about 25%. This was 11% lower than the battery drain seen on their seemingly-faulty unit, and that reading was taken when the backlight was completely disabled.
So if you are seeing bad battery life when using your iPad with the Magic Keyboard, getting Apple to swap the Magic Keyboard may be the answer. (As most Apple Stores are closed, you can request hardware replacements through the usual Apple online support channels.)
That being said, we are hesitant to blame this solely on faulty hardware, and it is very possible that a software glitch is also a factor here. We simply don’t know at this stage.
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