I’ve just received the iPad Keyboard Dock. This entry is being typed on it using the iPad’s WordPress app. What I’ve discovered so far is that the Dock has a feel very much like the standard Mac keyboard. (I’ve also found that using the Tab key in WordPress crashes the app, but I’m guessing that’s a short-term WordPress issue, not a Dock issue. In these early days of the iPad, developers need to be cut some slack with minor bugs like this. They didn’t get an iPad to do QA testing on any sooner than the rest of us did to play with it.)
I have liked typing on the iPad’s virtual keyboard. For me, a 60 wpm touch typist (who remembers when he used to be able to do 80-85 wpm and still occasionally hits those highs) the virtual keyboard was a significant step forward compared to the iPhone’s puny type with thumbs arrangement. Of course the iPhone’s virtual keyboard was in turn significantly better than almost every other cellphone typing system, Blackberry being the notable exception, so it’s not like I’m complaining on that account.
Still, there’s nothing like typing on a real keyboard and the text entry here is so much faster than I fear it will be painful to go back to the iPad’s virtual system. Time will tell. I do think, however, that if I were buying an iPad 3G, I would also buy a Bluetooth wireless keyboard to go with it.
The Dock’s keyboard has some specialized function keys, which made me wonder at first if Apple would create a special Bluetooth keyboard for iPad. A closer look leaves me doubtful. The song forward/back/play/pause group is there as is the volume up/down/mute set. Ditto the brightness up/down. One new key, a magnifying glass, takes you to the Search screen. Handier than double-clicking the Home button? I dunno. The button next to that (where Escape would be on the top left) literally is a second Home button. Utility again dubious. There’s an instant slideshow start button which is all right. The Virtual Keyboard button is, I suppose, required in case you must use the thing, but again I’m not sure how much real world use it will get. The top right button is a lock of some kindâ€”I assume it turns off the iPad since it appears to shut off the screen. On the whole, none of these strike me as essential.
The Dock itself holds the iPad in a vertical manner and seems adequate to the task. There’s a dock connector port out the back so you can power the iPad while you type. It all seems perfectly practical for a guy like me who will be keeping his iPad near the bedside for daily use. For those getting the iPad 3G, look at the non-keyboard Dock and a Bluetooth wireless keyboard instead.
UPDATE: It didn’t take more than 4 months for the Dock part of the Keyboard/Dock to break like so much kindling. I’ve talked with other Apple techs and this is not an isolated problem. Avoid the Keyboard/Dock device, I think. Opt for an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and maybe one of these.