The dream of many iPhone owners is one step closer: Apple may be releasing an iPhone keyboard and trackpad case. Here’s what you need to know.
For almost as long as there has been an iPhone a subset of users have been clamoring for an iPhone case that has a built-in keyboard and trackpad. Admittedly, such an accessory seemed a bit ludicrous in the early days of the iPhone. After all, until the iPhone 5, all iPhones had 3.5in displays–tiny in other words.
Even the iPhone 6 up to the iPhone 8 only had 4.7in displays and the Plus variants only had 5.5in displays. Would a trackpad and keyboard really be useful for a device with that small a screen? Probably not.
But as of the iPhone 11 and later, most iPhones now have at least a 6.1in display. The biggest has a 6.7in display. Once you reach the six-inch and higher screen size, a dedicated keyboard and trackpad case becomes a little more practical. Why? Because the screen is large enough to be able to follow a tiny cursor around.
And according to a recent patent filing, we may be on the cusp of getting that iPhone keyboard and trackpad case.
Apple iPhone Keyboard & Trackpad Case: The Patent
On May 25, 2021 Apple was granted a patent for an “Accessory device for an electronic device.” Sounds pretty vague doesn’t it? The thing is when you actually do a deep dive into the patent, you see that “accessory device” is none other than an iPhone keyboard and trackpad case. Just check out the patent’s diagram below…
It should be noted that Patently Apple was the first to report on this patent. Now keep in mind that patent drawings are purposely generic. But even then, the “computing device” listed int he patent and shown in the drawing sure looks like an iPhone doesn’t it?
Now, the patent does also show a keyboard and trackpad case that looks like it’s for an iPad too–but Apple already has a keyboard and trackpad case for the iPad. This patent is such a big deal because it shows the company working on an iPhone keyboard and trackpad case too.
Apple iPhone Keyboard & Trackpad Case: Features
From what we can tell from the patent filing, the iPhone keyboard and trackpad case takes the form of a folio case, with the back case cover attaching to the iPhone and the bottom of the case housing the keyboard and trackpad.
Additionally, the iPhone hovers over the keyboard and trackpad portion of the case thanks to two things: a strong flexible hinge–just the the current iPad keyboard and trackpad case has.
But this patent also lists a new feature that enables such hovering – and it’s pretty wild: magnetic repulsion. Here’s how the patent describes it:
“As shown, the panel 802 can include a second magnetic assembly 832 that includes one or more magnets designed to magnetically repel the magnets of the first magnetic assembly 830 disposed in the front cover 812. The first magnetic assembly 830 and the second magnetic assembly 832 can be arranged such that their respective external magnetic fields are pointing in substantially the same direction. For example, FIG. 8B illustrates a magnetic field view 816 that provides a simplified view of an arrangement of the magnetic fields created by the first magnetic assembly 830 and the second magnetic assembly 832, when the second magnetic assembly 832 hovers over the first magnetic assembly 830. The first magnetic assembly 830 can create a first magnetic field 842 and second magnetic assembly 832 can create a second magnetic field 844. Because the first magnetic field 842 and the second magnetic field 844 are arranged in similar directions (as indicated by the “x,” which is provided to resemble the back of an arrow that points in the direction of the magnetic field vector lines), the first magnetic assembly 830 and the second magnetic assembly 832 will repel each other by way of a magnetic repulsion force 840 (also shown in FIG. 8A).
“Furthermore, because the case 800 includes a first flexible region 822 and a second flexible region 824 that can at least partially cancel out a static load 856 (shown in FIG. 8A) created by a weight of the computing device 102, the magnetic repulsion force 840 will cause the computing device 102 to hover over the first magnetic assembly 830, which acts as a magnetic trough. The first magnetic assembly 830 can be arranged such that at least two magnets extend parallel to an edge of the computing device 102 nearest the first magnetic assembly 830 when the computing device 102 is arranged over the front cover 812. In some embodiments, at least three of first magnetic assembly 830 can be arranged within the front cover 812, and at least two of magnets of the first magnetic assembly 830 can have different size magnetic fields. For example, a magnet of the first magnetic assembly 830 can be arranged between two larger magnets of the first magnetic assembly 830 to create a magnetic trough for an edge of the computing device 102 to reside and hover above. A distance by which the computing device 102 can hover above the front cover can be one or more millimeters, centimeters, or inches in some embodiments.”
Pretty wild, right? This magnetic repulsion would be critical for the iPhone keyboard and trackpad case because the iPhone would make the expanded unit top-heavy and thus prone to tipping forwards. The magnetic repulsion system, provides the force for counteracting the gravitational pull on the iPhone.
Apple iPhone Keyboard & Trackpad Case: When Will It Come Out?
That’s the million-dollar questions (or, knowing Apple, the $199 price for such an accessory question). It’s important to note that Apple patents a ton of devices and accessories that never see the light of day.
That means don’t get your how up yet that you’ll see this iPhone Keyboard & Trackpad Case soon. Of course, that’s not to say it won’t happen, but until Apple announces it it’s good to keep expectations in check.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does Apple make a keyboard case for the iPhone?
No, Apple does not make a keyboard case for the iPhone. However, Apple does have a patent for such an accessory.
Q: How do I turn iPhone keyboard into trackpad?
On the latest iOS, you can touch and hold your finger on the spacebar on the keyboard. After a moment, the keyboard buttons will go flat and you can run your finger across them to move the text cursor around the text field you are in.
Q: Does the iPad have a keyboard case?
Yes, Apple makes a keyboard and trackpad case for the iPad. Third-party accessory makers also make iPad keyboard cases.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.