What it is: Typing on the iPad right now requires pressing on a hard, non-taticle glass surface and manipulating the cursor clumsily by pointing your finger at text. The keyboard in iOS 9 promises to fix this problem.
Many people don’t like typing on the iPad because the hard glass surface of the screen provides zero tactile feedback. That’s why so many people buy external keyboards that double up as covers to protect and prop up the iPad so you can type. However, external keyboards may soon be unnecessary with the coming iPad Pro, which is rumored to have a larger 13-inch screen to provide a wider virtual keyboard. Not only will this wider keyboard be easier tot type on, but Apple’s tactile feedback technology known as Force Touch will also provide tactile feedback virtually through the glass screen.
If this sounds like science fiction, just realize that the latest MacBook uses Force Touch in its trackpad to simulate pressing on the trackpad to click the mouse. Unlike trackpads on older MacBook models, the MacBook’s trackpad never physically moves when you press down on it. Instead the Force Touch technology tricks your fingers into thinking you’re pressing down on the trackpad when the trackpad surface physically never moves. This allows a thinner trackpad design while still giving people tactile feedback they need when pressing on the trackpad.
Now combine Force Touch with the iPad Pro’s virtual keyboard and you can see how Force Touch should allow you to rest your fingers on the virtual keyboard (something not possible with today’s iPad virtual keyboard) and only record keystrokes when you physically press down on the glass screen. Even though the glass screen won’t move, its Force Touch technology will simulate pressing on actual keys, giving you tactile feedback for typing.
By combining Force Touch with the larger virtual keyboard of the iPad Pro, typing should more closely mimic typing on a physical keyboard. Then to manipulate the cursor, you can press two fingers on the virtual keyboard and it turns into a trackpad, allowing you to manipulate the cursor easily. Lift two fingers off the screen and the virtual keyboard appears again.
The combination of Force Touch and turning the virtual keyboard into a trackpad promises to make typing far easier on the iPad Pro than on current and past versions of the iPad. This will only be possible with Force Touch technology, which has brought tactile feedback as part of the user interface. In the old days, user interfaces are limited to visual appearances. Force Touch brings user interfaces into tactile sensations as well.
Expect the iPad Pro later this fall, just in time for the Christmas shopping season. By making the iPad easier to type on, you can expect even more people will prefer an iPad over a laptop for creating and consuming content. The boundaries between laptops and tablets are about to blur even more. One thing is for certain. Physical keyboards are fast becoming obsolete. Just ask Blackberry what happened to their smartphones with physical keyboards once the iPhone arrived.