Apple's new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro will work with older tablets

Apple's new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro isn't just for the updated 2020 tablet, the company has confirmed, with news about backward compatibility shared today. Announced alongside the latest iPad Pro, the Magic Keyboard promises to address some of the lingering complaints tablet users have had about Apple's keyboard covers, including bringing trackpad support for the first time.

The trackpad joins a Magic Keyboard using technology borrowed from the latest 16-inch MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air. That has proper keys, backlit, and with 1mm travel. It also uses a new cantilevered hinge mechanism, which can be adjusted across 120-degrees; it's stiff enough to support the iPad Pro off your desk or table, in fact.

Meanwhile, there's now a pass-through USB-C port for powering the tablet, which means the iPad Pro's own USB-C connector can be saved for peripherals such as removable storage.

Apple is, unsurprisingly, positioning the new accessory as the perfect peripheral for the 2020 version of the iPad Pro. However, you won't need to upgrade in order to use it. Those with an existing iPad Pro will also find it's compatible.

The 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro will work with the 2018 iPad Pro; that is to say, the 3rd generation, as well as the new 4th generation. The 11-inch Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro will work with the 1st and 2nd generation tablets. As you'd expect, they each fold around the tablets to protect them in your bag, too.

The 11-inch model will be priced at $299, while the 12.9-inch model will be $349. Both will go on sale in May, which means you have a couple of months to wait. The delayed gratification is down to trackpad support requiring iPadOS 13.4, which Apple isn't expecting to release until March 24.

At that point, you won't actually need to have a Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro – or indeed an iPad Pro itself – in order to get trackpad or mouse functionality. iPadOS 13.4 adds support both for Apple's own wireless peripherals, the Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2, or a third-party USB and Bluetooth mouse or trackpad. It'll work with all of Apple's iPad Pro models, the iPad Air 2 and later, the iPad 5th generation and later, and the iPad mini 4 and later.

If pricing for the official Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro is too rich for your blood, meanwhile, we'd be surprised if third-party accessory makers didn't jump on the bandwagon too. We're expecting to see more affordable options from the usual suspects, so there's likely to be a much wider array of peripheral choice later in 2020.

[Updated to correct iPadOS 13.4 release timeline]