by Brandon Butler
130 Degrees 4/25/2020

Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch on the new iPad Pro Magic Keyboard:

A little quirk: when it’s tilted super far back to the full stop I sometimes nick the bottom edge of the iPad with my fingers when hitting numbers — could be my typing form or bigger hands but I thought it was worth mentioning.

And John Gruber at Daring Fireball:

I’ve noticed this too — and even more so with the 11-inch model, which arrived two days ago and I’ve been using since. It’s not even a problem, per se, it’s just … weird. In close to 40 years of computering I’ve never before used a keyboard where my fingers nick an overhang while reaching for the Delete key.

I’ve been keeping my screen at about 90 degrees (although it’s probably closer to 100 degrees today, so maybe I’m still looking for that sweet spot). I didn’t really put a lot of thought into the angle of my screen until Panzarino and Gruber started mentioning it. Now I’m thinking about it.

When I first connected iPad to keyboard, like Gruber, I didn’t love it. MacBook, it was not. It was something else. But over the last 48 hours I’ve used only the iPad (in varying combinations of keyboard, tablet, and pencil), putting aside the MacBook entirely (I even discharged the battery to 50% for long-term storage). It took me longer than 15 minutes, but I’m starting to get it. I understand the appeal the more I use it. Back on Thursday (which was technically 78 days ago measured in Pandemic Time), I originally did push the screen back to the full 130 degrees, but found a few issues. First, Face ID was not hitting my face consistently. I had to lean forward and over the screen for Face ID to see me. Second, it felt like the screen was looking over me, which I guess Face ID kind of confirms. Third, the brightness didn’t feel uniform, with the top of the screen looking just a little darker, and it was much easier to detect finger smudges across the glass. But, really, 90-ish degrees was where I was subconsciously pushing the screen, finding an angle I thought felt and looked right without thinking about it until now.

Which makes me wonder (and to paraphrase a very famous mathematician): our bloggers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should push the screen to a full 130 degrees. Are we needlessly nicking our fingers? Or is this Finger-Nick-Gate-2020-Special-Pandemic-Edition? And why am I preferring a steep 90 degree screen angle, when everyone else is pushing to 130?

I had a hunch, so here’s what I did. Using a completely unscientific datapoint of 1, I closed my iPad and set it aside. I then set my MacBook in front of me and I opened it, trying to open it as naturally as I could without really thinking about it. I felt like I had the screen where I would normally keep it open, while also being very aware that I was trying to be very unaware of the screen angle. Then I slide the MacBook — screen untouched — aside and opened the iPad Pro. I found that mid-90’s angle I like, and then slide the iPad and MacBook next to each other. Lo and behold, the screens were open to nearly the same degree.

This proves… nothing.

But like any good netizen with a Twitter account, I have some theories.

I’ve never used a Smart Keyboard, aside from in-store demos. I have used a Smart Folio cover, but I hate that slouched angle it sets the iPad at (what is the angle, about 130 degrees or so?). As the Smart accessories gave the user no fine tuning adjustment options, and if you have used the Smart accessories over the last 18 months, maybe you’ve become accustomed to ~130 degrees as the “correct” iPad viewing angle. But I, your humble Pizza Emoji blogger, have used a Power/MacBook (almost exclusively) at a steep 100 degrees since about 1998 (decades, people!). Pushing the MacBook’s screen back to 130 degrees is just too much for me.

But maybe other people do push their MacBook screens really far back. Maybe they’re tall and so “look down” on their screen, or maybe they sit high in the chair, or the desk is set low, or any number of height adjustments that require their screen to “look up.”

Or maybe they saw the marketing materials and simply thought the screen had to be pushed back fully, and never tried anything else?

Or maybe they like that magical, floaty screen appearance?

Or maybe it’s just personal preference. Apple could have hard-coded a 130 degree viewing angle into the Magic Keyboard and said, “good enough,” but I’m glad they gave us the ability to make personal adjustments. This is not a MacBook, but these kinds of quality-of-life tweaks make the iPad-as-laptop experience (so far) a good one.