Apple’s iPad Pro has already seen a few Smart Connector keyboards — one from Logitech and one from Apple — but Bluetooth is still an option for would-be typers. Zagg’s Messenger Universal Keyboard ($70) is, as its name suggests, compatible with nearly any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or tablet, but it specifically handles anything 12″ or less — which means it fits the iPad Pro, in addition to any other compatible iPad or iPhone. Unlike the other iPad Pro options (and plenty of other iPad options), Messenger Universal Keyboard is just a keyboard, not a case or cover for your iPad.
The plastic keyboard on Messenger Universal is about the size of a MacBook keyboard — it’s full-sized, with a row of its own function keys, including playback and volume controls, an app switching button, a screenshot button, and more. It’s attached to a folio which is folded and used to cover up the keyboard when it’s not in use, and its magnets actually activate the keyboard’s own sleep/wake function. The inside of the folio is microfiber, while the outside has a more durable waxed canvas feel. When in use, the folio acts as a stand for an iPhone or iPad — it holds an iPad Pro well, and it even does a pretty good job when balanced on one’s lap. On the right side of the keyboard is an on/off switch and a micro-USB port for recharging (a micro-USB cable is included). Zagg claims Messenger Universal gets up to three months of battery life.
Messenger Universal’s built-in stand can hold an iPad or iPhone in portrait or landscape mode, but landscape is probably preferable, especially when using the bigger iPad Pro. Bluetooth pairing was simple and quick for us. Typing on Zagg’s keyboard is decent — it doesn’t have the feel of a MacBook or Logitech’s Create, but we do prefer these keys to the less bouncy keys of Apple’s Smart Keyboard. There’s another possible issue, though: the keys do have a solid bounce and click, but when those keys work in tandem with the rest of the plastic keyboard — you’re touching nothing but plastic from your wrists to your fingertips — Messenger Universal feels sort of cheap in comparison to more premium options. That’s not a total surprise considering the price, but it may bother those who are used to working on Macs.
Zagg’s Messenger Universal is a nice, inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard that should have wide appeal, but it does have its drawbacks. It’s not a case or cover, which means it just becomes another item to carry around along with the rest of your gear. We believe most will find the keys workable at worst and quite comfortable at best, but the overwhelming plastic feel of the keyboard may put some off. If you have an iPad Pro, weigh all the benefits of Smart Connector keyboards (ease of use, shortcuts, built-in power, etc.) before deciding if you’d rather save some money on a standalone Bluetooth keyboard. Users of iPhones, and smaller iPads, should also consider other Bluetooth keyboards, including Zagg’s more portable Pocket Keyboard. Overall, though, Messenger Universal earns our general recommendation.
Company and Price
Model: Messenger Universal Keyboard
Compatible: Bluetooth-enabled iPad, iPhone + iPod touches