First of all, wow. The number of ideas, concepts, and suggestions for the new V and the keyboard is just mind-blowing. Just too good We are struggling to keep up but we will do our best to stay on top!
In this post, we will share some initial concepts for next-gen V Keyboard, while trying to provide interesting insights into the product development for this kind of accessory.
In general, keyboards for 2-in-1s or tablets are very fascinating products from an industrial design point of view, presenting interesting challenges as they are a mix between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ products. ‘Soft products’ utilize textiles or similar flexible materials, ‘hard products’ make use of materials like plastics and metal.
As we all know, we need to be able to connect, disconnect and adjust the angle of our 2-in-1 keyboard. This is why a flexible thin material is commonly used to replace a traditional hinge.
Different solutions are present in the market with different approaches and workarounds. We initially explored different possibilities for our device. But since the kickstand will be part of the tablet, a construction similar to the first-generation V seems the way to go.
The hidden challenge
Working with any type of textiles, leather or similar flexible material presents a key design challenge: edges. The reason is simple, these materials are usually resistant to stress on large areas such as the the top surface, but very weak on the sides as the material can easily fringe or deteriorate. Looking at mobile accessories or hardware tech using soft materials we have found several solutions to handling the edges. The most common are folding the edges inward, sealing the edges with heat, adding paint or similar, and banding the edges with a protective hard material.
Having a soft welcoming material on the inside offers many advantages. It is very comfortable to the touch and is gentle on the screen when the device is closed. On top of this, the look is potentially very consistent over time – if the material is of good quality, of course
The concepts presented here will have similar features, share a similar design language, and focus mainly on the edges of the keyboard cover. It might seem like a small detail, but it defines the look, longevity, and usability of the product.
All concepts take into consideration some common elements. First of all, the keyboard has to be sturdy enough to feel premium and offer a great typing experience. They also have edges or raised surfaces around the keys to off-set the hard surfaces of the keys from the display’s cover glass. In addition to this, the pogo pin area will be redesigned to guarantee an easy connection with the V and provide maximum protection for- and reduce stress on the pogo pins. You will see different solutions in the concepts, but they all share the same intent.
In this first concept, the core idea is to present a consistent look among the whole product utilizing entirely a matte Alcantara or similar material. In order to achieve this look the base solution is to fold the edges inward.
The key advantage of this solution is a very consistent and homogeneous look.
Disadvantages are mostly related to the shape required to fold the edges. There are restrictions on the fillet radius in order to fold the material inward without stressing it too much. A sharp ninety-degree fold would create a high-stress point that could speed up wear on the material. Having softer edges would for sure affect the look of the product, defining the overall design language.
For this second concept, the main idea is to create a contrast between the inside and the outside of the keyboard. Having a soft-touch material on the inside where it is most needed, and harder more resilient material on the outside.
The key advantage here is the possibility to reduce thickness, as there is no layer of Alcantara on top of the structural material. An interesting possibility is to utilize the plastic back to add some features like an indicator light or similar.
The main disadvantage of this concept is the fact that the hard material can potentially degrade over time. It shows scratches more readily than soft material, and is more likely to damage other surfaces. In order to compensate for this we would need to add reinforcement or protection on the corners. This could compromise the premium look of the product if not nailed right
The construction here is a hybrid version of the first two concepts. Alcantara or similar material will be utilized on both sides, but the edges would not be folded. In this concepts the soft material is framed by a plastic element that protects the edges while preventing fringing.
The main advantage of this concept is the possibility of achieving sharper edges as the material has no need to be folded.
In this case the challenge will be to find a good surface treatment for the plastic edge to avoid a cheap plastic look. This is a common problem for plastic parts and can be particularly challenging on parts that are more easily scratched or under constant stress, like keyboard edges.
The last concept is similar to the first concept, but utilizes a different process to seal the edges.
With this construction, the edges are heat-glued together and trimmed. This is a common solution used in the Surface Pro line, and an example of a great execution of this technique is the latest iPad Pro keyboard, in which the width of these edges is minimized to achieve a very clean look.
The key advantages of this concept are the clean look and overall simplicity.
The main challenge of this concept is in the technical skills and experience required from the supplier to guarantee a good-looking and long-lasting solution. We would need to focus on minimizing the ‘flap’ length as much as possible. The perfect balance would need to be found during the product development stage, to identify the right width of the edges that looks good while still being resistant enough not to bend.
So what do you think?
What is your favorite construction?
What is your least favorite construction?
Great ideas from the community
As mentioned before, a lot of great ideas are being discussed in the community, including things we hadn’t even thought of like adding wireless charging to the keyboard. Some are a bit out there, but others should definitely be considered!
We will share these concepts with several potential keyboard suppliers, as well as a list of ideas and features. Therefore it is important that you keep sharing your thoughts and ideas! Right now we’re trying to learn as much as possible so we can bring you the best possible keyboard for the new V.
Based on the feedback from suppliers and the community, the keyboard concept will be further developed and refined, and presented alongside the new and improved V concept