Hidden iOS 9 keyboard hints at a larger-screen iPad Pro

A developer digging into the iOS 9 beta discovers a keyboard that would fit great on a big-screen tablet, fueling rumors that Apple will unveil a larger iPad in the fall.

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Credit: Steve Troughton-Smith

In yet another sign that an iPad Pro is coming, Apple has apparently stashed away a keyboard for larger screens in iOS 9.

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith discovered this larger keyboard format while delving through the iOS 9 software development kit. The layout is similar to a standard physical keyboard, with keys for tab, caps lock, colon, pipe, question mark, angle brackets, and braces all on the main screen. The keyboard also adds a squat top row of keys for numbers and symbols.

The expanded keyboard seems to hint at a larger iPad, which has long been the subject of rumors and speculation. In March, Bloomberg’s unnamed sources claimed that the tablet would have a 12.9-inch display, and that Apple was planning to start production in September. Other reports have suggested the new iPad will have a Bluetooth stylus, NFC capabilities, a Force Touch display, and a USB-C connection.

Rumors aside, several confirmed iOS 9 features would be conducive to a larger iPad. The new Split View mode, for instance, begs for a larger screen for running two apps side-by-side. Users will also be able to simulate a mouse cursor by dragging two fingers over the keyboard, making easier to select and highlight text.

As The Verge points out, Apple has signaled future hardware releases through its developer tools. Before Apple launched the taller iPhone 5, for instance, developers found that they could scale up to a taller screen in a simulator application for the iOS 6 beta. The same was true with iOS 8, whose additional scaling options paved the way for the larger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Why this matters: It’s no secret that Apple doesn’t release new hardware without compelling software to go with it. So while rumors of an iPad Pro are hardly new, they’re starting to seem much more credible as all these new software features enter the equation. An expanded keyboard—perhaps with a pressure-sensitive Force Touch display to type on—could be the best justification yet.

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