How to Connect a Wired Keyboard to Your iPad

Tablet on White Office Desk with Computer Keyboard and Copy Space

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The dirty little secret of Apple hardware is that the iPad kinda-of sort-of does have a USB port that you can use to connect peripheral hardware. The Lightning connector port used to charge the iPad is also used to communicate with other devices like your PC or laptop. In order to work with cameras that often use a form of USB to connect to computers, Apple put out the Camera Connection Kit, which turned the original 30-pin connector into a USB port. And when Apple jumped from the old 30-pin connector to the thinner Lightning connector, they changed the name of the Camera Connection Kit to the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. And while it includes the word "Camera," the adapter essentially turns the Lightning port into a USB port.

There's a Catch

In order to be useful, a USB port needs two things. It needs a device like a wired keyboard or a flash drive to plug into it and the host device must support that peripheral. In this case, that host device is the iPad. And, unfortunately, you can't use this trick to plug in a flash drive or an external hard drive because the iPad simply doesn't support those type of devices. 

But it does support keyboards. It already supported wireless keyboards, and whether by design or not, this support transfers to wired keyboards. 

Get It Working

First, plug your Lightning to USB Camera Adapter into your iPad and then plug your wired keyboard into the adapter. You should be able to go into an app like Notes and begin typing into a new note. If it doesn't work, try connecting it in reverse order by first connecting the wired keyboard to the USB Camera Adapter and then connecting the adapter to the iPad.  

And the cool thing is that you can actually get a larger keyboard than many Bluetooth keyboards and still save on price.

This trick may not work with every wired keyboard.

What Other USB Devices Can Be Connected to the iPad?

Wired keyboards aren't the only devices you can get working in this manner. The iPad also supports sending MIDI signals through the Lightning connector, so you can hook up a wide assortment of MIDI instruments. MIDI is the protocol used for musical devices like keyboards and electronic drum sets to communicate with computers. The USB Camera Adapter connects a music keyboard that supports USB MIDI and control apps like Garage Band on the iPad, which turns your iPad into a music workstation.

The USB adapter also plugs into an Ethernet port, but this hack can get a little tricky. You must plug the iPad into a powered USB host with several ports and then plug an Ethernet-to-USB adapter into an available port on that same host. The iPad isn't really designed to receive network communications through its Lightning adapter, so this trick can get a little finicky, but it does work.