I've griped about my lack of a keyboard for the iPad Pro on Apple World Today before, and finally today I have one to try out thanks to the good people at ZAGG. The $69.95 Messenger Universal Mobile Keyboard and Stand isn't a keyboard case or a folio, nor does it use the Smart Connector of the iPad Pro. Instead, it's a Bluetooth keyboard with a built-in stand that will work with the Pro, and with many other devices as well. Let's take a look.
The ZAGG Messenger Universal is actually quite a nice looking unit, featuring a black case with a fold-down cover/stand that shuts off the unit when it is closed over the keyboard. There's also power switch for that purpose, right next to the micro-USB port that's used for recharging the keyboard. ZAGG says that the device can get about 3 months of battery life given one hour a day of usage, so I'm assuming that it gets about 90 hours of use per charge. For someone who might be using this device as much as 8 hours a day on weekdays, that means that they might be recharging it twice a month.
Unlike other keyboards of this type, the ZAGG Messenger Universal doesn't include any backlighting, but you can pretty well see the keys (white letters on a black background) in the dark with the glow from the iPad Pro display.
The keyboard is spacious and wide, and there's a palm rest that makes this a joy to type on. The keyboard is quiet, yet provies good tactual feedback, and there is a full set of keys including a full row of iPad function keys -- something that the Apple Smart Keyboard does not provide.
The Messenger Universal isn't exactly petite, with dimensions of 12.25 x 7.38 x .5 inches (31.1 x 18.75 x 1.27 cm) and weighing in at 1.46 lbs (.66 kg). Add that to the weight of the iPad Pro and you have one heavy mobile solution.
One thing that's immediately apparent with the Messenger Universal when it's used with an iPad Pro is you're not going to be able to use it in your lap. There's no mechanism for really holding the weighty iPad in place other than just sheer mass on the little folding stand. This is one "laptop" that's going to require a table top to be safe. You can use the iPad Pro in portrait or landscape orientation, which actually surprised me.
That being said, there's no way to adjust the angle of the screen; you have one angle, and that's it. In my case, I didn't find that angle to be to my liking and I would have preferred being able to bring the top of the screen (in landscape mode) up a bit.
Pairing the keyboard is done in the usual manner; there's a Bluetooth key that needs to be pressed and held, a blue light flashes indicating that the keyboard is in pairing mode, and then you use Settings > Bluetooth to complete the pairing. It's simple and fast.
Is the ZAGG Messenger Universal a good keyboard? Yes. I liked the feel it provided while typing, and the palm rest is something I wish was built into every mobile keyboard. But that being said, it's really not the optimum keyboard for full-time use with an iPad Pro. You'd be carrying two devices, the keyboard and the iPad Pro, would need to charge up the keyboard on a regular basis if you're using it a lot, and there's just not the level of integration that's apparent with both the $169 Apple Smart Keyboard and the $149 Logitech CREATE Backlit Keyboard. On the other hand, if you just occasionally need a keyboard and stand for the iPad Pro and don't want to spend a lot of money, this is the perfect keyboard for you at just $70.