Questionable Claims of Apple's Interest in Sonder's Dynamic E-Ink Keyboard Technology Emerge

Yesterday, a Redditor with the username Foxconninsider posted about a new Smart Keyboard claimed to be a working prototype potentially coming to both iMac and MacBook devices sometime in 2018. Created by Australian startup Sonder and displayed at an event in Tsinghua University in Beijing, the keyboard uses an e-ink display behind the keys of the board to dynamically change the input of the device to the whim of the user, which could range from different languages to social network shortcuts and emojis.

sonder-keyboard

Sonder's own Bluetooth e-ink keyboard, launching this year

The post ties Sonder to Apple through a potential acquisition deal that would integrate Sonder's technology directly into Apple products, which reportedly generated discussion throughout the event, and after it. An excerpt from the original post follows:

I work on Tsinghua university campus, it is like the Chinese MIT. It hosted a Foxconn event where I saw the new Macbook keyboard module design and Apple's 2018 E Ink Magic Keyboard that's a DFT model. (DFT is design for testing).

The startup Sonder makes a smart keyboard module, it has a new magnetic mechanical mechanism and a lit E Ink display which allows for swapping shortcuts and languages etc. I saw it swap between a few programs and languages (English, Japanese, Taiwanese layouts etc).

The Foxconn Innoconn Executive said Apple's PBO (Procurement board office) was closing an acquisition for the startup company that is now registered in Hong Kong for a big return of investment for Foxconn International Holdings and E Ink Holdings.

Aside from the unverifiable nature of the post, the claim is questionable for a number reasons, which together originally led MacRumors to decline to cover the story despite multiple contacts from the source prior to their sharing it on Reddit.

Among the questionable aspects of the story is Foxconn's and Sonder's apparent willingness to confirm Sonder is in discussions with Apple about the keyboard technology. Such talks are typically covered by non-disclosure agreements which would preclude them from acknowledging the discussions.


Today, however, The Guardian is corroborating the story with a claim that "separate to the Reddit report, The Guardian can confirm the Apple CEO, Tim Cook, met with [Sonder founder Francisco] Serra-Martins in China on Wednesday." Cook is currently touring both China and Japan, but The Guardian's confirmation doesn't give specifics as to whether the meeting was simply in passing, or specifically related to a potential acquisition deal.

sonder-2
Regarding the technology at the center of the story, the original Redditor claimed that they "couldn't film the macbook or magic keyboard test units at the event," so the early demo keyboard shown in the video above represents a variation on what was seen at the event. The event's keyboard allegedly had a single e-ink screen for every key on the MacBook, along with a backlit lighting panel. The technology would seemingly be used in future MacBooks and integrated into the iMac's Magic Keyboard lineup.

With so many unconfirmed factors swirling around the story, it remains possible that Sonder itself is attempting to generate interest in its own upcoming Sonder Keyboard, which packs in all of the previously detailed e-ink technology, along with Mac compatibility, at $199. The company expects the keyboard to arrive sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Tag: Sonder

Top Rated Comments

KazKam Avatar
59 months ago
Customizable keys have always seemed a cool idea, but in reality they're convoluted, gimmicky, over-fiddly, and over-priced for most users. Most users never mess with key mappings, custom key functions, or macros.

I just want an Apple wireless *extended* keyboard, please.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
caliguy Avatar
59 months ago
Hopefully they redesign Magic Keyboard with the lightning port on the bottom, like Magic Mouse 2. Really just makes so much more sense. /s
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mac 128 Avatar
59 months ago
there goes the 6 month battery life of wireless keyboards....
No. You need to read more about e-ink.

This would be amazing technology, but not necessarily for the average user.

However, I'm more inclined to think Apple will go with a glass touch screen, virtual keyboard, wi a Taptic Engine before they went this route, and that would definitely drain the battery much faster. But it would also offer an incredible multi-purpose interface for those who need it.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rychiar Avatar
59 months ago
there goes the 6 month battery life of wireless keyboards....
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
APlotdevice Avatar
59 months ago
No. You need to read more about e-ink.

This would be amazing technology, but not necessarily for the average user.

However, I'm more inclined to think Apple will go with a glass touch screen, virtual keyboard, wi a Taptic Engine before they went this route, and that would definitely drain the battery much faster. But it would also offer an incredible multi-purpose interface for those who need it.
That would be horrible. I've tried "touch-typing" on a touchscreen. Invariably my fingers start to stray the moment I take my eyes off the keys. Haptic wouldn't help that either. You need to be able to feel the edges of the keys and those dimples on two of them.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bollman Avatar
59 months ago
Finally! The key that's been missing from keyboards for decades!!!

Attachment Image
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Top Stories 57 Feature

Top Stories: Apple Event Next Tuesday, Mini-LED iPad Pro, iPhone Rumors

Saturday April 17, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
It feels like we've been waiting forever for new Apple products, but the wait is almost over as Apple has announced a media event for next Tuesday, so make sure to tune into MacRumors for full coverage of everything Apple announces. While that was the big news this week, we also got some new details on Apple's iPhone plans for 2022 and 2023 courtesy of analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and we also saw...
flat imac 3d 3 teal

Reliable Leaker Hints Redesigned Colorful iMac to Debut at 'Spring Loaded' Event

Saturday April 17, 2021 4:43 am PDT by
Reliable leaker known as l0vetodream has hinted that Apple may debut its rumored redesigned and colorful iMac at its "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20. In a tweet, the leaker posted an image of Apple's logo used for marketing the upcoming event and an image of the retro rainbow Apple logo alongside the colorful lineup of G3 iMacs. Apple leaker Jon Prosser previously reported that...
third gen Apple pencil leaked video

Video of Alleged Third-Generation Apple Pencil Leaks Ahead of Apple Event

Friday April 16, 2021 6:13 am PDT by
A video purporting to be of the third-generation Apple Pencil has today been shared online, showing a glossy finish that mirrors previous leaks. New ✏️ ready to 🚢 #AppleEvent @TommyBo50387266 pic.twitter.com/s4RCDwDi5M— 漢尼斯·拉斯納 🇨🇳 (@ileakeer) April 16, 2021 The brief video from Twitter account @ileakeer, spotted by 9to5Mac, shows an Apple Pencil with a glossy finish much like the...
important battery message iphone 11

Some iPhone 11 Users Seeing Increased Battery Health Percentages After iOS 14.5 Recalibration Process

Friday April 16, 2021 6:32 am PDT by
In the sixth beta of iOS 14.5, Apple introduced a recalibration process for the battery health reporting system on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max to address inaccurate battery health estimates for some users. Apple said this process might take a few weeks to be completed, and now that two weeks have passed since the sixth beta of iOS 14.5 was released, some users are...
duan rui iphone 12 13 notch

New Images Show Smaller iPhone 13 Notch Compared to iPhone 12

Saturday April 17, 2021 11:38 pm PDT by
Leaker known as "DuanRui" has shared more images that could give us our best look yet at Apple's redesigned notch for the iPhone 13. The new pictures follow similar images shared by the leaker last week, but the latest shots include a comparison with the existing iPhone 12 notch. DuanRui posted three images on Twitter that apparently originate from Weibo, although source details remain...
iphone 13 pro max cads eap

iPhone 13 Series CAD Leaks Reveal Larger Camera Dimensions

Friday April 16, 2021 1:53 am PDT by
Information and alleged CADs of the upcoming iPhone 13 series, shared in a video from EverythingApplePro, indicates that Apple plans to make this year's iPhone camera module significantly bigger, likely to make way for larger sensors and sensor-shift stabilization. According to the CADs shared in the video, the iPhone 13 mini, Pro, and Pro Max camera module will all be a "perfect square."...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Anker's MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack

Thursday April 15, 2021 9:39 am PDT by
Anker, a company known for its range of accessories designed for Apple products, recently came out with one of the first MagSafe-compatible battery packs, so we thought we'd check it out to see how it compares to a standard battery pack. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design wise, Anker's power bank looks like a typical battery pack, but it has magnets built in...
apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

LTPO Displays Supporting 120Hz Refresh Rates Again Rumored for iPhone 13 Pro Models

Friday April 16, 2021 10:01 am PDT by
The two higher-end "iPhone 13 Pro" models that are coming in 2021 are expected to use LTPO display technology to enable 120Hz refresh rates, according to display analyst Ross Young. Young reaffirmed the detail in a tweet that said he'd heard rumors about only one model featuring LTPO, which he says is inaccurate. Heard some rumors in the industry and media that there would only be one ...
apple music

Apple Music Tops Spotify With One Cent Paid Per Stream

Friday April 16, 2021 6:44 am PDT by
In a letter slated to be shared with artists today through the Apple Music for Artists dashboard, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Apple has reportedly revealed that it pays music rights holders one cent per song streamed on Apple Music. The report claims that Apple Music's payment structure is thus roughly double what Spotify pays music rights holders per stream, which averages to about ...