When the iPad Pro launched, Zagg had a third-party keyboard ready to go for the device - the Messenger Universal, an affordable universal keyboard designed to fit a wide range of tablets as large as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

As a simple universal keyboard, it has the benefit of being readily available for purchase and it's relatively cheap compared to other options, but there are some definite downsides to the Messenger Universal that may prevent it from being a viable option for some people.

zaggkeyboardsideview
Rather than taking advantage of the Smart Connector on the iPad Pro, the Messenger Universal connects over Bluetooth like any traditional Bluetooth keyboard, pairing via the Settings app on the iPad Pro. I had no problems with setup and there were no loss-of-connection issues during my time testing the keyboard.

The Messenger Universal consists of a magnetic Smart Cover-style flap that props up the iPad and an accompanying full-sized keyboard. It doesn't double as a case or a cover for the iPad like the Logitech CREATE or Apple's own Smart Keyboard -- it's strictly a keyboard and a stand. Because it's made for a range of different devices, the Messenger Universal can be paired with other tablets and smartphones in addition to the iPad Pro.

zaggdesign
When not in use, the keyboard folds up folio style with the cover portion protecting the keys, so it's fairly compact for travel. It is as wide as the iPad Pro at 12 inches, so it's going to take up a fair amount of space in a bag or backpack, and it's also just over a half an inch thick. The outside cover of the keyboard is a soft water-resistant material that'll protect the keyboard from rain and spills, and the keyboard itself is made from a lightweight plastic.

zaggclosed
The Messenger Universal is positioned as a budget keyboard, so don't expect premium materials or bells and whistles -- it feels like a keyboard that costs $70. It's not flimsy and it doesn't feel like a product that's going to fall apart, but its build quality doesn't measure up to some of the other iPad Pro keyboards available on the market.

zaggunfolded
My biggest issue with the Zagg Messenger Universal is the angle at which it holds the iPad Pro. Compared to other keyboards, the viewing angle when typing is positioned too far back. I don't know how other people angle their screens when typing, but mine is not so far back as to be almost hard to see. I found the angle of the Zagg Messenger Universal to be uncomfortable for me, which was a deal breaker.

zaggkeyboard

Zagg Messenger Universal angle

With most Bluetooth keyboards there are multiple angles to work with to meet different needs and preferences, but the Zagg Messenger Universal only has one. The cover can be folded in two ways, but both angles are essentially the same. The iPad Pro can, however, be positioned in landscape or portrait mode on the Messenger Universal's built-in stand.

smartkeyboard

Apple Smart Keyboard angle

Because the iPad Pro is held in place with just the folded cover of the Messenger Universal, it's not sturdy. The stand and keyboard worked fine on a flat surface, but in my lap, it was unstable. I wouldn't recommend this as a keyboard to use on the couch or in other areas where you don't have a flat surface to work with - there's too much wobbling.

zaggkeyboardportrait
Typing experience is one of the most important factors with any iPad keyboard, and this is an area where I had no complaints. There's a full sized keyboard that's as easy to type on as a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro keyboard, and I had no problems transitioning from a MacBook to the Messenger Universal. My typing speed remained the same and the keys had enough travel that each press felt satisfying under my fingers. Because the keyboard is made of plastic it's louder and more "clicky" than some other iPad keyboards, but overall, it offers a typing experience that most MacBook users will be satisfied with.

zaggkeyboardkeys
As with most third-party iPad keyboards, there is a row of special function keys included that do things like go to the Home screen, lock the iPad, open the app switcher, open a search, take a screenshot, and control sound and media playback. The dedicated screenshot key is a nifty feature that's not on a lot of iPad keyboards, but it does come at the expense of dedicated buttons for controlling screen brightness.

The Zagg Messenger Universal is battery powered and will require charging every few months using an included micro-USB cable. Power can be turned off using a button at the side, but the keyboard will also go to sleep when its cover is closed.

Bottom Line

At $70, the Zagg Messenger Universal is a lot less expensive than more sophisticated iPad Pro keyboards like the Smart Keyboard or the Logitech Create, but it's also a basic entry-level option that has a few downsides. While the keyboard itself offers a solid typing experience, the single oddly tilted viewing angle may be unappealing to some users and the cover that holds the iPad Pro in place can be unstable at times, especially in a lap.

zaggotherangle
As just a keyboard, it doesn't offer any additional protection for the iPad Pro like other options, and since it's the same size as the iPad Pro, it doesn't offer benefits like superior portability. It's essentially on par with many third-party standalone Bluetooth keyboards, some of which are less expensive. A slim standalone keyboard paired with an iPad Pro case or Smart Cover is an option that's just as viable as the Zagg Messenger Universal.

zaggkeyboardlastpic
Zagg has another iPad Pro keyboard coming out in the near future, which is tailored specifically for Apple's larger tablet and could be worth waiting for. Right now, there are limited options for iPad Pro keyboard solutions, but over the next few months, available products should expand quite a bit.

Pros:

  • Light weight
  • Affordable
  • Good key feel
  • Works with all iPads/iPhones

Cons:

  • Single viewing angle
  • Viewing angle is too far back
  • No backlighting
  • Cover stand isn't sturdy for lap use

How to Buy

The Messenger Universal can be purchased from the Zagg website for $69.99.

Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this review.

Popular Stories

Apple WWDC24 Apple Intelligence hero 240610

Apple Explains iPhone 15 Pro Requirement for Apple Intelligence

Wednesday June 19, 2024 4:48 am PDT by
With iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, Apple is introducing a new personalized AI experience called Apple Intelligence that uses on-device, generative large-language models to enhance the user experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. These new AI features require Apple's latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models to work, while only Macs and iPads with M1 or later chips will...
Apple Intelligence General Feature

Apple Intelligence Features Not Coming to European Union at Launch Due to DMA

Friday June 21, 2024 9:44 am PDT by
Apple today said that European customers will not get access to the Apple Intelligence, iPhone Mirroring, and SharePlay Screen Sharing features that are coming to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac this September due to regulatory issues related to the Digital Markets Act. In a statement to Financial Times, Apple said that there will be a delay as it works to figure out how to make the new...
iPhone 16 Pro Max Generic Feature 2

5 Biggest Changes Rumored for iPhone 16 Pro Max

Wednesday June 19, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Given Apple's rumored plan to add an all-new high-end tier to its iPhone 17 series in 2025, this could be the year for Apple to bring its boldest "Pro Max" model to the table — the kind of iPhone 16 upgrade that stands tall above its siblings, both figuratively and literally. If you have been holding out for the iPhone 16 Pro Max, here are five of the biggest changes rumored to be coming...
Apple Vision Pro 2 Feature 2

Apple Reportedly Suspends Work on Vision Pro 2

Tuesday June 18, 2024 8:17 am PDT by
Apple has suspended work on the second-generation Vision Pro headset to singularly focus on a cheaper model, The Information reports. Apple was widely believed to have plans to divide its Vision product line into two models, with one "Pro" model and one lower-cost standard model. The company is said to have been deprioritizing the next Vision Pro headset over the past year, gradually...
back to school 2024

Apple's 2024 Back to School Sale Launches, Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Thursday June 20, 2024 4:29 am PDT by
Apple has launched its annual Back to School promotion for college students in the United States. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with any new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or iMac, and a $100 gift card with the purchase of any new M4 iPad ...
iOS 17

Apple Releases First Public Beta of iOS 17.6

Thursday June 20, 2024 10:18 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first betas of upcoming iOS 17.6 and iPadOS 17.6 updates to public beta testers, with the betas coming a few days after the initial iOS and iPadOS 17.6 developer betas. Public beta testers can get the beta by opening up the Settings app, going to the Software Update section, tapping on the "Beta Updates" option, and toggling on the iOS 17 or iPadOS 17 Public Beta....