Using an old Apple iPad keyboard dock with your iPhone 5

So, got a new iPhone 5 but can’t find a charging dock?  Bluetooth keyboards aren’t your style?  Well, do you have an Apple iPad keyboard dock?  All you’ll need is the Apple’s $29 Lightning to 30-pin Adapter.

I’m a dock kind of person.  It’s a personal thing.  The lack of 3rd party accessories for the new iPhone 5 leaves a pretty big gap for us dock lovers.

At the same time, I’m also not crazy about Bluetooth keyboards.  I own an Apple Bluetooth keyboard which works fine, but then I’d need a way to prop up the phone.  And a stand?  I could use a universal one, but that just seems cluttered.

Turns out the Apple iPad keyboard (discontinued as far as I can tell) and the new Lightning adapter works just fine with iPhone 5.  The keyboard’s lock button will sleep/wake the screen, the “keyboard” button above the “5” key hides/shows the virtual on-screen keyboard.  (The little flower key above the “4” doesn’t do anything on the iPhone as far as I can tell).

The Apple Lightning connector slips over the old 30-pin on the keyboard stand

There’s a tiny bit of wiggle room for iPhone 5 with a case, if it’s thin enough. I secured the back of the dock adapter with a small piece of double-stick tape so it doesn’t pop out when I remove the phone.

Rear view. The audio output (line level) works, too.

I’m currently using this setup at my workplace to charge, provide a hardwired keyboard, and tether the iPhone 5 as a hotspot to my personal non-work computer.  Yes, it’s plugged into my Mac via USB for tethering and sync.  No problems so far!

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24 comments… add one
  • Joe October 20, 2012, 9:24 pm

    Apple has been profiting so much. Couldn’t they at least provide adapter at a cost as customer service and appreciation?
    $29? sheesh.

  • Andy Chen October 20, 2012, 10:59 pm

    Well, they’re not a charity. But the adapter makes the old keyboard useful again for me.

  • John Kes October 22, 2012, 3:32 pm

    This $29 adapter has an A/D chip inside because all the new connections are digital, but some of the old connections are analog.

    They should actually sell 2 versions: this version with A/D converter and a cheap version to just allow charging and syncing.

  • stakeo October 24, 2012, 10:21 am

    I pledged for the CompleteDock on kickstarter. It looks great, and it’s a perfect solution for both my iPhone 5 and iPad. It’s very promising, definitely worth checking out.

  • Jake October 29, 2012, 6:04 pm

    Extra Kudos for the ancient 30-pin cable… I have a ton and they are all so much better than the new cables. But also that is a good tip, Andy. Also if you tether that much what plan are you on? It must surely use a lot of data especially with DS-HSPA/LTE at your fingertips…

  • Andy Chen October 29, 2012, 6:07 pm


    I’ve got a grandfathered unlimited plan.

  • Jake October 29, 2012, 6:08 pm

    So with Verizon that means all phones are paid for in full now?

  • Andy Chen October 29, 2012, 6:09 pm

    In my case yes because if I try to get subsidized price, I believe I lose the unlimited data plan. Foolish? Absolutely.

  • Jake October 29, 2012, 6:37 pm

    I don’t know! Depends how much unlimited means to you. I find the family plans horrible in the U.S… Well carriers generally…

  • Josh November 7, 2012, 1:34 pm

    What Iphone 5 case are you using? I would like to get one as well since I will be trying out your setup. If I get the wrong case it won’t fit. Thanks.

  • Andy Chen November 7, 2012, 1:36 pm

    It’s a cheapy eBay case. I’ve found that nearly any thin plastic snap-on case will work with this dock setup.

  • Reicie December 24, 2012, 11:23 pm

    Ok. Just so I’m clear I also have that same keyboard dock and am planning to buy the 4th gen iPad. If I get that adapter it will work? I was considering trying to find a 3rd gen just to keep from buying new accessories.

    • Andy Chen December 25, 2012, 12:56 am

      It should work. The trouble is, the iPad would be so top-heavy, I’m not sure how it would stay up.

  • Reicie December 25, 2012, 1:00 am

    I was thinking the same thing. I think I will just bring my keyboard to the Apple store and try it out. Also, can you explain your tethering wifi thing thru your iPhone? I am also on Verizon and instead of buying a service plan for the iPad I was going to make my iPhone 4 a hot spot to use it when I’m not on campus or home.

    • Andy Chen December 25, 2012, 1:40 am

      I agree with Janet.

      As for the tethering, it didn’t work out for long. Turns out that for me, tethering to a computer for hours and hours was something the iPhone 5 didn’t like too much. I would lose the connection frequently, requiring me to turn the airplane mode off then back on a lot. I’m back to using a Wifi hotspot and all is well again.

  • Janet Cloninger December 25, 2012, 1:27 am

    @Reicie If you plan to buy an iPad case that can serve as a stand or already have some sort of simple iPad stand, you could buy the Lightning-to-30-pin cable and use that to connect the old keyboard dock to the iPad with Retina display. The cable is 0.2 meters (8 inches) long, so you’ll have a little room to adjust the positions of the keyboard dock and the iPad stand relative to each other.

  • Reicie December 25, 2012, 1:51 am

    Thank you both for your responses on Christmas even! I am a teacher and I’ve been saving for an iPad for over a year. Some of my students and friends all got me apple gift cards and I’m all ready for the iPad. Then, discovered the most recent gen. Will have the new adapter slots. I’d been using my iPhone as an “iPad mini” with dock and such. Maybe if I find a 3rd gen I won’t have to worry about it. Thanks again for your responses. Will post when I get it all home. Great blog!!

  • Janet Cloninger December 25, 2012, 8:36 am

    @Reicie Hope you find exactly what works for you!

  • Anne rapson December 29, 2012, 1:14 pm

    Hello Janet and co. I own an iPad 2, I am trying to confirm if the keyboard/dock will work with it, I get confused with the various pin connections. I can still buy the dock from John Lewis in the uk model MC533b/a. It would also be a bonus if I can dock my iPhone 5 too. I hope you can comment, look forward to hearing from you, thank you Anne

  • Janet Cloninger December 29, 2012, 2:16 pm

    @Anne rapson The iPad 2 has the 30-pin connector that will work with the dock that Andy used in this post. You’ll require the Lightning adapter that Andy used to connect his iPhone 5 for this post.

  • Keith January 10, 2014, 12:00 pm

    My boss just got a new iPad Air but loves his old keyboard dock – mostly so he can easily listen to Internet radio in his office through external speakers. Thanks for letting me know that the adapter will still allow for the audio out!
    To make it work for an iPad I carved a chunk of Styrofoam (from a MacBook pro box) to extend the back plate and provide extra support – it looks a bit bizarre when the iPad is away, but works perfectly!

  • marinecorpsvet December 23, 2015, 2:51 am

    I use the adaptor that you describe in the email answers. However, I just got an iPhone 6s and it no workee no more.
    Does anybody have any wisdom for me?

    • Andy Chen December 23, 2015, 9:56 am

      It would not surprise me if this setup is no longer supported with the newer phones. If I can find my old keyboard dock, I’ll try it with the iPhone 6s Plus.

      • Spigaw January 1, 2017, 11:03 am

        So ! Did it work the iPhone 6 Plus ? Thanks !

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