Trying to get an iPhone, Made For iPhone Hearing Aids, and Bluetooth Keyboard to all Play Together Nicely May Just have got Easier with the iPhone 11

I am totally blind and wear Made For iPhone (MFI) hearing aids, in my case the Oticon OPN S 1. My primary method of input on iPhone is Braille Screen Input, but when working on more complex documents, I use my Apple Magic Keyboard.

Until last Friday, I was running an iPhone 10S Max, but I have now upgraded to an iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Users of MFI hearing aids are well aware that there has been an ongoing issue using Bluetooth keyboards, VoiceOver, and the aids together. This manifests itself in the audio getting so garbled that it can be difficult to hear. Usually, strategies such as turning the aids off and on again, or turning Bluetooth off and on again resolve the issue for a while. I wrote a Siri shortcut to do the latter. When I was unable to hear VoiceOver anymore while using my Apple Magic Keyboard, I would tell Siri, “initialize Bluetooth” and this would run my shortcut, often fixing the matter temporarily. Not ideal, but at least I was able to continue my work.

With the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the nature of the problem has changed. Audio no longer gets garbled, but my Apple Magic Keyboard often doesn’t respond at all, or goes absolutely crazy and causes VoiceOver to make its ‘bonk’ sound or insert random characters.

I’ve tried all kinds of strategies to reliably find a pattern to make the problem go away, because sometimes it does. For a while, it seemed that locking the screen of the iPhone, turning on the keyboard, then pressing a key to wake up the iPhone was the magic trick. Now that appears to be not the case. I’ve tried streaming music and streaming silence to see if keeping the audio channel awake helps. I’ve even tried powering down my Apple Watch since it is also a Bluetooth accessory.

With my previous iPhone, I attempted to use another Bluetooth keyboard I own, the Logitech K380. This did not result in any improvements to the glitchy audio issues, but just to be thorough, I paired it with the new iPhone 11 Pro Max. I am very pleased to say that the audio is not glitchy in any way, and the keyboard is rock solid.

In considering what the variable might be, it appears that the Apple Magic Keyboard may be using Bluetooth 2.0, while the Logitech K380 is using Bluetooth 3.0.

I don’t know how easy it will be for Apple to address this issue since my iPhone 10S Max and iPhone 11 Pro Max are running the identical OS, settings, and apps, so this suggests the compatibility issues may be hardware related.

Nevertheless, if anyone else experiences this very serious issue, trying a different keyboard may in fact give a better experience than on previous hardware.

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1 Comment

#1 Shouldn't this be a forum post instead?

While this is great advice for people who need it, why is it a blog post? I feel like it would probably be better categorized as a forum topic instead.