The Boy Genius Report: Typo keyboard for iPhone makes for a better BlackBerry

Review
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The world thought Typo was a joke when word of its arrival began circulating a couple of months back. And Ryan Seacrest was involved! This was going to be terrible, people joked on Twitter. The thing is, there is a segment of smartphone users that refuses to give up their hardware keyboards. So the question is, is that group of people worth catering to? The answer… is maybe. Read on for my full thoughts on the Typo keyboard for the iPhone 5s.

Typo is a novel idea if you think about it. It brings the familiarity of a BlackBerry-style keyboard to the iPhone without covering up the screen and without adding too much additional bulk and weight. It’s a two-part case that slips over your iPhone and meets at the middle to connect the bottom and top parts, and the texture of it is a perfectly smooth but gripable soft touch rubberized plastic.

The device uses Bluetooth to connect to your iPhone and pairs within seconds. In general it feels solid as well as thoughtfully designed and manufactured — a pleasant surprise, though maybe not for a $100 accessory.

How does the Typo work as a keyboard? It’s absolutely incredibly amazing. It perfectly mimics the hardware keyboards we were used to over the last 5 to 10 years, and when you think of the engineering that went on to get this entire package working, it’s equally amazing. Typo’s keys offer a satisfying clickity clackity sound, they are well placed, number keys are in a number pad configuration, and there is also a backlight. I can just fly using this keyboard.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to Typo, most of which aren’t even Typo’s doing.

The first one is that in order to not make the case even longer, Typo sits on top of the home button. You still have the home button as a key on the keyboard which works great, but if you are an iPhone 5s owner, you lose Touch ID while the case is on. The second is with iOS 7, you can’t use the return key to send messages. When you’re using the keyboard and banging out texts or other messages, the enter key enters a line break, it doesn’t send the message so you have to look up and tap send on the screen. Not the worst, but annoying.

Another annoying limitation due to iOS is that Typo can’t have the first letter of the word that starts a message be capitalized automatically. You have to manually capitalize the first letter you type, after that you can press space bar twice to enter a period and then start the new sentence with an uppercase word automatically. There’s a couple of others, too, like no autocorrection in iOS for hardware keyboards, so if you’re not typing perfectly, you’re going to have to go back and correct everything. Lastly, the keyboard sits just at the edge of the bottom of the iPhone screen, so when taping things there you need to be a little extra precise.

Typo lasts for around a week on a single charge and it’s charged using an included microUSB cable.

All in all, there is no better concept or execution for an iPhone keyboard in the world. It’s a well thought out, well designed, well made product by two people who can’t live without their physical keyboard. As for me, I’m going to see how long I can keep it on for, but I have no problem typing on glass. And since I refuse to use cases on my phone, this will be a bit of a challenge.

The Boy Genius Report is a periodic column written by BGR founder Jonathan S. Geller. It offers insights and opinions on various products, companies and trends across the consumer electronics business and beyond. Jonathan can be reached via email at jonathan@bgr.com.

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