First Look: Typo Bluetooth keyboard case for iPhone 5 and 5s [u]

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2014
After nearly a month of hype, the Ryan Seacrest-backed Typo keyboard is nearing release and AppleInsider had a chance to spend some hands-on time with the device ahead of its launch later in January.

Update: Typo has reached out and informed AppleInsider that the production model will indeed add a bit of extra room just below the iPhone's screen for swipe-up Control Center access. The additional 1.7mm should be enough to fit the tip of a finger, thereby granting access to all iOS 7 functions.

Typo


First announced in early December, the Typo Bluetooth-enabled iPhone keyboard case is perhaps best known for being backed by Ryan Seacrest, though the device itself is an interesting item.

For those who have handled a legacy BlackBerry, or the Canadian company's new Q10 smartphone, Typo's design will be familiar (too familiar for BlackBerry, which is suing Typo for alleged patent infringement). But that's the point.

Typo isn't looking to trail-blaze a path toward a new and unique mode of input. Quite the opposite. The idea is to resurrect the physical QWERTY smartphone keyboard in a world dominated by all-screen devices made popular by Apple's iPhone.

Whether Typo can pull off such a heady feat is up to consumers, but that the product even exists proves there is a market for iPhone users who long for BlackBerry-style clicky keys.

Typo is small, light and well-built. Attaching it to an iPhone 5 or 5s is as simple as pulling the case apart, sliding in the phone and slipping the parts back together. Inside, Typo is designed to tight tolerances, keeping the iPhone firmly in place.

Typo


The plastic casing wrapping around the iPhone's body is relatively thick and has a non-slip soft-touch finish on both sides.

Typo's design includes generous-sized cutouts for power, volume and mute controls, as well as complete access to the iPhone's speaker, microphone, Lightning port and headphone jack. What is obscured, however, is the home button -- arguably the most important physical control on the iPhone.

Typo


Which brings us to Typo's first obvious drawback: elimination of TouchID. While the unit has a dedicated home button replacement located at its bottom-right corner, the key does not include Apple's fingerprint-reading technology. This means users who lock their phones with passwords instead of numbers will have to type in their code on Typo, switch unlock methods or turn off the security function altogether.

On the plus side, pressing any key on Typo -- even after it enters sleep mode -- automatically powers up the device and bypasses the usual lock screen to bring up the passcode entry prompt. Pressing the iPhone's power button will wake the device to its default lock screen for viewing of notifications.

Typo


Overall build quality is high, though we did have a slight issue with the keyboard module. Typo has left a small gap between the screen and the keyboard housing. Unlike the rest of the case, the QWERTY plastic here is thin and flexible, likely to accommodate the internal battery and communications circuitry. This results in a noticeable bowing when typing on the upper rows of keys. While not a deal breaker, it makes the device feel less sturdy than an integrated keyboard.

Typo


In use, Typo is reminiscent of older BlackBerry devices. Key presses are crisp and the silver colored cross-bars offer just enough space to delineate rows. After a short time, we were able to commit to thumb-touch-typing thanks to the partially sculpted keys. Layout is nearly identical to a QWERTY BlackBerry, with buttons pulling double duty as number and symbol keys via an ALT function. A button located near the space bar conveniently brings up the iOS keyboard for special situations, like emoji or international character input.

One of Typo's strong suits is that it allows complete unobstructed access to the screen. Instead of thumbs hovering over a virtual keyboard, users are able to see more of an email or message thread. Of course, switching to landscape mode makes Typo nearly useless unless it is removed and used remotely, but the same can be said of lauded BlackBerry designs.

The device also sports backlit keys, which can be toggled on and off to save juice. Battery life is pegged at an impressive 14 days, but the facTypo is yet another device to charge up via the included micro-USB connector.

Typo


In our tests, which included a variety of text edit, email and messaging apps, we found the unit to be extremely responsive with no latency between key press and text entry. Even under a "stress test," which consisted of pressing a single key as fast as possible, Typo exhibited zero lag. Basically, the device worked as good or better than most full-size Bluetooth keyboards on the market.

Typo is an interesting product. In many ways it fits the "on-the-go" accessory category and is perfect for shooting out quick emails and texts. But as a semi-permanent add-on meant to stay attached to an iPhone for extended periods, it feels too bulky. The design also makes concessions in utility.

While we were aware that the home button would be "relocated," something we did not anticipate was restricted access to iOS 7's Control Center. With the keyboard installed, it is nearly impossible to perform the swipe-up gesture activating the feature, which leaves control of Wi-Fi, orientation lock, Bluetooth and other system functions buried in the Settings app.

Typo


From our experience thus far, Typo is one of the better Bluetooth iPhone keyboard solutions on the market, but is by no means perfect. Key feel is good, the materials are solid and text input is extremely fast.

That being said, Typo is not for everyone. The accessory's design adds a substantial "chin" to the iPhone, throwing it off balance when typing while adding nearly an inch in length. Also, using Typo will add yet another device to the list of gadgets that need recharging. Most vexing for us, however, is the nullification of TouchID, which has made securing our iPhone 5s an unthinking task and will presumably provide a basis for future Apple services.

Typo


For die-hard physical keyboard fans and BlackBerry converts, Typo could be the answer you've been waiting for. For everyone else, Apple's virtual multitouch solution is likely a better bet.

Typo is priced at $99 and can be preordered through Amazon or Typo's website for shipment in late January.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 83

    Seems like a step backwards, to me. 

  • Reply 2 of 83

    No Control Center. No Touch ID. No Sale.

  • Reply 3 of 83
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post

     

    Seems like a step backwards, to me. 




    Originally Posted by AdeFowler View Post

     

    No Control Center. No Touch ID. No Sale.




    Exactly!

     

     

     

  • Reply 4 of 83
    Clever idea, really, but not too well thought out. Needs a battery extender and input extender as well as sound enhancement engineering. It's a one trick pony not considering the multi-enhancement model in order to attract different vertical groups! If this product survives being vetted the developer may just get there with the right engineer. Too bad the form factor change won't stay the same for the next model
  • Reply 5 of 83
    As soon as I have $99 extra, I'm buying it.

    I've hated the touch keyboard forever. I have an iPhone 5 so touch ID isn't an issue.

    Getting back 1/2 my screen will be well worth it. the review didn't mention the presence of command keys, so that I can cut, copy and paste without those insipid text hsndles.

    If you don't want one, fine. just don't criticize what you cannot understand.
  • Reply 6 of 83
    zabazaba Posts: 226member
    Sticking oars on a luxury yacht
  • Reply 7 of 83
    I'm looking forward to getting mine. I like that it's a one trick pony as I don't want any more bulk added or features. I don't use touch id on my 5 anyway (as I don't have it) and I'll wait and see re the control center. It didn't say "no control center" it just said it was harder. But with the amount of time wasted on typos, I will make up the extra time wasted accessing control center because the keyboard will allow me to type accurately. So for me, that's the point. I type a lot more than I access control center. And it's still possible, you just have to angle your finger from above to get to the bottom of the screen, as far as I can imagine practicing now without the typo attached yet. The typo isn't supposed to be obscuring any part of the screen so it should theoretically be still possible to activate it. I'll wait and see. Again, even if it takes me a few goes to get it to come up, the device will have still saved me soooo much time. And the extra bulk? Fine. I have more room in my pocket anyway and I'm gonna get more usable screen real estate as a bonus.

    No, I'm excited.

    My experience with the touch keyboard has been interesting. When it first came out to Australia with iPhone 3G I did much better with the keyboard for some reason. I think I so wanted to love it I gave it leeway by slowing down and checking each button before releasing. But as I've moved forward I don't have time for that. Too often the autocorrect gets me completely wrong, resulting in lots of backspacing. Case in point, typing this on my iPhone and backspacing was changed to backs pacing. Gave to have. So annoying. Still faster just to delete and try again. The cursor selection method on touch screens is painfully slow and picky. Ends up taking longer (for instance if I wanted to just delete the space in the word instead of retyping).

    In addition, I find many common words like live painful to write. So easy to hit o instead of i. And both are valid words. Same just then with hit and hot. Gave and have. And I often hit delete key instead of m. Autocorrect doesn't fix that.

    These problems will never be solved by a touch keyboard. They just won't. Until we can get Siri to act more like a knowledge navigator (that old Apple video from the 80's showing a smart personal assistant prior to newton, an Apple concept basically that the ipad is getting closer to) then we are still stuck with the keyboard. And as a touch typist that is very fast I'm really looking forward to trying out this physical keyboard. I had a blackberry before iPhone and I think this could be really good.

    Also, until touch id becomes more useful than for just unlocking the phone it really doesn't seem to be an issue. I have pass code set to only every 4 hours right now. The keyboard looks like it's going to save me unlock time because I no longer have to swipe. Just hit a key.

    So just because you think certain things should be in this device or it obscuring touch id is a deal breaker doesn't mean everyone will feel that way. The review seems a bit skewed to "oh no our favorite new apple feature is gone because of this", whereas it doesn't take into account that touch id really isn't that exciting compared to a keyboard where u can type accurately. The trade off is definitely worth it. And they say up front on their website you can't use touch id. So you can make that decision and decide for yourself what's more important. Saving literally 1 second with touch id instead of typing a pass code (perhaps very fast on your physical keyboard!) or saving many many minutes every time you write an email or text!!

    Of course, if touch id one day becomes more than just unlocking, as the article says, then it's an issue, absolutely.

    Damn if this touch keyboard auto corrects id to if or I'd one more time I'm going to kill it!!! If only there was a physical keyboard that wouldn't do that!! Hehe
  • Reply 8 of 83
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,320member
    I'm finding the touch keyboard to be much less accurate recently, and autocorrect tripping me up more. If the Typo is as good as the Blackberry keyboards mobile I might get one. Not sure I'd want it on all the time though.
  • Reply 9 of 83
    arlorarlor Posts: 477member

    If Apple would just add a Swype-style keyboard option, you wouldn't feel the pull toward a Blackberry-style physical keyboard. I can "type" twice as fast and considerably more accurately on my Nexus 5 than on my iPhone or my old Blackberry. If you've never tried swiping, try it (and of course you'd get better with practice) before unthinkingly preferring Apple's current approach; it really is better.

  • Reply 10 of 83
    jm6032jm6032 Posts: 147member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Crowley View Post



    I'm finding the touch keyboard to be much less accurate recently...

    Thank you. I don't have any references to point to, but it appears that the software driving the virtual keyboard has taken two steps backwards. The number of errors I make on the keyboard seems much greater now. I find the placement of the backspace key next to the M key to be the single biggest problem with the keyboard. The second biggest is that it is now virtually impossible for me to touch the "123" key without adding a space character. All in all, I'm finding the frustration level with the new virtual keyboard software to be frustratingly higher...

  • Reply 11 of 83
    They should have allowed the iPhone to be installed UPSIDE DOWN.

    When held upside down, the home button is exposed. So TouchID can be done. And the Swipe-Up screen can be exposed via a swipe down movement instead. The only thing lost is the notifications screen - no big loss.
  • Reply 12 of 83
    Quote:


    Thank you. I don't have any references to point to, but it appears that the software driving the virtual keyboard has taken two steps backwards.


     

    Yes. I type a lot on my iPad, and iOS7 has slowed me down considerably. I'm not entirely sure what they've done, but it appears to require slightly longer contact with each key before registering the character. Maybe someone thought it would make things easier for "thumb" typists; but I'm having to re-learn all my pre-iOS7 typing habits, and it's a huge irritant.

     

    Re: the article, I can see the charm of this keyboard case for someone really missing a hardware keyboard. I've learned to live with the on-screen keyboard, but I'll never be as efficient with it.

  • Reply 13 of 83
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Arlor View Post

     

    If Apple would just add a Swype-style keyboard option, you wouldn't feel the pull toward a Blackberry-style physical keyboard. I can "type" twice as fast and considerably more accurately on my Nexus 5 than on my iPhone or my old Blackberry. If you've never tried swiping, try it (and of course you'd get better with practice) before unthinkingly preferring Apple's current approach; it really is better.


     

    The Nexus 5 has a five inch touchscreen which makes typing alot easier with or without a swype keyboard.

  • Reply 14 of 83

    Hey if you guys like that...you're going to love this! It's at CES. $250 (Say, what!)

     

    The only problem is you look like you're flying the space shuttle without the dashing NASA flight suit. Oh, and the space shuttle bits! :)

     

    Best.

     

    P.S. Works with your smartphone, too. Just put on your Google Glass and you're good to go! Maybe a backpack to carry it in, too. :)

     

    P.S.S. It's working title is "Gold Digger Prevention Device." 

     

     

  • Reply 15 of 83
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Arlor View Post

     

    If Apple would just add a Swype-style keyboard option, you wouldn't feel the pull toward a Blackberry-style physical keyboard. I can "type" twice as fast and considerably more accurately on my Nexus 5 than on my iPhone or my old Blackberry. If you've never tried swiping, try it (and of course you'd get better with practice) before unthinkingly preferring Apple's current approach; it really is better.


     

    Even if they just allowed developers to replace system apps like the keyboard, the problem would solve quickly. Apple doesn't even have to engineer anything for it.

  • Reply 16 of 83
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post

     

    Seems like a step backwards, to me. 


    It more than just seems that way.

  • Reply 17 of 83
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Arlor View Post

     

    If Apple would just add a Swype-style keyboard option, you wouldn't feel the pull toward a Blackberry-style physical keyboard. I can "type" twice as fast and considerably more accurately on my Nexus 5 than on my iPhone or my old Blackberry. If you've never tried swiping, try it (and of course you'd get better with practice) before unthinkingly preferring Apple's current approach; it really is better.


    No it really isn't. It is still a gimmick on those poor touch screens. The idea has potential, but all of that potential is still completely unrealized.

     

    What matters more is how many times faster it is to type on the iOS touch keyboard than that stupid arrangement of tiny tic-tacs. The answer being, several orders of magnitude.

  • Reply 18 of 83
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post

     

    It more than just seems that way.


    Yep, you're right, pmz! :)

  • Reply 19 of 83
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post

    Hey if you guys like that...you're going to love this! It's at CES. $250 (Say, what!)

     

    The only problem is you look like you're flying the space shuttle without the dashing NASA flight suit. Oh, and the space shuttle bits! :)

     

    Best.

     

    P.S. Works with your smartphone, too. Just put on your Google Glass and you're good to go! Maybe a backpack to carry it in, too. :)

     

    P.S.S. It's working title is "Gold Digger Prevention Device." 

     

     

     

    I caught a glimpse of that last night on TV. The first thing that came to mind was an old bucking-spring keyboard.
  • Reply 20 of 83

    Ha, BillyGoat. A poster on MacWorld, upon seeing this, wondered to himself, "why he immediately thought of Charlton Heston in Moses!" :)

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