Sunday, February 19, 2012

iKeyboard (iPad/iPad 2)


  iKeyboard was the first kickstarter project I ever backed. The idea of being able to touch type without having to lug around a Bluetooth keyboard really appealed to me. I figure it was worth taking a chance on. It is $35 at amazon.
  After several delays (months) the product finally arrived.    My initial reaction was how ummm unsubstantial the device looked.  It's a very thin light plastic frame with a bunch of clear plastic bubbles that make up the keys. It has a few rubbery adhesive strips around the edges to attach the keyboard to the screen.
  The initial experience was rather awkward. I wasn't sure what to expect but this feels like no keyboard I've used before.  I actually took typing in high school. I type all the time at work. I can typically type around 85 wpm without errors.  There are some things you have to immediately get use to. You want to make sure you press keys all the way down to the bottom to make sure each key press registers.  The travel distance feels ok it just you have to use more pressure than you are use to to which might lead to quicker hand fatigue.  The second big thing is the return key is where the apostrophe typically is.  You brain wants to switch into normal touch typing mode and you kind of forget you are typing on an iPad so you will get some inadvertent returns.  I'm sure that will get better over time with more practice. I also notice as you push for speed you have to make sure your fingers land on the actual bubble and not the frame around the bubble. This is made more difficult due to the size of the iPad keyboard since it is quite a bit more cramped and the keys are smaller than a normal keyboard.
  There is no arguing though.  You can definitely type faster with the iKeboard than without.  I'm not typing anywhere near 85 wpm but it's a definite improvement.  What is nice is you can type with just the iPad in your lap without the bulk of a keyboard or keyboard case. 
  I downloaded an app called TapTyping which the testing part is free. I was doing about 35-45 wpm without the iKeyboard and around 50-65 wpm with the iKeyboard after about 20min of practice. Also, without the iKeyboard I still had to glance down at the keys quite often and my hands had to hover over the touch screen where with the iKeyboard I never had to look down and was truly touch typing with my hands/fingers resting on the iKeyboard. So expect a 15-20 wpm improvement. That might get even better with practice.
  I use a powersupport anti-glare screen protector. I was afraid that sticking and removing this thing again and again would cause issues like air bubbles or lift up the screen protector. I just slowly peel the corner closest to the middle of the iPad. So far it doesn't seem to have messed anything up.
  The smart cover still works with the iKeyboard in the default location which is nice. What I'm not sure is what to do with it when I'm not going to be doing a lot of typing. I don't want the adhesive pads to get lint on it. I guess I could just put it back in its original packaging. It says to use scotch tape to delint the pads if they ever get dirty.

    Recommended. I think a lot of people's initial reaction is that is all you get for $35? From a straight materials perspective it looks to be more like a $5-$10 product.  From all the kickstarter updates I can tell there is probably a substantial R&D cost he is trying to recover. You really can tell a lot of thought went into the design.  I can't think of what could have been done differently to make it better off the top of my head except maybe somehow make the frame around the buttons a bit thinner (but maintain structural integrity) and the bubbles a bit easier to push (but still spring back quickly enough). I guess the bottom line is are you getting $35 of actually usefulness out of the product. If you want improved touch typing while keeping the iPad as portable as possible without having to lug another device around that you have to keep charged then there really aren't that many options.  Just keep your expectations in line (don't expect apple Bluetooth keyboard like speeds) and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I for one think this will be great for taking notes in meetings. Oh, and of course I typed this entire review in Pages with the iKeyboard.