The troubles facing smartphone pioneer BlackBerry are many and well-documented.
Delays in getting the all-touch BlackBerry 10 operating system out, a lack of apps, and businesses adopting BYOD (bring your own device) policies have seen many users switch to iPhone or Android.
However, despite switching, many former “Crackberry addicts” miss being able to use the BlackBerry’s iconic portrait-layout keyboard.
Now a new iPhone case – the Typo – promises to fix the problem by snapping a BlackBerry-style keyboard on to an iPhone.
So is an iPhone with a BlackBerry keyboard really best.
What’s the consensus?
According to BGR, the keyboard is relatively easy to set up, with a layout that’s instantly recognisable to anyone who has used a keyboard-based smartphone:
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.
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.
However, almost immediately, some issues emerge:
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.
According to CNet, the Typo definitely feels different to a genuine, real-life BlackBerry Q10:
Typing, however, wasn’t as easy to get used to right away. I have fond memories of fingers flying on BlackBerry’s best-in-class keyboard, but using Typo felt different. That’s partly because the keyboard isn’t solidly attached to the rest of the phone body, and perhaps partly because its width extends slightly beyond the iPhone’s narrow borders.
For my money, $100 is a lot to spend on a case I have to learn to use, but with a dearth of QWERTY alternatives at our collective fingertips, this one is at least a viable choice.
Over at The Verge, there were also complaints about the lack of a trackball or trackpad, and the fact that using the Typo automatically deactivates autocorrect:
The Typo feels like a cheap knockoff of a BlackBerry keyboard, like someone thought all that mattered was the shape of the keys and the font styling. And it only half-scratches the BlackBerry itch, too: the BlackBerry devices most people remember had a trackball or trackpad above the keyboard, meaning you didn’t actually need to touch the screen to use the device, and there were keyboard shortcuts galore.
iOS and the Typo don’t get along, either. Not at all. Autocorrect disappears as soon as a keyboard is connected, so I was left to my own devices for capitalization, stray apostrophes, and deciphering that I always type “bill” but actually mean “will.” There are no arrow keys, which would be a truly useful feature for copying, pasting, and editing — every time I make an error, and there will be many, it’s back to the touchscreen to fix it.
Who’s it for?
If you’re still happy using your Blackberry Q10, an iPhone with a Typo case will probably feel like a poor substitute.
Likewise, if you rely on autocorrect, you’re better off sticking with the on-screen keyboard.
However, if you’re stuck with an iPhone but miss having a physical keyboard, the Typo is certainly an accessory you might want to take a look at.