Those readers among you who are of a certain age will remember when a Blackberry was the smartphone to have. Of those, most probably owned a Blackberry. And of those, most probably miss the Blackberry keyboard. It was a real keyboard, not a virtual one, with click-y, tactile, pleasant-to-use keys.
In an effort to recreate a quality keyboard experience for iPhone users, several case manufacturers have found ways to incorporate a keyboard into their products. Most of those offer a rather suboptimal experience. Some are downright dreadful. But a few work quite while. Of those Spot Cool Stuff tried, two stand out especially: the Nuu MiniKey and the Spike SoloMatrix. Our review of both . . .
There are at least a dozen iPhone cases that feature a slide-out Bluetooth-connected keyboards. Of the ones Spot Cool Stuff tried, we found the Nuu MiniKey to be best. Why?
• The keyboard feels great. While the keys on most other similar cases feel squishy, the MiniKey provides a Blackberry-like tactile response. The keys are also backlit.
• The Bluetooth connects quickly and consistently, solving the biggest frustration we had with most slide-out keyboard cases — the Bluetooth lag time.
• The MiniKey’s build quality is high. While we still wouldn’t suggest throwing around your encased iPhone, the MiniKey didn’t have a cheap and plasticy feel. It also doesn’t interfere with the camera which, to our surprise, so many of the competitor cases did.
In addition to the increased ease of typing using Nuu’s case, we liked how much extra screen real estate using the keyboard gave us. And we’re a big fan of the MiniKey’s ability to let us use keyboard shortcuts (CTRL-C to copy, for instance). No, a MiniKey-iPhone combo will not be replacing your laptop word processor. But it does make tying longer emails a lot more palatable.
The three downsides of the Nuu MiniKey: It nearly doubles the thickness of your iPhone. It requires the charging of a separate battery (which lasts about five days). And, at around $40 (with Amazon’s current discount), it’s a touch expensive.
For a thinner and cheaper case (albeit one that feels cheaper and suffers from some Bluetooth lag time) check out the slider from Abco Tech.
Instead of working through a Bluetooth keyboard interface, the Spike SoloMatrix iPhone case takes an ingenious, if low tech, approach — overlaying the virtual iPhone keyboard with a physical one! The Spike’s keyboard is on hinges and lays flush with the back of the case. When you need to type, you simply swing the keyboard to the front.
The big advantage of this approach is that there’s no Bluetooth connection to set up. Which means the Spike doesn’t cause any extra battery drain. The case itself is also thin and lightweight.
The disadvantage is that you don’t have the benefit of extra screen space to see what you are typing and don’t gain extra keyboard shortcuts. (Both of those are advantages of the
Nuu MiniKey, above). Also, you can only type in portrait mode — the case doesn’t work in landscape.
The Spike comes in three superscripted models: Spike1, Spike2 and Spike3. The major difference between them is the build quality. And the price. While the Spike1 is a reasonable US$35, the all-aluminum Spike3 is an astronomical $150!