So, you have an iDevice and would like to take advantage of a Bluetooth keyboard. Well, there are options, but not as many as you would think. Plus, costs vary from product to product. Here are a few things to consider when looking for the best Bluetooth keyboard for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
- Portability: This is kind of a big one, because if it’s big and clumsy, you will never use it. If it’s too small, you’ll never like using it. It’s got to fit with what you travel with. Personally, when I got my iPhone 4, I went ahead and bought the Apple BT keyboard, and I like it, but it’s not really what I consider portable anymore, now that I have a laptop.
- Cost: Let’s face it. If it’s too expensive you’re not going to buy it anyway, but if you do, you will end up kicking yourself if you find something cheaper with possibly better features. There are some keyboards out there that cost almost as much as a 32GB iPod Touch. Higher cost can be justified if you’re actually using the keyboard on a regular basis, but not if it sits on the side of your desk.
- Compatibility: This is more important that many would believe. Remember that most “universal” keyboards are universally configured for Windows, not Mac. And while iOS is not quite Mac OS, it’s a heck of a lot closer than it is to Windows. Things like Windows Keys are wasted space when pairing with an iOS device. Make sure that whichever keyboard you decide upon has Mac compatibility.
- Stability: This is also a big consideration when choosing a Bluetooth keyboard. Think about this for a moment. If you plan on using your keyboard on your lap, then a flexible keyboard is definitely out. So is the laser keyboard (I’m not going to talk about this any further than to say it’s a great gimmick, but that’s it.). You must consider how the keyboard will best server you before just grabbing one. Otherwise, you could find out you just wasted your money.
So now you know the four major things to work with when picking a Bluetooth keyboard out for your iPhone or iPad. Below are some of the devices I have researched over the past couple years before deciding to go with the Apple Wireless Keyboard. Since this is the one I purchased, I’ll start with this one first.
The Apple Wireless Keyboard is light, very thin, and last a long time on 2 AA batteries. I am using the Energizer Lithium batteries and have yet to replace them. This should be a testament to the power management. The keyboard is also Window 7 (and Vista I assume) compatible, which makes my life easier when I have my laptop in tablet mode working in Photoshop and the built in keyboard is covered.
The one major drawback is the size. I wish that it could fold up and travel easier. It’s not that much of a problem for me, since I travel with a backpack most places I go, but it would be nice to have something that becomes smaller for those times I don’t have the backpack with me. One other drawback is that the soft rubbery keys attract dust and animal hairs like a magnet, so I’d recommend getting a cover. I purchased one from Marware (actually made for a MacBook, but the layout is the same) that I had to trim slightly, but does the job nicely. I taped it to the keyboard so it’s always on.
The next one I looked at was the Freedom Bluetooth Universal Keyboard PRO. This keyboard actually folds up into a nice clamshell and is light and portable. The only reason I didn’t choose this model was the cost. $89.00 on Amazon. You might find it cheaper elsewhere, and if you do, I suggest grabbing it, but make sure it’s the latest version. Another advantage Freedom is that it has a built in stand for your iDevice. It will not hold an iPad, but an iPhone or iPod touch would be a great fit.
I do not know if the keyboard locks in the open position. If it does not, then this again would not be something to use typing in your lap.
A follow-up model to this that is very similar in function and design is the Stowaway Sierra Bluetooth Keyboard by Think Outside. The only reason I didn’t purchase this, was that I couldn’t find it in stock. This keyboard is super thin, folding with 3 hinges to make a really small and compact traveling device. It even has a pop-out stand to hold your phone or iPod. Again, the stand would not be able to hold up an iPad, so you would need another stand solution. If I do ever find one online, I’d consider ordering one to see how it compares with the other models I’ve tested.
Yet another option is the Clamcase, specifically designed for the iPad- versions 1 and 2. It provides external protection and laptop type functionality for your iPad- Two for the price of one. But that’s not what sold me on this keyboard. It was the dedicated Home button, lock, search, slideshow, volume and media controls that are built in. You literally don’t have to lift your hand from the keyboard for many of the functions on the iPad. Your finger would be a cursor, and that’s it.
The main downside to this case/keyboard combination is the price. It’s a bit steep at $110, but I feel you’d be getting your money’s worth if you picked one up. Just make sure that it’s something you’ll use before buying one.
My final recommendation is also a case/keyboard combo, but for the iPhone. This would be the Boxwave Keyboard Buddy case. If you are looking for keyboard functionality, but don’t want to carry anything extra around at all, this is for you. It transforms your phone to have a slide out BT keyboard, just like an android device or blackberry. Of the reviews I have read, this is a solid and sturdy device/case, and typing on it is fairly easy. The only complaint I really saw was the placement of the spacebar was too much to the right and it was small. However, it would be something to simply get used to. The price tag isn’t that bad at $69 (considering that’s what I paid for my Apple BT keyboard) and it looks pretty darn good and sleek for what it delivers.
There are plenty of other Bluetooth keyboards out there to choose from. These are just a few of the ones I found to have the best over-all fit for general needs of almost any iDevice owner looking to get away from screen tapping, or to increase their typing dexterity for those long posts here on everythingiCafe. Where possible, purchase your keyboard from a store that offers a return policy, just in case it’s not a good fit. Just remember my 4 things to think about when making your decision and you should be able to get the keyboard that’s right for you.