March 3, 2013

Product Review: In Search of an iPhone 5 Slider Keyboard

A case with no name.

This early attempt at an iPhone 5 slider keyboard works to overcome the poor, arrowless keyboard that Apple came up with, and for under $20.

Introducing the "Made for iPhone 5 Ultra-thin Slide-out Backlight Keyboard" case (that's as close to a brand name as it has).

I found this unnamed case on (ASIN: B009QX4PL2) for just $16.40, a price that seemed worth the risk compared with more-expensive alternatives that received bad reviews.*

A very similar model (possibly an upgrade or improved version) has turned up since on from a company called Shenit—that one listed at $21.13.*

The unnamed version works reasonably well, save for a few serious flaws. Let's have a look.

The Unnamed case w/phone.
First, the keyboard:

The keyboard offers fifty keys in four rows (versus the iPhone virtual keyboard’s 33 keys). The added number makes it possible to feature four arrow keys for navigating documents (as opposed to stopping your work and trying to press just the exact millimeter on the screen to mark a place to make changes).

In addition to arrow keys, the keyboard has, very importantly, the comma, period, apostrophe, and semicolon as main keys (and not function keys), meaning these marks can be typed with a single click.

And in addition to Shift and Alt is an Apple Command key, which allows for formatting and other shortcuts in certain apps.

A capital flaw

But here is one serious flaw in this product. On most mobile keyboards, to type a cap you hit the shift key, then the letter—separately. 

But on the Unnamed keyboard, you have to hold the shift key down while typing the letter, as you do on a computer keyboard (and typewriter). The same is  the case for function keys, which include numbers.

That makes for an uncomfortable stretch of the thumbs if you're trying to type, say, a simple four-digit year. Phone numbers are hell. This could very well be the flaw that sent this product to market with no name.

The Motorola 2 Global came
with an improved keyboard.

The typing experience on this keyboard is unimpressive. You have to push the keys down pretty far and that makes for slower typing. It is definitely a step down from the built-in slider keyboard on a Motorola Droid 2 Global.

The case

The rubberized case snaps on easily and appears to offer protection (though not to the screen itself).

The Unnamed case w/out phone.
It slides open with a nifty snapping sound, making it useful as a percussion instrument and already more fun than most smart phone cases.

The Bluetooth synched easily and hasn't been a problem yet, and the battery life so far has been impressive (this after several weeks).

Other features

The keyboard offers some useful features such as the ability to brighten and dim the phone directly, as well as change songs.

And very much needed for its dark-blue symbols is a back light (that will also allow you to text under the covers after bedtime).

Other reviews have called the case bulky and heavy. But a slider keyboard is going to be bulky, and in terms of balancing the phone and case in your hands, the keyboard could if anything be a bit heavier.

I give this product three stars out of five—at least one fewer because of the difficult caps and function typing.

Still, typing on this keyboard is a definite step up above using the virtual one on the iPhone. And at $16 ...


* The linked products were available on Feb. 27, 2013.

By John Sailors
(C) 2013 by Story Crest Press.

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