Thumbs-on!: Typo's BlackBerry case for iPhones

For iPhone owners yearning for a physical keyboard reminiscent of their old BlackBerry, this $99 slip-on case could do the trick.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read

LAS VEGAS -- If an all-touch screen smartphone has never matched the speed nor dampened the satisfaction of a well-executed QWERTY keyboard beneath your fingertips, then the Typo Keyboard Case for your iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S might very well be the best $100 you've ever spent on a cell phone accessory.

Designed to look just like the iconic BlackBerry keyboard with its ridged keys (yes, Typo's been sued) this plastic slip-on case proposes to join the best of both worlds.

All the keyboard trappings are there, and an extra button on the bottom right helps you navigate the iPhone's screen while the QWERTY obstructs the home button. It worked well and is easy to get the hang of.

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.

Typo Keyboard Case: Hands-on with case that turns your iPhone into a BlackBerry (pictures)

See all photos

Total proficiency is something that would probably come after a few days acquainting yourself with the case's dimensions. Jonathan Goodrich, Typo's chief technology officer, says he rates about 70 words per minute.

Getting the words to appear on the screen doesn't happen by magic. A Bluetooth connection helps translate input from the QWERTY type pad to the iPhone's screen. The case was clearly made with some usability considerations, like the dovetailed top and bottom halves that slide snugly together, and the generous cutouts that leave ample room for the phone's controls, switches, and ports.

The underside of the case looks a little bizarre because of this open channel leading to the charger; another option would have been to build in extra ports through the case. At this point, though, there's no electrical connection to make the two devices simpatico. In fact, Typo even has its own Micro-USB charging port, though the device should last between 7 and 10 days on a single charge.

Typo's Keyboard Case for iPhone 5 and 5S rips the iconic BlackBerry keyboard. Sarah Tew/CNET

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.