Typo keyboards is betting that many of you like your iPhone 6, but really wish you had a physical keyboard to make hammering out lengthy messages that much easier. To that end, the company has created keyboard cases you can slide your iPhone into, bringing the physical keyboard experience to devices that have long since left them behind. It's the successor to the ill-fated Typo keyboard , a nigh-identical device that bore more than a passing resemblance to BlackBerry hardware, which led to litigation.
The Typo2 offers a slightly different layout, but the general idea remains the same: slide your phone into the case, connect via Bluetooth, and you've got a physical keyboard for your iPhone 6. Whether or not it's worth the $99 price of admission is wholly dependent on how badly you want a physical keyboard on your smartphone.
Typo ships to the UK and Australia, at a hefty cost of $27, making it $126 in total (plus tax). That converts to roughly £80 or AU$150.
There isn't all that much to this case. The iPhone 6 slides into the base, and you'll then fit the other end of the case on top to lock it in. The case's weight is negligible, but it will add a smidgen of thickness to your slim smartphone -- as expected, for a phone case. The plastic shell feels fairly sturdy, though it likely won't stand up to drops and falls as well as some of the more purpose-driven cases out there.
The four-row keyboard also adds about an inch of height to the iPhone 6; for comparison's sake, it becomes about as tall as the iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung Galaxy Note 4 , so you'll want to keep smaller pockets in mind. The case offers all of the requisite holes for easy access to the iPhone 6's buttons and the camera lens. There's also a gap on the underside that makes way for the headphone jack and the charging cable: small channels are provided for each cable, and I found it pretty easy to plug things in without flipping the phone over, or struggling awkwardly.
There's no physical connection between the Typo2 and the iPhone, so you're going to have to charge each device separately. The Typo2's battery will last for about 7 to 10 days, and charges by way of a micro-USB port sitting on the left side.
And then, of course, comes the keyboard. I'm in two minds about this. I love physical keyboards: for all its faults, the BlackBerry Passport is a phenomenal tool on which to get work done. But it's also a cumbersome device, forcing you to make the call between error-free text and a comfortable user experience.
The Typo2 has the makings of a fair compromise. It doesn't add much in the way of girth, so the phone remains as comfortable to use as ever. You're also getting quite a bit more screen real estate, as the virtual keyboard no longer pops up to block the screen on your iPhone 6. That will also eliminate the iOS 8 keyboard's new spelling suggestions feature and emoji -- not really devastating.
As far as keyboards go, it's serviceable if not impressive. The Bluetooth connection works flawlessly; I was paired in seconds without a hint of input lag and never experienced a drop in connectivity. It also offers clever functions like a lock switch, to prevent mistypes when it's in your purse or pocket, and a currency toggle, so jet setters can easily enter symbols for the dollar, euro, pound and yen. There's also a backlight, which is easily toggled on or off and a phenomenal feature to cram in such a tiny space.
Hunt and peck
That tiny space can be problematic. The keys are canted ever so slightly, so you can find individual keys without much hassle. But they're also small and cramped together, and my admittedly large hands occasionally fumbled. The keyboard is also rather shallow, which was the source of still more typos as my fingers hit adjoining keys. A bit of practice should clear that up, but there's still the general awkwardness to deal with: the keyboard leaves the entire device feeling off-center, so to speak, which makes holding the phone in landscape to watch videos or take pictures a bit more cumbersome than it should be.
The case also blocks the iPhone 6's Home button. That might not be a problem for you: there's a Home button shortcut key on the bottom left of the keyboard, and it functions as a normal home button would, including allowing you to bug Siri on a whim.
But it's a deal-breaker for me. Touch ID is just plain cool, but it's also a very important part of the whole iPhone 6 experience. You can use it to unlock your phone, or make quick transactions with Apple Pay , or authenticate certain apps without being bugged for a password. For me it's more important than the extra inch or so of screen in differentiating it from older (pre-5S) iPhones. I couldn't imagine spending $99 to sacrifice such a crucial part of the iPhone.
There was a time when keyboards were all but required complements to any serious mobile phone built for getting things done. And there are likely people who scoff at the idea of tapping on glass to send emails or edit text: the Typo2 is a relatively inexpensive way to get that physical keyboard feel on your shiny new iPhone.
But the iPhone, especially with iOS 8, has come along way. The larger screen on the iPhone 6 means that you already have a bit more room to see what you're working on, and the keyboard has been improved with iOS 8, thanks to spelling suggestions and the ability to swap in alternate third-party keyboards.
A hundred dollars is too high a price to pay to take a step backwards, especially for a keyboard that only serves to remind me of how great wider, sturdier physical keyboards once were. But virtual keyboards are here to stay, which is great, because they're just better: they're far less cumbersome, extensible thanks to third-party support, and see improvements every year. If you really must have a physical keyboard, you can do better than grafting one onto your iPhone: just get a BlackBerry.