Soon You Can Give Your iPhone a Physical Keyboard With Real Buttons
A new Clicks case with a hardware keyboard for recent iPhone Pro models is launching at CES 2024.
David LumbMobile Reporter
David Lumb is a mobile reporter covering how on-the-go gadgets like phones, tablets and smartwatches change our lives. Over the last decade, he's reviewed phones for TechRadar as well as covered tech, gaming, and culture for Engadget, Popular Mechanics, NBC Asian America, Increment, Fast Company and others. As a true Californian, he lives for coffee, beaches and burritos.
Expertisesmartphones, smartwatches, tablets, telecom industry, mobile semiconductors, mobile gaming
When the original iPhone launched back in 2007, it marked the ascendance of on-screen keyboards, but some folks still miss the full physical keyboards that were popular on BlackBerry devices and other mobile phones earlier this century. For those iPhone texters who wish they had real buttons to press, a new physical keyboard iPhone case is debuting at CES 2024 -- and prominent phone industry YouTubers contributed to the design.
New company Clicks Technology is debuting its eponymous Clicks keyboard as its first product for $139, which will be compatible with the most recent iPhones to start. Available with either Lightning (for iPhone 14 Pro) or USB-C (for iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max) connectors, the keyboard is actually integrated into a wraparound case. Just slide your iPhone into the device and start typing. The keys are backlit for night typing, and it runs off the phone's battery, so no charging required.
"We use keyboards on our desktops, laptops and tablets every day -- so it's kind of odd that we abandoned physical buttons on the smartphone," Michael Fisher, known as Mr. Mobile on YouTube and co-founder of Clicks Technology, said in a press release. Fisher's channel includes contemporary reviews and throwback profiles of phones from yesteryear, when screens where smaller and designs were weirder in the days where manufacturers gave phones bold and bizarre looks to entice buyers.
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The Clicks keyboard brings some of this energy back in its bright banana yellow color, which wouldn't look out of place on a Nintendo N64 controller. It's also available in a more svelte gray hue for this early Founders Edition round of the product; other colors may be available in the future.
Having a physical keyboard below the phone elongates the whole package, so you might not be able to fit it in your pocket, and it's hard to tell if the extra length will make it a bit tougher to hold while typing. But there are definite advantages to a dedicated keyboard, most notably faster and more accurate typing than on a digital keypad, as well as a command button to allow for shortcuts to the home screen or search bar. A less obvious benefit: Without a digital keyboard popping up, you keep your full screen when typing.
"We labored over every decision from exactly how the buttons should feel to the keyboard layout, ensuring it would be intuitive for iPhone users," said Kevin Michaluk, known as CrackBerry Kevin on YouTube and co-founder at Clicks Technology. He joined Fisher and a team with mobile experience from companies like Apple, BlackBerry and Google to design the keyboard.
The Clicks keyboard is available to order now and will begin shipping on Feb. 1 for the iPhone 14 models, with the iPhone 15 shipping at some point in Spring. The keyboard runs on a partner app that will soon be downloadable from the Apple App Store and will "bring new functionality to the keyboard over time," according to a press release.
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Though smartphones have transitioned to full front screens and users have gotten the hang of digital keyboards, there still remains a contingent of phone fans wistful for their physical keyboards. A startup co-founded by Ryan Seacrest feuded with BlackBerry in court over an iPhone keyboard back in 2014, but even today's phone owners find digital keyboards lacking -- like this Redditor asking if there was a case for last year's iPhone 14 with a physical keyboard that slid out like T-Mobile's Sidekick phone from yesteryear.