Price (RRP): $39.95; Available from Software-Only.com.au
External iPad keyboards often come with added bulk, an extra weight and thickness that brings the iPad size closer to that of a proper laptop when all you wanted was a better typing experience. But what if there was a way to turn the onscreen keyboard into something a little more tactile.
Little more than air-filled plastic that can be mounted on an iPad, the iKeyboard is an accessory designed to make it easier to use the on screen keyboard on Apple’s second and third generation iPad.
The frame of the iKeyboard is made from black or white plastic, and when tacked on the iPad, makes up the separation for the keyboard letters. In between the black plastic, you’ll find small pillows of transparent plastic, effectively turning the virtual iPad keyboard into something tactile.
iKeyboard attaches to the iPad screen without any glue based adhesives or clips, using what we think is micro-suction, a new technology that can firmly attach accessories to the screen and not leave any mess behind.
No batteries or forms of wireless communication are used in the iKeyboard, as it’s literally just plastic air bubbles laid out over the iPad.
For some people, the iPad provides one of the best typing experiences, replacing a laptop with dedicated writing applications on a device that doesn’t run out of battery anywhere near as quickly as most computers, and is even smaller and more convenient.
But no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get used to Apple’s onscreen keyboard. We’ll spend five or ten minutes with it, and the sentences will come out riddled with mistakes, leaving us frustrated beyond belief.
You can try to fill the gap with dedicated external Bluetooth keyboards, many of which are excellent, but they all add weight, and kill that lovely thin and light feel the iPad normally comes with.
iKeyboard attempts to fix this with a stick-on solution, a plastic keyboard frame with plastic bubbles that – when put in place – fit directly over the virtual onscreen keys of a landscape iPad keyboard and make the entire thing feel tactile.
Now when you press down, the screen offers some resistance, the plush bubbles feeling closer to that of a rubberised keyboard, the sort you could only find for the first generation iPad.
Certainly, the lack of weight the iKeyboard offers helps to make this a good idea, adding a few grams to the overall weight of your iPad, far less than the substantial sizes external Bluetooth keyboard cases come with.
In use, the iKeyboard makes it easier to type with the onscreen keyboard, not only because there are frames in between the buttons stopping you from touching the wrong key accidentally, but because you can find bumps on the home row “f” and “j” keys, making touch-typing possible on what is otherwise a normally flat surface.
While it cant really make an improvement on Apple’s provided keyboard, the design of the iKeyboard makes it easier to use the onscreen version thanks to the added tactility. Sure, its not the same as a full size proper physical button keyboard, but it’s also a hell of a lot smaller, doesn’t require any power, and can even be used on flights, something no Bluetooth iPad keyboard can say for itself.
That said, it’s not perfect and you’ll still find yourself making errors here and there, as your fingers often end up hitting the plastic frames separating each letter and not the padded buttons.
It’s still quite a bit better than using the onscreen flat buttons Apple has set out for you, but not quite as accurate as an external accessory.
The iKeyboard can really only be as good as the screen itself, and as such, you’ll still likely find mistakes through your document. We found that while we were typing much faster with the iKeyboard, we still had a reasonable amount of missed characters, though it was much better than the flat onscreen virtual keyboard.
When you’re done, we’d suggest pulling the iKeyboard off and snapping it to the front of a Smart Cover, as leaving it on the screen means you’re looking through a keyboard frame to use your 9.7 inch tablet touchscreen.
While not the best iPad keyboard we’ve ever used, the iKeyboard manages to provide a better typing experience than the flat virtual option provided by Apple in the first place.
Is it better than a dedicated Bluetooth external keyboard? No, but is it lighter and easier to carry? Definitely.
If the idea of an external keyboard annoys you because of size and weight concerns, we’d suggest checking out this option. At $40, its certainly not going to tax the wallet too much.