Hands On With the Ion iType iPhone Keyboard

Illustration for article titled Hands On With the Ion iType iPhone Keyboard

CES, gadgets like this are why I love you. CES, gadgets like this are why I hate you.

The Ion iType keyboard is pretty self-explanatory, which means you already know if you think it's a stupid idea, or a brilliant idea. If your'e conflicted, here's a hint: it can be both.

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The keyboard is limited to typing in one app, not because of some kind of engineering shortfall, but because that's all that Apple allows—third-party apps or accessories can't serve as text input devices, which is why dictation apps are all self-contained. Basically, you can export to email, save, or copy text in apps like that, and that's exactly what you can do with the iType's bundled app. Typing is fine, shift and caps lock keys behave as you'd expect, and although the text input isn't totally instant, it's very close. A battery is built in, which keeps the keyboard running and recharges your phone for a few hours.

It works, and its heart is in the right place, but that was never really the question. So, does it make sense? The iType, but a netbook. essentialy turns your iPod or iPhone into a netbook. A tiny, gimpy, flat, slow netbook. It'll only be $70, so if you don't have an iPod Touch, want a tiny-top for sofa browsing and are strapped for cash, then I guess you could buy one. It'd make a good icebreaker, too, as long as you don't mind your new friend's first words being "HAHAHAHAHA, LOOK AT THAT GUY"

You probably have a laptop already, and you should probably just use that. The iType should be available in Fall of this year.

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DISCUSSION

The thing I do not understand is why someone has not already constructed a slide-out keyboard add-on for the iPhone / Touch / Storm 2 and so forth? It seems like it should be a simple technical hurdle to address this issue. There is a bigger need for it on the Storm devices since their on screen keyboard is quite nearly worthless, but I am shocked it is not available yet.

I have had nearly full size add on keyboard for devices like the Palm phones, and they concept is lovely but is never practical. We carry these small devices because they go with us everywhere, and anything that makes the device radically larger or requires setup time, or in this case - requires juggling of applications, just misses the point.