Should keyboards be physical or virtual?

5 years ago in 2010 I sat together with two Danish friends in a nice cafe in Copenhagen. We were talking about the future. Touch keyboards just came to mobile devices (basically the iPhone) and we were debating if the BlackBerry or the iPhone would be the better device. The physical keyboard of the BlackBerry was a decisive factor in the conversation. After some back and forth, they made a bet. One friend said, in 5 years there will be no physical keyboards anymore. The other one said, keyboards will always exist as people want a haptic feedback when they write something. They were betting about a beer crate.

So, 5 years later. Who was right? Well, I guess you know the answer. I should actually contact them and ask if they already redeemed the bet. It’s not only that we have some devices with virtual keyboards and some with physical ones but devices with virtual keyboards also get physical ones. Apple just announced the iPad Pro and in the same breath they introduce a special keyboard for it. Touch devices are converted back to laptops. Are we going backwards? Well, maybe not really because we have the choice. Do we want to work with a keyboard or do we want to use the device as a touch device? We can simply take the screen away and use it separately as a tablet. I sometimes wonder about his “going back to laptop style” but then I have a keyboard for my iPad Air 2, too. I love it. It adds so much value to it and makes me so much more productive on the iPad. Check out my post about the iPad where I mention how great it is to work with an additional keyboard. Typing is just faster. Also, I posted the rolly keyboard – indeed, people want to have something that can be touched and that makes them know they have hit the key. I can type pretty fast on a virtual keyboard, but I still like my iPad keyboard or my Mac keyboard when I write longer texts.

Lately, I saw an article about a new keyboard that makes an iPad a typewriter!! Or at least, makes you feel like you write on a typewriter. It is called Qwerkywriter. Pretty funny actually! But it looked so heavy that I would not want to carry it around. The nice thing about mobile devices is that you can carry them around and that they are light. So, if you use an additional keyboard, it needs to be combinable with your mobile device and be pretty light. It needs to fit into your handbag. That’s why I liked the idea of the rolly keyboard. I did not get the chance to test it yet, though. Cause, as you all know, the most important factor of a keyboard is how you can type. Does it feel comfortable, can you type fast? Can you type forever on it?

I have tested a couple of mobile keyboards over time, especially for the iPad. My favourite from a typing point of view is still the Logitech keyboard for the iPad. However, I don’t like that it loses the bluetooth connection from time to time and that I cannot charge it with a cable. I need batteries. But you don’t always have batteries with you. A cable you can carry around.

What else did I test:

Anker Bluetooth Ultra-Slim Keyboard Cover for iPad Air 2

Pros:

  • stable bluetooth connection
  • re-chargable with a cable
  • several positions for display

Cons:

  • typing works but feels a bit “plastic”
  • lots of manual setting up when putting iPad in display position and when putting it back in cover position. No automatic magnetic clipping on.
  • no extra line for function keys
  • small return key

ZAGG Folio Case Hinged with Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad Air 2

Not tested. It looks good so far. It seems to be a whole case for the iPad that includes a keyboard.

Sharon Apple iPad Air 2 Ultrathin Keyboard Cover Case (german)

Pros:

  • good typing
  • extra functions keys
  • stable bluetooth connection
  • re-chargeable

Cons:

  • manual setup, clip needs to be pushed up via a button
  • only one position for screen

And to complete the list:

Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard Cover for iPad Air 2

Pros:

  • nice typing
  • intuitive handling with magnetic clip
  • optics
  • moving screen into different positions
  • extra function keys
  • bigger return key
  • very similar to Mac keyboard

Cons:

  • not re-chargeable, batteries needed
  • instable bluetooth connection

If you want to know where the idea for the Qwerkywriter came from, how it was made and if you want it to become reality then check out this video!

What is your opinion about keyboards – physical or virtual? I guess it also depends on the device and the length of the text. We would not take out a keyboard for a quick whatsapp message on the phone but rather for a longer email, document or article we have to write.

I hope you liked my little keyboard excursus.

Have a great day!

LittleMsMobile



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