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Now why would anyone want a physical keyboard for their iPhone? The on-screen keyboard is so easy to use and it’s there when you need it and not when you don’t. Well, my wife, for one, misses the physical keyboard of her Blackberry. There is now a solution for those people who are craving a physical keyboard for their lovely touch-screen glory of an iPhone 4. It’s called the NUU MiniKey and it is a case that holds your iPhone 4 as well as provides a bluetooth keyboard for those tactile typists out there.
In the picture above, you can see how the MiniKey slides out from under the case. The case basically triples the width of the iPhone and adds a bit of weight to it as well, but for those people craving to physically touch a keyboard when they type, the solution from NUU is probably what you are looking for. There are other keyboard cases that use bluetooth for their connectivity (like the BoxWave Keyboard Buddy for iPhone – which I have requested to review) but unfortunately I don’t have one to compare the NUU MiniKey against. Regardless, I used it for a few hours and then turned it over to another tester of mine, my wife.
My wife is the one coming from using a Blackberry. The keys, to me, seemed reminiscent of some Blackberry keyboards I have played with in the past. They are raised, with rounded edges to clearly distinguish the keys, not smooth like other buttons. The NUU’s buttons click when they are press, making for stealthy writing (e.g., in a meeting or in a quiet place) a bit difficult to do.
It’s easy to connect the keyboard once you have firmly inserted it into the housing. Shown above is the bluetooth connectivity screen. You simply need to pair the keyboard with your iPhone. Once it is connected, you can use the NUU MiniKey to your heart’s content. Note also above the back-lit keys which is a nice thing to have in situations of low light. The MiniKey has a power switch with 3 settings, OFF, ON without backlighting and ON with backlighting. You can also clearly see the yellow function keys for additional characters.
One nice think about connecting a bluetooth keyboard to your iPhone is suddenly you have a lot of additional real-estate freed up when you are typing an email or document for example. Normally, the on-screen keyboard takes up about 1/2 of the screen. When the MiniKey is active, you then have the full screen to work with.
Below is a video overview of the NUU MiniKey in action (also available on YouTube directly):
[iframe_loader width="560" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Vk6BFMbnWGk?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen]
After a few days of usage, my wife has the following observations:
- Works great as an external keyboard
- Buttons are a little loud
- When open, the whole setup is a bit top-heavy, meaning that the iPhone part tends to tip forward, making it a bit unbalanced when you use it
- The backlight is a very nice to have feature
Physically, the case is a bit bulky, as I mentioned before, almost tripling the width of the iPhone, as you can see in the photos below:
There is a large cutout for the camera to fully function.
Price is $79.99 and you can pick it up on Amazon for $79.95.
The NUU MiniKey is very easy to set up and use, earning it a high ease of use rating. However, I honestly don’t think that this will be used by kids as it may be a bit too “old school” for modern kids. Kids want new technology and, from having watched my daughters in action, are more than comfortable using the on-screen keyboards, in fact, when given the option between physical and digital keyboards, tend to favor the on-screen ones. However, as I mentioned, for those people desiring a tactile experience when typing, the NUU MiniKey is definitely a good choice for them. In terms of recommendability, personally, I don’t have a use for a physical keyboard on my iPhone, however, my wife does so obviously we are split here. If you factor out whether you have the need or not, I do feel that the MiniKey is a quite good add-on to your iPhone despite its bulk (and loud keys). At $80, it does add a bit of “weight” there as well – perhaps at a $60 price point, it would be a must-have for those desiring a physical keyboard. I did like the back-lit keys which seems to be unique to these keyboards and definitely puts it ahead of other competitors in the space.
I think being able to choose between using a physical or virtual keyboard is definitely important, whether it is actually built into the phone or not. The iPhone has great success in usability but there continues to be speculation as to if future versions will ever have a physical one built in. My opinion is that future version never will have physical keyboards so then users who desire physically touching their keyboard need to look to solutions like the NUU MiniKey to make their thumbs fly!
Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: If you are looking for a bluetooth keyboard for you iPhone, definitely consider putting the NUU MiniKey at the top of your list.