This past weekend, I was working with New Orleans attorney Ernie Svenson to prepare for a presentation that we are giving this Friday. (If you are in New Orleans for the 2010 Federal Bar Association Annual Convention this week, check out our session "Social Media, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs: I am a Lawyer—Why Do I Care?") One of the features of iOS 4 is that you can use the iPhone with an external bluetooth keyboard. Ernie has an Apple Wireless Keyboard that he uses with his iMac, and I borrowed it for a short time to try it out with my iPhone 4. I did not use it for very long, so this is just a mini-review, but I must admit that I was really impressed. If you ever decide to travel with just an iPhone, leaving your laptop at home, the Apple Wireless Keyboard could be very handy.
Pairing the keyboard with the iPhone could not be more easy. Just go to the Settings app and turn on Bluetooth and you will see the keyboard listed. Select it, type the code that appears on your screen on the keyboard, and then the iPhone and the keyboard are paired.
Once the iPhone is paired with the keyboard, you can use the keyboard with a number of apps. One app that I tried was the recently updated version of Documents to Go. I propped up my iPhone, put the keyboard in front of it, and typed instead of tapped out the text. I consider myself a pretty good typist on the iPhone's keyboard, but you simply cannot compare that with typing on a real keyboard. Entering text on the iPhone with the Apple Wireless Keyboard is so much more precise, so much faster, and just so much more natural.
One great feature that I had not previously considered is that when you are using an external keyboard, you do not need to fill the bottom portion of the iPhone screen with the virtual keyboard. Thus, you can see a lot more text at one time. Indeed, if you press the eject button at the top right of the keyboard, you can trigger the appearance or disappearance of the virtual keyboard.
Another nice advantge of the keyboard is that you can easily type alternative keyboard characters. For example to type the section symbol § on an iPhone, you need to remember to hold down the & key until you see the option to instead enter §. But with the keyboard, you can just type Option 6 — the same keystroke that you use on a Mac — to type the symbol.
Unfortunately, not all keyboard shortcuts work. Documents to Go has an option to make text bold, but hitting Command-B on the keyboard will not trigger the option to turn on bold, nor can you use keyboard shortcuts to trigger underlining, italics, etc.
I also used the keyboard with the e-mail app, which worked just as well as Documents to Go.
It is also nice that the buttons at the top of the keyboard can be used to control the iPhone. The increase and decrease brightness buttons will adjust the brightness on the iPhone. The volume buttons adjust volume. The play/pause, forward and reverse buttons can control the iPod app. And as noted above, the eject button can trigger the virtual keyboard appearance. The tab button works, as do the shortcuts to cut, copy and paste.
One other nice feature about the Apple Wireless Keyboard is that it is ultra thin. It would be very easy to pack this in a suitcase or briefcase for travel.
Note that there have been several versions of the Apple Wireless Keyboard over the years. The versions released in 2009 (aluminium case and uses two AA batteries) and in 2007 (aluminum case and uses three AA batteries) work with the iPhone. The version released in 2003 (white case and uses four AA batteries) does not work with the iPhone, as noted in this article on Apple's website.
You can purchase the Apple Wireless Keyboard at the Apple Store or on Amazon for $69. Or if you already have this wireless keyboard (it comes with many new Macs), considering taking it along on your next trip.