If you’re a former BlackBerry user who’s just bought your first iPhone, and you’re struggling to adapt to its virtual on-screen keyboard, then check out the Spike SmartType from SoloMatrix. On show at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, and coming to iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5, the Spike is a new case that slaps a physical QWERTY keyboard right across your handset’s display. You can fold it away when it’s not in use, and you never need to worry about charging it.
That’s because unlike all the other iPhone keyboards we’ve seen, this one doesn’t connect via Bluetooth. Instead, it takes advantage of your iPhone’s capacitive touch display. When you press a key, it mimics your finger and hits the same key on the virtual keyboard behind it. So it never runs out of battery, it never needs charging, and it doesn’t require any special apps.
Spike attaches to your iPhone as easily as any other case, and when its keyboard isn’t in use, you can swivel it out of the way. It also offers a special key that allows you to switch between the iPhone’s virtual keyboards, providing you with access to numbers and special characters.
It appears, however, that the Spike may take a bit of getting used to. CNET’s Tim Hornyak put it through its paces at CES and found that “certain keys didn’t register and words were missing letters.” Hornyak also found that it’s nowhere near as easy to use as a real BlackBerry keyboard:
I have a BlackBerry Curve, and there’s really no comparison between the ease of use of its keyboard and Spike. The former wins hands down.
What Hornyak doesn’t mention is just how ugly this thing is. Who wants to slap this big bulky keyboard onto their shiny new iPhone 5? I appreciate that not everyone can use a virtual keyboard at first, but do yourself a favor and get used to it. It’s worth it in the long run, and it’ll save you some cash.
The Spike for iPhone 4/4S launches in February for $49.95, with the iPhone 5 version following later. That price may drop, however, if the Spike gets enough orders.