Even though the iPhone 5 is quickly becoming the iPhone of choice these days, there are still plenty of good cases for the iPhone 4 and 4S -- including those with keyboards. The Boxwave Keyboard Buddy Case has been out for nearly two years, and they've added a US$79.99 (on sale from $89.99) version that includes a backlit keyboard for use in low-lit areas. I tried it on my 4S for a couple of days, and while it's a solid case, it's not one I'd use unless I absolutely needed to have a keyboard.
The case is made of molded plastic and is quite a bit thicker than the normal iPhone case to accommodate the keyboard, but not as bulky as one would think. It's only slightly thicker to me than when I had an Otterbox case on my iPhone. It features a sliding keyboard that allows you to type in landscape mode and includes a micro-USB cable for charging.
Here's where the design flaws start to come in. To keep the overall case as thin as possible, the keyboard is so thin that it makes the entire case top-heavy when you're trying to use it. When the case is closed, you can still wiggle the keyboard instead of having it locked in place. If you've got your phone tossed in a bag, I can see the keyboard slider coming out without you realizing it.
The case has a secure fit on the phone -- a little too secure, I found out, when I tried removing it after the review. It required excessive force on the back of the iPhone right over the camera lens and it took a good five minutes of pushing from the back and prying the sides away before the case came off.
Once you get the case on and synced, the keyboard works pretty well. The chiclet-style keys are raised, and there's an on/off switch so you're not draining the keyboard's power when it's not in use. There are several iPhone-specific keys and function commands that allow you to access the home screen, re-activate the on-screen keyboard for iOS, adjust brightness and lock the screen. The backlight is handy for using the keyboard in a darkened room. I wasn't fumbling too much with the keyboard, but those with larger hands might have a hard time typing.
While using the keyboard, I was reminded why I don't tend to use my iPhone in landscape mode beyond watching video or using the camera -- the lack of screen real estate. At the most, I could see a couple of lines while typing in Mail, though you can see more when you go into Notes. Whenever I've had to do any prolonged typing on the iPhone, I tend to do it in portrait mode. Typing on the keyboard for a long period tended to be a pain because of poor weight distribution, and I felt like I would break the keyboard if I used it for too long.
This is one of those cases where you really need to get your hands on it to see if it's something you want for yourself.
- As thin as a keyboard case can possibly get for the iPhone
- Has a backlight for viewing keys in the dark, but an unlit version is available
- Has a number of iOS shortcut keys and functions
- Case feels top-heavy when you're using the keyboard
- Keyboard slider doesn't fully lock when not in use, causing it to slide around
- Extremely difficult to remove, requiring excessive force on the exposed parts of the iPhone
Who is it for?
- iPhone 4/4S owners who crave the feel of a tactile keyboard