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4i at CES 2011: iPhone keyboard, iPad strap and an iPod nano wristband

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We first saw the 4i keyboard for iPhone at Macworld. Back then, you had to "install" it, but the company has learned this isn't optimal and has created a clever case that we got to see at CES 2011 today (one quite similar to Apple's bumper) with a slot for easily adding the overlay keyboard in portrait or landscape mode. 4i has also added to the lineup with a clever iPad strap and iPod nano wristband named the Torq made out of titanium or steel. You can check out all the new gear on the 4i site, but as of this writing the links to individual products don't work just yet, so you can check out the gallery for some close-ups. All of these items are supposed to be available for purchase sometime later on this month.

4iThumbs2+

The next version of the 4i keyboard overlays a plastic sheet on your iPhone and provides a tactile keyboard by adding small bumps where the software keys are located. It may seem silly, but if you are used to feeling keys on your phone, this is a pretty good fix for the otherwise flat surface. Not everyone is comfortable with typing on just a slick surface. There's no need for the rampant "this is stupid" comments like last time we covered this keyboard -- we get that the tactile thing isn't for everyone. But it is for some people, so let it go and accept that this product actually has a market. The case is a nice solution to the problem of what to do with the overlay when you don't need it, and it provides protection to boot.

The 4iThumbs2+ comes in two versions: one with the bumper-style case, and one is just the overlay. Without a case, it costs US$12.95, and it's $24.95 with the case. Again, you can slide the overlay keyboard into the case when you type, and then slide it onto the back of the phone when not in use.

Gallery: 4i Concepts 2011 lineup | 9 Photos



4iTorq

Another entry in the iPod nano wrist band field, the 4iTorq is positioned as a premium band made from either titanium or steel. It's pretty basic: a strap made from metal with a lock to keep the nano secure. It has a gap to slide your wrist through, and it wraps around as a single piece of metal.

The 4iTorq is made in the USA, and I will admit it is an attractive accessory, but there are cheaper wrist straps out there that will likely appeal to more people. If you're a fashionista, you may find the starting price of $49.95 for the steel version and $99.95 for the titanium palatable. Otherwise, you can always go with your own DIY solution.

4iStrap

This was a creative idea, although in practice I'm not so sure how the average person will feel about it. Basically, the 4iStrap is just an elastic strap with a metal piece, and by wrapping it around an iPad in a book style case (like the one Apple makes, but any fold over case should work in varying degrees), you can use the iPad in a variety of ways.

You could, for example, stick your hand in-between the flap and the iPad portion, and the elastic pulls the thing tight enough to "hold" the iPad onto your hand. Another idea is to wrap the strap in such a way that it provides enough tension to keep the flap at different angles, providing a sort of variable tilt on the iPad. It gives a little bounce to typing, if you're into that. One simple idea is to simply wrap the strap around so you can keep a MiFi or your iPhone strapped to your iPad while you work. Even simpler: use the strap to hang it from a hook or the headrest in your car.

I don't know if most people are going to want to try origami with this strap to make it worthwhile, but it's an interesting idea, and the price makes it worth the experiment for a lot of people: The 4iStrap sells for $19.95.

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