Editorial by Michael Oryl on Friday July 08, 2005.
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3 years ago you would have been hard pressed to find a Bluetooth capable phone in your local shop. Now you can find people randomly walking down the street or driving their cars while using Bluetooth headsets with their phones. So since Bluetooth is becoming so common in new handsets, it only stands to reason that we should start to see more and more new Bluetooth devices that can be used with our phones.
Enter the Bluetooth keyboard. For those of us that rely on our phones for email while out and about, we know how tedious replying to email can be when using a numeric keypad and a predictive text system like T9 or iTap. Surely those systems are better than the old triple-tap method, but they are no match for your good old PC back on your desk.
The new portable, folding Bluetooth keyboards on the market try to offer some of that ease of use while not weighing us down. At least not too much. In this comparison review we pit the venerable ThinkOutside Stowaway line's Bluetooth keyboard against two relative newcomers: Nokia's SU-8W and Freedom Input's new Freedom Keyboard.
All three share much in common. They fold in half to conserve space, they each run on a pair of AAA batteries, and they all require that you install a driver on your smartphone or PDA before they can be used. But other than that, they all offer quite a different experience in use due to their differing sizes and key configurations. The photos below share the same scale, and can be used to make a real comparison of key size and position.
Freedom Input Freedom Keyboard
I chose the ThinkOutside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth Keyboard as the winner of this test because it offered the closest experience to that of using a regular desktop keyboard. Its full sized keys made me feel right at home. It had some compatibility problems on one of our phones, but so did the other two. The Stowaway offers Bluetooth HID profile support, so you can use it with any HID compatible device without a driver. Currently that tends to mean just PCs, though.
Nokia's SU-8W is the runner-up in our test. It has the most clean and compact design of the three, and is particularly nice to use if you have a compatible Nokia Series 60 based device, thanks to the dedicated select and menu buttons, and the dedicated softkey buttons. It will also work with any HID compatible Bluetooth device. The drawback? It has rather small keys that take some getting use to, especially if you move back and forth between it and a regular full-sized keyboard.
Freedom Input's Freedom Keyboard comes in 3rd due to its design, its being the largest and heaviest of the units, and due to the quality of its driver - at least on Series 60. The Freedom Keyboard relies on the serial port Bluetooth profile, and it shows a bit. But the upside is that Freedom Input makes drivers for more devices that the other two - even a Blackberry driver. Its shorter keys also allowed the company to fit in a 5th row of keys for the numbers, just like on a regular keyboard.
So read through the reviews, check that your device is compatible, and find what keyboard will work best for you. After that you can feel free to start writing that novel on your phone. You can send me an autographed copy when it hits the bestseller list.