Apple was the first company to create a touchscreen keyboard I considered usable. Nothing prior to the iPhone even came close, which is why in those days I stuck to phones with physical keyboards.
Even today, though, I still have a strong preference for the real thing. My iPad is usually accompanied by my Brydge keyboard, but what about those whose iPhone is their primary device when out and about?
Cam reviewed one option – the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard – and now there’s an even smaller and cheaper option on the way: the Flyshark 2. The company first launched a version of this a year ago, and currently has a Kickstarter campaign running for an improved version. It’s fully-funded, with 10 days to go, and I’ve been testing a prototype version with my iPhone 6s …
Size, look & feel
The key benefit of the Flyshark is that it’s small – really small. In its folded state, it’s just 130mm wide, 75mm deep and 13mm thick. That’s a little wider, and a little shorter, than the iPhone 6s.
It’s thicker, as you might expect, but it is still genuinely pocket-sized, and weighs just 150g.
The aluminium used is 7000-series – the same as used in the iPhone 6s – which is all about combining strength and lightness. The finish does have a slightly industrial look, and it has plastic hinges. Overall, I’d say the look is neutral – it isn’t going to be mistaken for an Apple product, but neither does it look cheap and nasty.
It’s Smart Bluetooth, so should offer decent battery-life. Actual life will of course depend on usage; the company says the standby time is up to a year. Treat ‘up to ‘ with the usual skepticism, but in my experience, Bluetooth keyboard batteries last for ages.
Like the Microsoft keyboard, and LG’s Rolly (which is a neat idea but not really pocket-sized), the Flyshark 2 offers proper moving keys. The amount of movement in the keys is somewhere between a MacBook Air/Pro keyboard and the (non-Magic) Apple Wireless Keyboard.
In use, it feels a little cheaper and ‘looser’ than Apple’s keyboards, and I found I wasn’t quite as accurate using it. The keyboard is, without doubt, a compromise compared to anything full-sized, but that’s not too great a surprise.
Trying to persuade a folding keyboard to sit completely flat on a table when it has a hinge in the center is something the company spent a lot of time figuring out, and they got 99% of the way there. It wobbles perhaps half a millimeter as you type. Personally, I found it very slightly annoying, but I was still impressed how near-flat they’d got it.
The keyboard automatically switches on and re-pairs with the last-used device as soon as you open it, switching off when you close it which makes it extremely convenient to use. It does, though, take a couple of seconds to switch off, and I found I got about ten gibberish characters ‘typed’ by the keyboard each time I closed it.
If you want a keyboard for use with an iPad, I would highly recommend getting a full-sized one (for iPad-sized values of ‘full size’). I was impressed with both the ClamCase Pro and Brydge keyboards, and there’s no real advantage to anything smaller than the iPad itself. Some people also carry an Apple Wireless Keyboard, which is obviously bulkier but a delight to use.
But if you don’t want to carry an iPad around and still want to do a lot of typing on your iPhone, I’d say the Flyshark 2 is a decent compromise. It doesn’t match the typing experience of a larger keyboard any more than the Microsoft keyboard does, but the difference between this and the on-screen keyboard is night-and-day. If you want to improve your iPhone typing experience while retaining pocket-level portability, the Flyshark 2 may well be the answer.
The Flyshark 2 can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter from $46, with shipping estimated for November. It’s available in a range of colors.