Typing is one of the first and hardest things to get used to when you are getting started on a mobile platform. One of the biggest decisions when seeking a new device is what style of keyboard fits your personal preference. Many people find the tactile feedback of a hardware keyboard indispensable; while others would prefer a slimmer device, relying on the software keyboard for their text based needs.
Freedom’s Slim Keypad ($69.95) attempts to bridge the gap between these realms. Traditionally, portable Bluetooth keyboards have been designed to fold up into a compact package. Freedom attacks the problem from a different angle by offering a thumb keypad that is about the height and width of a credit card.
To find out how much punch this keypad packs, stick around after the break.
Concept & Design
I really think this is a solid idea, offering a keypad that can fit (comfortably) in a pocket. I think most of the market for this kind of device would be in people who purchased a device without a hardware keyboard, and now wish that they didn’t have to rely solely on the software input methods.
Freedom designed their keypad along a similar vein as Motorola’s popular RAZR dumb phones. The solid piece of metal with the outline of the keys punched out, even the blue backlight is replicated here. Holding the keypad in your hand, if feels very cheap. There really isn’t any heft or sense of balance. Obviously, there are two sides to this coin; as it does not add any noticeable weight when placed in a pocket. Charging the keypad is accomplished through a microUSB port (no charger is included).
Usability & Performance
There are a couple of different routes you can go when installing and configuring the Freedom Slim Keypad. The methods recommended by Freedom are either installing drivers over the air from www.otadrivers.com, or installing them through your PC with drivers from here. Alternatively, you can install the keypad using the standard Bluetooth HID profile, although using this method you will not have access to softkeys or the application launcher keys (Inbox, Calendar, Tasks).
Actually using this keypad is pretty painful. I’m fairly spoiled as my devices of choice are the Samsung Blackjack and at&t Tilt, although I have a couple of Windows Mobile Classic devices that I was hoping to use this keypad with. The key travel is fairly deep, but the key may not actually be activated when it hits bottom. Often I found I had to press a little harder in order to actually get a response from pressing the key.
I have to say I would recommend a pass on this one. Unless you’re really hurting for some kind of hardware solution for your typing needs, the quality just isn’t there in the execution of this device. I still like the concept however, and I would love to see Freedom put a little more effort into putting a more refined product on the market.